Paul Manly said Friday that he was once an “orange diaper baby,” but now feels like the NDP has “abandoned a lot of their principles.”
The newest Green MP spoke to media for the first time on Parliament Hill on May 10 alongside Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, after winning a by-election on Monday in Nanaimo-Ladysmith on Vancouver Island.
The win was a triumph for Manly after he was rejected by the NDP in 2014 as a potential candidate over comments he made concerning Israel and Palestine when defending his father, a former New Democratic Party MP. May wooed him to serve on her “shadow cabinet” as the critic for international trade and to run for the Greens.
“My parents are both Green Party members, and had been out canvassing for me. It was a process for my family. My parents were CCF members; they were at the founding convention of the NDP,” he said, referring to the NDP predecessor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.
“I canvassed with Tommy Douglas to get my father elected on my sixteenth birthday. So I’m an orange diaper baby. But my daughter isn’t an orange diaper baby. Neither is my granddaughter.”
'BDS, Israel and Palestine is not an issue for me'
Manly’s father boarded a boat to Gaza in 2012, with a stated mission of bringing humanitarian supplies. Before it could land he was taken into custody by Israeli authorities and held for five days before being released.
Manly wrote a letter to the NDP that expressed disappointment with the party’s lack of support over the issue. He says he was blocked in 2014 from running for the NDP based on what he had written.
In 2016, the Green Party became the first federal party to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, but the party later attempted to distance itself from that endorsement. Its current policy handbook, Vision Green, calls for “an end to the collective siege of Gaza” but does not mention BDS.
“I support the Green Party policy. BDS, Israel and Palestine is not an issue for me,” Manly said on Friday, after National Observer asked him to state his position on the matter.
“It’s not something I’ve ever campaigned on. It’s not something you’re going to see me speaking on. A lot of people confuse me with my parents. I stepped up to defend my father back in 2012, because I was the only family member available to do that.”
'Elizabeth can’t tell me what to say'
Asked to differentiate his beliefs from those held by the federal NDP, Manly referred to policy positions on defence, trade and natural resources, as well as differences in terms of parliamentary behaviour.
“The NDP have abandoned a lot of their principles. They voted for bombing Libya,” he said. In 2011, the NDP under Jack Layton approved Canada's role in the NATO-led military intervention in the North African country. The party later withdrew its support.
“They voted for the Canada-Korea free trade agreement, even though it had investor-state provisions in it,” Manly added. The NDP under Thomas Mulcair declared its support for the Harper government’s trade deal with South Korea in 2014.
Current NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also expressed support for the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline in B.C., saying "the company and the government have done significant work to obtain the consent and partnership of Indigenous communities."
The Green Party is against the pipeline, and Manly said he believed it would lead to more fracking. The province's Oil and Gas Commission suspended fracking operations after a series of earthquakes.
The Green MP also noted how Vision Green commits MPs to conduct themselves “respectfully” in the House of Commons, never heckling or using ad hominem attacks, and the party would never "whip" a vote, forcing an MP to toe a party line.
“One of the key differences is the way we behave in Parliament. We don’t heckle, we don’t use personal attacks. We stick to the issues, we treat other MPs respectfully. And we work across party lines for what’s in the best interests of our constituents and Canadians,” he said.
“We also don’t have a whipped vote. So Elizabeth can’t tell me what to say, and she can’t tell me how to vote. In effect, I’m working with Green Party policy which I support, but I am free to be representing my constituents and to follow my conscience, and to follow the policies that I’ve been elected on.”
Delay 'no better than climate denial'
May told National Observer Tuesday that Manly’s historic election, the first time there has been a second federal MP elected under a Green banner, shows that Canadians are taking the issue of climate change seriously and are looking outside traditional parties for solutions.
On Friday, Manly described the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP as all tainted when it came to environmental issues.
“What we have is the three old parties,” he said. “The Conservatives can’t even agree on a carbon tax or minor adjustments to deal with climate change. The Liberals bought a pipeline, and want to expand the oilsands. The NDP, depending on where they are, are either supporting oilsands expansion or fracked gas.”
The Trudeau government needs greater “political courage” to make the transition away from fossil fuels, including through cutting subsidies to the industry, he added.
The government has committed to eliminating “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies, however the federal environment commissioner recently found the Environment Department’s plan to do so to be lacking.
“If governments continue to subsidize fossil fuels, and not support the transition, then they’re just talking, talking, and really it’s no better than climate denial,” said Manly.
“It’s climate action delayed and it can’t be left at the feet of consumers -- it has to be the government that takes action and gets serious about climate change.”