Politics

Elizabeth May says she has been in talks with ejected NDP MP for 'some considerable time'

The New Democrats had earlier announced it was removing Quebec MP Pierre Nantel as an NDP candidate following reports that he was in discussions to run for a different party.

Pierre Nantel was New Democrat MP for riding of Longueuil—Saint-Hubert since 2011

NDP MP Pierre Nantel rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 5. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says she has been talking to now-former NDP MP Pierre Nantel about the possibility of him joining the Greens, and she hopes she will soon be able to welcome him to the party.

The NDP announced Friday that it had removed Nantel, the MP for Longueuil–Saint-Hubert, as the NDP candidate for that riding, following what the party called "confirmed reports" that he was "is in discussions with another party to run under their banner."

In an interview with CBC News, May said she and Nantel "have been in conversation for some considerable time about the idea of him joining us."

"We're still in a conversation," May said. "We'd rather make an announcement when we're completely ready, and there are some things that we're still sorting." 

May said the conversations go back "maybe a year," and she hopes to have something to announce "very, very soon."

In addition to having his candidacy withdrawn, Nantel has been expelled from the NDP caucus.

He would give the Green Party three sitting MPs, after Paul Manly won a byelection for the riding of Nanaimo-Ladysmith in May.

NDP deputy leader Alexandre Boulerice said he had a 10- to 15-minute in-person conversation with Nantel on Friday and walked away not sure why his former MP was jumping ship.

Boulerice said Nantel told him he was concerned about the urgent issue of climate change, which is a key plank of the NDP's platform. 

"It's not a a good day for the NDP," Boulerice said. "I don't understand the reasons or the motivations of Pierre."

"[It was an] emotional reaction or decision," he added.

'Stunned'

Quebec NDP director Marie-Ève St-Onge said Nantel's campaign workers were stunned by the announcement. St-Onge said most party members learned about the news when the party issued a statement this afternoon.

"People locally have been very disappointed," St-Onge said. "They thought they had their NDP candidate [for the election], which they believed locally in their riding. With that news, they are just disappointed."

However, St-Onge said the party had been hearing whispers — some from Nantel himself — questioning whether he should stay with the party.

Nantel was first elected in 2011 as part of the NDP's Orange Wave that swept through Quebec. He was narrowly re-elected in 2015, beating the Liberal candidate by less than 700 votes.  

The NDP said the party will now start the process of nominating a new candidate in the riding.

The Liberals have already recruited a star candidate to run in the riding. Réjean Hébert, a former provincial health minister, announced in July that he would be running for the Liberals.

With files from David Thurton and The Canadian Press

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