OTTAWA – Former NDP MP Glenn Thibeault, who quit the party to run for the provincial Liberals, says a lack of communication “from the top down” led to his decision to leave the Official Opposition.
In a statement to Global News, Thibeault appears to implicate NDP leader Tom Mulcair – further adding to the strain between the former MP and his one-time party as he heads into the February 5 byelection in Sudbury, Ont.
The NDP has now lost six MPs to different parties since the 2011 election. Thibeault is taking on NDP candidate Suzanne Shawbonquit, a small business owner from Sudbury.
“Over time, I found that my views and values no longer aligned with the direction that the party was going,” Thibeault said in a statement.
“There was a lack of communication on a number of issues and it was coming from the top down.”
Through a spokeswoman, Thibeault declined to explain which specific issues lacked communication, or what he meant by “the top” – although Mulcair is the leader and face of the party. Thibeault said provincial Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne “has a proven track record for listening to anyone who has a good idea.”
One issue that resonated with northern Ontario MPs was Mulcair’s December promise to create some form of long-gun registry – a remark that left some NDP members scrambling to clarify their leader’s remarks.
In a recent online post, Thibeault said he ran for the NDP because he wanted to work with Jack Layton.
“I’ve been very public in my admiration for Mr. Layton. He’s the reason I joined the party in the first place,” Thibeault wrote to Global.
“My decision to leave the party was based on an accumulation of things that told me it was time for me to go. It wasn’t one event or a single issue.”
‘A plum appointment from Toronto’
NDP caucus chair Irene Mathyssen, who replaced Thibeault as head of caucus, had harsh words for her former colleague who was handed the nomination by Wynne.
“Considering Mr. Thibeault was Caucus chair, he was pretty much at the top, so his comment doesn’t make any sense. And to use Jack Layton as a validator is despicable, especially considering how much respect Mr. Layton had for democracy,” she said in an email.
“The truth is, Mr. Thibeault lied to his colleagues and friends about his true motivation. He told us he needed to spend more time with his family, but in fact, he was looking for a plum appointment from Toronto.”
The race is poised to be tight: polls have pitted the Liberals and NDP as neck-and-neck, while a controversy around alleged improper behaviour involving the Liberals’ treatment of former candidate Andrew Olivier continues.
Meanwhile, the NDP is mobilizing to defeat their one-time colleague and in some cases, friend.
Several employees from the party’s national headquarters, including NDP media associate director George Soule – who hails from Sudbury – have decamped up North to help campaign.
Mulcair is expected to visit the riding late this week, and insiders say the NDP is targeting Sudbury as a major priority in the upcoming federal election.
They’re also taking it personally.
“This issue is really about Glenn and Glenn’s betrayal of his colleagues and the people of Sudbury,” said NDP MP Charlie Angus, who represents the northern Ontario riding of Timmins-James Bay.
“The orange machine is still very, very, very strong. Our brand is really good in the North,” he added.
“Bring it on.”
Angus, who considered Thibeault a friend, said he was stunned when Thibeault defected.
“He was well less than truthful with us, and that certainly leaves a really bad taste in your mouth when someone lies to your face,” he said. “It’s the cynicism that damages all of us.”
Thibeault declined to comment on Angus’ remarks, saying he still has friends in the federal NDP and out of respect, he refuses to partake in “negative rhetoric.”
“The last few weeks have reminded me that negativity leads nowhere,” he said.
“I don’t have much time for those who think the only work that matters is done by people wearing their team’s colours.”
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