Smear campaign? Green, NDP war gets nasty
Green’s Weaver, NDP MLA in Twitter fight
VICTORIA – An Opposition New Democrat tried to explain on Monday private messages that showed him speculating about a way to craft an online smear campaign against Green MLA Andrew Weaver.
The three-way exchange on social media involved NDP MLA Doug Routley, NDP chief of staff John Heaney and a Routley campaign volunteer named Peter Kelly.
In Twitter messages inadvertently made public, Routley suggested to Heaney that Kelly could be enlisted to put together an online attack campaign.
“We can plant anything we need to through him,” Routley tweeted to Heaney on Saturday.
“He does a lot of mudline research and also creates memes. Some of … [them are] mine but not what I necessarily wanted to own. You may want to figure that resource into the equation.”
A mudline, Routley conceded, is shorthand for a political smear. Memes are online images designed to go viral and generate views — in this case, pictures of Weaver overlaid with text accusing him of hypocrisy for voting for the Liberal government’s budget that increased MSP premiums, while advocating lower premiums.
Routley, who is MLA for NanaimoNorth Cowichan and the party’s deputy forestry critic, later deleted the tweets.
The exchange occurred shortly after Routley and Weaver had sparred publicly on Twitter over MSP rates. The two have been involved in an intense, and sometimes personal, war of words on the social media platform for several weeks.
In an interview, Routley said he was trying to generally explain the abilities of Kelly — a campaign volunteer and friend — to Heaney, who is NDP leader John Horgan’s chief of staff.
Routley acknowledged he has used Kelly in the past to help combat Weaver.
“The only connection to Andrew is when he throws what I would consider a mudline at us, saying where are your principles, I get help from Peter to have a factual response,” Routley said.
Kelly denied he takes orders from Routley and suggested the MLA misspoke. “Nobody plants things through me,” he said. “I do my own stuff.”
The Routley-Weaver feud highlights a simmering tension between the Greens and NDP that has grown since the 2013 provincial election.
Weaver won in the Vancouver Island riding of Oak Bay-Gordon Head and become the party’s first elected MLA. He announced Monday he’ll seek the leadership of the B.C. Green party at a convention expected to be held next year.
Premier Christy Clark and her Liberals have promoted Weaver and the Greens in recent months, believing a strong Green party will cost the NDP votes among environmental supporters.
The NDP has argued the Liberals are equally vulnerable to rising Green support; Weaver’s victory cost Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong her seat.
“I think (the Liberals) are trying to draw attention away from us … and trying to put a spotlight on someone who may well cut our grass over the long term,” Horgan said Monday.
Weaver said he’s not worried about the Twitter war with Routley, but questioned whether the amount of time the NDP is putting into attacking him shows the party is threatened by his success.
“You don’t need to do this stuff NDP, because it backfires, particularly to your supporters who you believe to be progressive people,” Weaver said.
“Progressive people want politics differently and this feeds the old-style narrative of attack politics that they don’t want … that’s old school politics and people are sick of it.”
Green MLA Andrew Weaver
NDP MLA Doug Routley