Smear cam­paign? Green, NDP war gets nasty

Green’s Weaver, NDP MLA in Twit­ter fight

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - ROB SHAW

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

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