The undercard in the federal election campaign has become a bruising fight.
This would be the deteriorating relationship between the federal Green Party and the NDP. What was once a fairly polite co-existence – with the NDP the unquestioned stronger party – now appears to be turning into a bitter fight of near-survival for one of them.
I wrote in this space a few weeks back that the NDP should be able to count on B.C. to retain most of their federal ridings.
Now, I am not so sure.
A clue that the party is feeling the heat from the Greens is the suddenly charged verbal attacks the two party leaders have unleashed on each other.
The latest war of words erupted after the debacle – for both parties – over the supposed defection of provincial NDP candidates in New Brunswick to the Green Party.
At first glance, the defections seemed like a disaster for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, even though New Brunswick is not a province where the NDP has a chance at winning seats.
But when the story changed – the number of defections were lower than first reported and it was unclear if pressure tactics from either side were involved – Singh tried to regain control of the narrative, essentially accusing the Greens of lying.
One of the departing New Democrats also suggested Singh could not win in New Brunswick because of his race, implying that the province’s voters were racist.
That prompted NDP MP Charlie Angus to jump into the fray on Twitter, saying it was “sickening” that people would leave the NDP for the Greens because they were worried about Singh’s religion.
Singh also went after Green Party Leader Elizabeth May for accepting people into her party who may think his race is a political problem.
“If she is accepting people that are not accepting of people’s diversity, then the Green Party has a lot to answer for,” he stated.
But May wouldn’t back down, accusing Singh of “strong-arming” his own members. She used words like “bullied” and “frightened” in describing the NDP’s tactics.
A senior NDP strategist told me the gloves will definitely be off between the two parties this campaign. The Greens smell potential victories in a number of NDP-ridings on Vancouver Island, and this official did not disagree with my characterization of the NDP being in a battle of survival.
What will be new in this election is a much-bloodier battle for third place. Past elections will seem like a pillow fight.
In addition, it will be interesting to see if either the BC NDP or BC Greens – who get along quite well - try to get in the middle of this looming brawl, or choose to sit it out.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC