I want to take a break from processing my feelings in this space, and talk about something really gross that happened around the Ontario NDP’s selection of a candidate in Scarborough-Guildwood yesterday.
Background: There are five by-elections happening in Ontario right now, to replace five Liberal MPPs who have resigned. For each political party, the members of the local riding associations get together and vote on who will be their party’s candidate in the by-election. Each party has a Candidate Selection Committee that seeks out and vets potential candidates.
Adam Giambrone was the co-chair of the Candidate Selection Committee for the Ontario NDP. In this capacity, he encouraged a young woman name Amarjeet Kaur Chhabra to run for the nomination. She is an amazing candidate, and decided to go for it. Chhabra won “Toronto Idol” for Scarborough, and ran for City Council for Ward 43. She is a young woman of colour, has a disability, moved to Canada in 1999, and is a labour organizer.
Giambrone, on the other hand, is like a cartoon of a Level 10 White Guy. He previously ran for Mayor but then had to quit the race after lying about sex with a 19 year old named Kristen Lucas. Read that story, folks, it speaks volumes about his character. Like, when he was caught he let his camp release a letter they claimed was from Lucas, threatening to fabricate an affair with Giambrone. Too bad they spelled her name wrong.
I don’t care who someone sleeps with but I care how they treat people, and Giambrone has displayed a pretty utilitarian approach to both young women and the truth.
The nomination meeting was set for July 7. On July 5, Giambrone resigned as the co-chair of the Candidate Selection Committee. He then called Chhabra, to let her know that he was going to run against her for the nomination. He announced to the media the day before, and then won the nomination by a very very narrow margin yesterday.
Giambrone has zero ties to Scarborough. He was, however, maybe polling about his electability in Scarborough in February? Which is pretty strange, given that he has never lived there, and isn’t prepared to say he’ll move there even if he’s elected.
I started tweeting about this last night, and didn’t really stop for 12 hours. I just think it is so despicable for a shiny rich downtown white dude who was the co-chair of the Candidate Selection Committee to sneak in at the last minute and beat out a local community activist. How is that not a HUGE conflict of interest? The committee is supposed to vet candidates! Did he vet HIMSELF? Gah. To see folks calling this “democracy at work” makes me want to take to my bed forever.
Just in case you didn’t feel like barfing everywhere forever yet, peep out ONDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s quote in the press release announcing Giambrone’s candidacy: “Time and time again the Liberals have chosen to put well-connected insiders ahead of the families that make this province work.” (Incredulous emphasis mine).
If I was Chhabra, I would have had a conniption fit, but she was pretty classy about it and said very little until one of Giambrone’s supporters suggested that Chhabra wasn’t from the riding either. At that point she did point out that is she might not live there now but she did for years and has deep ties to the community.
Some other things infuriating things said last night were that maybe the party wanted someone articulate (which p.s. often is a code for white), and that Giambrone’s time as Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission was relevant because Scarborough has a lot of transit issues (which p.s. Giambrone is not taking a stand on).
The riding association is having an emergency meeting tonight to try to figure out what to do about all of this, but they are clearly up against a pretty big machine. A really similar thing happened to (person of colour) Wali Farah, who has run for the NDP before in Ottawa-South (and gotten them their most votes ever), when (white person) Bronwyn Funiciello announced she was running for the candidacy at the last minute and won. Huh.
Let me just say that if Amarjeet Chhabra decided to run as an independent, I would work on that campaign in a heartbeat.