It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

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.


22 thoughts on “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”

  1. I’ll say it here like I’ve said it to you before: If this is how the NDP wants to choose people to represent it, then I’m not sure I want the NDP to represent me. I know Giambrone probably didn’t break any rules, but I wouldn’t like it if he treated me the way he seems to have treated Chhabra. Yes, the riding association should absolutely choose the candidate it thinks will best represent it, and if they think that’s Giambrone, I guess that’s their right. But he doesn’t get my support, and he seriously damages the NDP’s image as a party that stands for me and my values (taking good care of each other being chief among them).

  2. Hi AudrA. I like your story. I used to be one of giambrone’s constituents and I liked the guy. I though he made a mistake withdrawing from the mayoral race because of a trivial sex scandal. I agree he handled it very poorly. On the other hand, I am sure we are not better off now with smoking ford. I have one doubt: you worked with Layton and the news as a strategist. Did you find a new employer or are you truly motivated by the pursuit of the greater good? Nevertheless your story is still worth it from an investigative journalist point of view

    1. Actually, if you under how privilege and oppression works, it’s a totally apt description description. You can’t be seist and racist (i.e. oppressive) to the dominant class.

  3. I don’t know what has become of the Ontario NDP. Maybe they were always like this, but they are not feeling any different from the other political parties. I voted NDP when Bob Rae formed the government, and voted for his party again, but we got Harris, another level 10 white guy?

  4. Much of this is fair – but let’s acknowledge that in the case of Ottawa South we are talking about a woman who is blind and has spent much of her life fighting against barriers and for increased accessibility to education and other areas – so let’s be careful not to just lump the two in together.

    1. It’s possible both that the Ottawa South candidate is disabled and is a great candidate, and also that the party is replacing a number of ‘ethnic’ sounding names on the ballots with ‘white’ sounding names. The candidate can be fantastic and also be benefiting from institutional problems within the party.

      1. It’s entirely possible, but I guess what I meant here is that the simple fact that she is white is not enough to say that she’s part of a trend of institutional elites. These things are more complicated than the way it is presented here – after all there is no end of evidence that women continue to face barriers to winning nominations in every party, including the NDP.

  5. I know that my local NDP riding association is looking for candidates from different backgrounds. It should be clear to them that they would not necessarily become the candidate, but only that the riding association may be interested in running.

    The problem with the nomination in Scarborough is not because of Giambrone. It’s because the party doesn’t wish to endorse actively some form of proportional representation. The current first-past-the-post voting system favours Level 10 white guys. The imbalance of white guys over others will not change until the party decides to promote democracy for Ontario.

  6. When you state that was a very close win for Giambrone, I’m assuming you’ve spoken to someone who is in a position to know. Given that the count was not announced at the meeting (the chair declining to do so when asked from the floor), then that leaves a very few people who were literally in the room when the votes were counted. In case anyone is inclined to think conspiracy at the non-announcement of the count, it is standard practice at nomination meetings in order to quell any lingering rancour in the room, and unite the riding association behind the chosen candidate. I was present at another contested NDP nomination meeting not so long ago, and the exact same rules were applied. I was at the Scarborough-Guildwood meeting as an observer, for what it is worth.

  7. They should have pulled a Holyday and claimed that Chhabra conveniently suffered a workplace injury just prior to the nomination.

  8. Could somebody tell me why the right-wing hacks(all party insiders in a center-left party are going to be on the party’s right-wing…people on the left are never allowed any real influence)would think Giambrone was so freaking inherently superior as a candidate?

    And has he said yet why he felt justified in swooping in at the last minute to leadpipe a candidate he ENCOURAGED to run in the first place?

    The worst thing is, it doesn’t even work as “hardball” politics. Voters who have an automatic preference for white male candidates aren’t GOING to ever vote for a non-right wing party anyway. Why even bother trying to appease people like that?

    And what reason to think that Giambrone is electorally superior, considering that he was running a weak and declining third-place campaign in the Toronto mayor’s race? Really, what could the guy possibly have to offer that could possibly be worth this kind of ugliness and heavy-handedness?

  9. Who cares about this crappy byelection? I’ll tell you. A bunch of holier than though activists who are determined to see the NDP lose so they can pump their fist in outrage about the “man” and justify their own unsuccessful lives. I’d rather the NDP had the best candidate with the best chance of winning. If Giambrone is that guy then let it be. If this is all about getting him ready to run in the general election than even better. Let’s do the unthinkable and actually try to win for a change. New Democrats whine to much. I’m glad I found this crappy blog so I could put you in your place. Happy canvassing.

    1. That’s right, getting the most votes is all that matters. To hell with democracy, transparency, principles, diversity…..

      Why don’t you just join the Cons?

  10. John MacKay held Scarborough-Guildwood since its inception in 2004 with over 50% of the vote until the last election where the Conservatives came within 2% and the NDP increased its vote to within 10%. I’m sure there were people who hoped that the NDP brass noticed this and would make the riding winnable. I’m sure the brass thought that the more seats they win the better they can make the province. Sometimes people get their toes walked on when the party gets involved. I hoped that the NDP wouldn’t have to resort to acting crappy but, meh. Adam got more people to the nomination than Amarjeet. If he gets more votes than anyone else on August 1 then some people are going to say it was worth it.

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