Shit Show in Toronto

Alabama of the 50s and 60s has migrated to Toronto.  The ghost of South Africa has a consulate here. Israel’s apartheid government must be jealous over how well Toronto’s NDP runs its elections. So what the hell happened?

On June 23, 2019 a particular riding (similar to a Congressional district) had its election for the New Democratic Party (once one of the most left parties recognized by Election Canada) to represent the riding in Ottawa if it were to win the general election. Saron Gebresellassi, an Eritrean lawyer, and speaker of 7 languages, was one of 3 candidates for the position. Unlike the other two candidates, her base is the disenfranchised, the new immigrants to Canada, people of color, the disabled, the people on government assistance, and, of course, all others who support her humanity.

Saron and her team personally registered nearly 400 new voters to the NDP for this election. She personally delivered it to the NDP brass before the deadline. But because her registration forms were on paper, not on-line, and paid with cash, not credit card, the executive committee of the NDP in Ottawa did not register them, as they said they would. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP, was notified and was asked to intercede, but to no avail.  So Saron’s voters come out to vote. So many for the first time in any national election, had to stand in line with screaming babies, old people not able to, people in wheelchairs, just to go through all 400 sheets of registration forms to match their names, while the near lily-white audience sat comfortably not having their registration challenged.

People left in frustration. People who had others pay the $5 membership fee were turned away because it didn’t come from their pocket. Someone else may have paid for them. A reverse poll tax. Either my wife or I paid our membership fees for both with a credit card yet neither of us were challenged, or even asked. The election was a sham, straight out of the US Republican Party playbook. The NDP clearly does not want to change the tenor, and especially the color, of its membership.

Their newly elected nominee, Paul Taylor, had personally insulted this particular community within the riding by refusing to attend a debate, which the other two candidates were present, and then had the nerve to ask the organizer of the debate to hold a celebratory meet and greet party for him “when” he wins the nomination. Taylor’s team left flyers about Naomi Klein’s endorsement in public housing and predominantly immigrant buildings where Saron had dozens of supporters. Funny, though, that he posted her endorsement in Saron’s riding, where she has been organizing for six months. Like who the hell there would know who Naomi Klein is? So out of touch.

NDP leadership played a major role in allowing this to happen. Singh was made aware of the problem of this non-traditional approach to registering voters and how the executive board in Ottawa refused to do their job of putting these new voters on the voters’ list. Janet Solberg, sister of Stephen Lewis, leader of the NDP for most of the 70s who kicked out the leftist contingent known as The Waffle, played a leadership role in officiating this election. In a 3 way call to the candidates, she openly expressed her hostility to Saron by stating how she won’t support her.

This party stood for something once. The greatest Canadian of all times, voted by a majority, was Tommy Douglas, former premier of Saskatchewan who gave us our single payer health care system and represented the NDP. So yes, now it supports their version of a Green New Deal. It opposes the neo-liberal Justin Trudeau. It hates Doug Ford, the Donald Trump of Ontario, but it also supports the disenfranchisement of people of color, new immigrants, and frankly, people who just don’t look like them. It is no wonder the NDP polls at 12%. And learning on social media that this is not an isolated incident within the NDP throughout the provinces, that 12% will be, and should be, a high mark.

Myles Hoenig is a veteran of the Prince George's County Public School system in Maryland, USA. He's a long time activist for social justice. Myles lives in Toronto. Read other articles by Myles.