So…. I bit the bullet and signed on to become a member of the NDP.
Not because I think electoral politics in a settler colony are in any way legitimate, but because this is a historically significant moment for the political left in this part of Occupied Turtle Island. And as much as I’d like to forgo formal institutional politics, I know that progressive policy-making and movement-building is far easier done when there are prominent powerful voices in support of left-leaning policies (especially compared to Trudeau’s pipelines or Scheer’s ham-fisted homophobia).
Anyway, I became a member of the NDP so I can vote for the new party leader.
Last I checked, Jagmeet Singh is leading; aside from his noteworthy place as one of the few racialized people to pursue (and possibly win) this position, he’s also pretty satisfyingly left-leaning. His statements as an Ontario MPP have all been bold and on-the-nose, and he’s gathered strong support for good reason. Still, he’s made other public statements that left a bad taste in my mouth, including a 2016 boast about undermining the testimony of a woman in a rape case.
Another front-runner, Charlie Angus, has sort of positioned himself as having a record of progressive policies around environmental issues and housing. But his proposal of roughly $5 billion per year, segmented into different new and augmented social housing initiatives, is still half of the $10 billion per year that Niki Ashton proposed during a recent leadership debate, dedicated to building 40,000 affordable and social housing annually.
Similarly, Singh’s suggestions for tax reform policies are riddled with easy to navigate loopholes. And while Guy Caron’s idea of universal basic income sounds impressive, the actual policies he suggests are lacklustre; he was practically laughed off the stage at an event organized by Ontario Coalition Against Poverty earlier this year, where Stephen Lewis flat out called his proposals “unambitious” and “uninspiring.”
Still, when it comes to politicians, their records are the only things we can really trust, and Ashton’s is clear. All the same, she’s standing in a long and dark shadow—her father, former Manitoba MP and current premier candidate Steve Ashton, has a messy history of handing off important, expensive, and politically expedient contracts to his close friends for personal gain.
Both Singh and Ashton have come forward recently in support of Palestine.
Across the board, the NDP is also undergoing an identity crisis as a progressive party, and one of their biggest internal points of contention concerns Palestine.
Both candidates have decried nonsensical anti-BDS motions as attacks on free speech. I read some article discussing Singh’s record on Palestine, and though it raised a good point about his seeming willingness to participate in Zionist events and accept Zionist fundraising dollars without defending pro-Palestine party-members, the key word is “seeming” — it was a nitpicking piece without much in the way of real evidence to stand on.
However, where Singh has been a vocal advocate for Palestinian human rights and the right to protest Israeli occupation, his record isn’t as impressive as Ashton’s, who I actually had the opportunity to speak to about exactly this a couple months ago —I interviewed her for an article about it that never ended up happening because her support for Palestine is “old news.”
All this said, there’s probably a meaningful discussion to be had about how accessible that kind of public position is for her to take as a white person, vs Singh as a person of colour, and the kind of wiggle room available to folks embodying those identities in the public sphere.
Palestine is obviously not the only issue of relevance here, but it’s a highly symbolic issue.
Both Singh and Ashton have referenced their own community histories when discussing Palestine. When I spoke to Ashton, she made a point of commenting on how her Greek ancestry compelled her to care about this cause; as y’all might know, Turkey still holds ancestrally Greek and Armenian lands that were occupied by the Ottomans around 100 years ago.
A candidate that demonstrates a consistent genuine commitment to the Palestinian cause as part of a broader progressive agenda is something worth recognizing. Another huge point for Ashton is her willingness to identify several key issue areas relevant to LGBTQ people that go beyond pandering to entry-level identity politics. Her campaign website explicitly calls for expanded access to transition-related healthcare for trans people, and grants for grassroots organizations that are already serving trans and queer communities.
Obviously, I still need to do research. But at this point, I think Ashton might be the best choice.
Let me know if y’all think differently.
Here are the sources I used for the claims made in this post: