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Debbie Chapman dishes on NDP dissent in Kitchener
And Grits go at it over Naqvi-NES twofer
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ABOVE THE FOLD
Q+A — DEBBIE CHAPMAN was blindsided by her local riding association.
The NDP’s flag-bearer for the Kitchener Centre byelection and local councillor since 2018 had no clue that the riding association was going to call for party leader MARIT STILES’s head amid SARAH JAMA’s controversial ouster.
Now, Chapman is dealing with the fallout and an internal party rift while out on the stump as she hopes to hang on to the seat. Here, we chat about the Jama drama, what matters most to Kitchener Centre, and what gives her an edge over the competition.
Let’s start from the beginning. Why are you running for MPP? I’ve been a city councillor for five years and I’ve just been very frustrated watching as our powers are being whittled away at and taken away from us. So, I figured I can be more effective at Queen’s Park because as we know, municipalities are creatures of the province. And if the provincial legislation doesn’t permit municipalities, whether lower-tier or regional municipalities, to do their job, it just becomes very frustrating. That’s why I’m running. I just figured that maybe this was a time to make a change. And I’ve never aspired to be an MPP. This is not something I’ve thought about ever. But I’m just very frustrated sitting around the council chambers these days.
What’s the biggest issue in the riding? The biggest problem we have at the local level is the affordable housing crisis — and things that the province has done, including taking away rent controls for new units. The province took away the the ability to charge development fees, and that also has a huge impact on local residents. Municipalities can only shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, there’s nothing we can do.” I want to be at Queen’s Park to push back against that.
The (embattled) Tories I’m speaking with concede that they might not win this byelection, especially with late-in-the-game, out-of-towner candidate ROB ELLIOTT. They say the seat is either the Greens or Liberals to poach. What do you make of that? Bringing another PC MPP to the table isn’t going to make life easier for Ontarians. I don’t believe that for a second. I mean, they’ve got their agenda. We’ve seen it very clearly.
Why should the riding stay orange? Well, because we have had this seat, we’re well known, and have the support from the community. I’ve also had my experience at City Hall and being out there pushing for things. That also gives us an edge. And we are the Official Opposition, so while at times it can be frustrating, we’ve also had some important gains. I think keeping the seat is really important for residents.
I want to ask you about your riding association calling for Stiles to resign over Jama’s ouster. Did you know that was coming? I had no idea that a letter was going to be released and put out on social media. I don’t even know if it went to the party itself, but I was no part of that letter.
Is it awkward? Well, three of the members have resigned. There’s still, as far as I know, two members on the executive. I haven’t actually met with them since all of this happened. I’ve been in communication with one of them.
Were you upset by the letter? Yeah, it was a very unfortunate thing that happened. I was quite incensed by what they did. I think the riding association stepped out of line because, at least, I would have hoped to have received a copy of the letter before it would be published. And that was not the case. It did blindside me, 100 per cent.
These were supposed to be your top local organizers. Has their dissent impacted your ability to campaign? There are some people who are going to support the letter and many others who will not. Maybe many will not even be aware of the letter. I think it’s mixed.
You’ve said you’re sticking by Stiles when others have called her out for the handling of the Jama matter. Why? When I said I stand by Stiles, that was in response to the letter that went out calling for her resignation. I said that I supported her — in other words, I’m not calling for her resignation. For me to say, “Yes, she should resign,” I would need more information.
Do you agree with Stiles’s decision to boot Jama? I have difficulty making a comment on that because I’m not in the caucus. What I hear is what I hear from the media. The party says that the communications between the two sides weren’t working, that the trust was broken — but, I mean, I really can’t judge it. I’d have to sit down with the caucus and say, “OK, so let’s go through this again. What happened?”
This interview was lightly edited for clarity and length.
A LIBERAL TWOFER
WE CALLED IT! — Just as my sources suspected in yesterday’s edition, the big announcement from wannabe Grit leaders YASIR NAQVI and NATE ERSKINE-SMITH turned out to be a strategic voting tactic aimed at taking perceived frontrunner BONNIE CROMBIE down a peg.
The pair of backbench Liberal MPs are joining forces and asking their supporters to rank the other as their number-two choice, in the hopes of stopping Crombie from securing a first-ballot win. They’re also working together on get-out-the-vote efforts for when card-carrying Liberals cast their ballots on November 25 and 26. The winner takes the crown on December 2. (More background. Plus, a scoop on turnout expectations. And meet the Anybody But Crombie crew.)
Here’s what you need to know — and how Grit circles are reacting.
NES: “This isn’t about stopping one person — this is about building the kind of party that is going to deliver for Ontarians in the right way and also set the Liberal party up for success,” Erskine-Smith told reporters.
NAQVI: Naqvi gave his regular refrain about how Crombie is “DOUG FORD lite” and therefore a political liability due to her developer donors. “We have to be really careful that we give Ontarians a clear alternative to the corrupt and failing government of Doug Ford…Our leader should not be sharing the political instincts, political style or political friends.”
Rounding out the ticket is candidate and MPP TED HSU, who is staying on the sidelines. “I was invited to explore this arrangement. I declined because it’s not what a fresh start for the Ontario Liberal Party is about,” he posted on social media, saying the strategy flies in the face of the new, arguably more democratic one-member-one-vote system. Ontario Liberals “worked hard to get One Member One Vote passed to give all members free votes & move beyond ‘deals.’ Let’s inspire voters to scrutinize all the choices and let their voices be heard with ranked ballots.”
Backroom backlash: It’s giving “desperate,” say some like ex-minister DWIGHT DUNCAN, who’s backing Crombie. Duncan said Naqvi was going to be his second choice, but after this latest stunt, he’s picking Hsu.
A senior adviser in Crombie’s camp isn’t sweating the tactic. “According to all the data we have — internal polling, volunteers ID-ing members — Bonnie is the overwhelming first AND second choice of the party. I think Ted Hsu looked very good taking a principled stance and rejecting this deal in favour of an open process where members pick their own choices,” they texted.
“Someone explain to me why Yasir and Nate are tougher on Bonnie than Hamas. What Hail Mary misogyny!” said NOAH ZATZMAN, who worked in the Premier’s Office during the KATHLEEN WYNNE days and is currently on Team Crombie.
ASHLEY CSANADY, another ex-Wynne staffer who’s on Naqvi’s crew, isn’t buying the argument that two men teaming up to take down the only woman in the race is sexist. “As a woman in politics, I find this narrative both insulting and infantalizing. Stop this nonsense,” Csanady said on social media. “It’s sexist to critique a woman’s looks or history or emotions but not her ideas or politics. That’s just tablestakes of leadership.”
WILL WUEHR, a longtime party operative who’s backing Erskine-Smith, said it’s a bit rich for Crombie’s people to be calling out so-called “backroom deals” — suggesting that’s exactly what happened when ex-candidate ADIL SHAMJI threw in the towel and endorsed Crombie.
For her part, Crombie is angling for a bigger fish — taking to the Sun’s op-ed pages to tell Premier DOUG FORD to quit his “whining” over Ottawa’s Housing Accelerator Fund, which sees federal cash go straight into civic hands, bypassing the province in what Ford decried as “jurisdictional creep.”
Not so fast, wrote Crombie. “This carrot-and-stick approach from the federal government is yielding positive results in a few short weeks. Like I say, almost everyone is on board. There’s one skunk at the garden party: Ontario Premier Doug Ford…Since when does Doug Ford care about process? This from the Premier who regularly interferes in municipal affairs, including changing the size of Toronto’s City Council midway through an election. This from a Premier who went back on his promise to protect the Greenbelt…”
Still, Crombie saved some shade for her leadership rivals: “I know these two gentlemen spend a lot of time together on the federal Liberal back benches and I guess it makes sense they’d want to support each other. Based on what I’ve heard, this agreement between them seems vague and unclear. This is not a delegated convention and I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure how their deal is going to work.”
10 a.m.: Mental Health Minister MICHAEL TIBOLLO is making an announcement in Windsor.
10:30 a.m.: Labour Minister DAVID PICCINI and Social Services Minister MICHAEL PARSA are front and centre in Toronto.
Drip, drip, drip: Piccini has been leaking labour-friendly goodies from the forthcoming “working for workers” legislation in recent days, including moves to ban NDAs in cases of workplace misconduct and to force recruiters to disclose salary ranges in job postings.
The latest: “The Ontario government hopes to ban employers from requiring Canadian work experience in job postings or application forms.” CTV has more.
THE HOUSE IS OUT. Ditto committees. It’s a constit break! MPPs get back at it later than usual on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 14, for the special swearing-in ceremony of incoming Lieutenant Governor EDITH DUMONT.
A MILITARY MOM AND MPP REFLECTS: For JENNIE STEVENS, Remembrance Day is personal and political. To mark the occasion on Saturday, I’m re-upping this interview with the NDP’s Veterans critic and MPP for St. Catharines, whose son is an active service member. Read on.
— NOT-SO-STRONG MAYORS: “Several Ontario municipalities have turned down the province’s offer of strong mayor powers because of concerns either with housing targets the government has tied to them, or worries that the powers would lend themselves to a ‘dictatorship.’…Newmarket, New Tecumseth, Norfolk County and Haldimand County have given a straight-up no thanks.” CP has the story.
— ALL MINES: “In Sudbury on Thursday, Ontario Premier DOUG FORD announced $4.1 million for five mining supply and services projects in northeastern Ontario from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp.” Details from the local CTV bureau.
While in town, Ford also headlined a PC Party leader’s dinner fundraiser last night.
— BAD ADS: “The Supreme Court of Canada is set to hear an appeal of a ruling that struck down third-party election advertising rules in Ontario that limited spending,” the Canadian Press reports. Get up to speed with our in-depth scoops on the biggest third-party election advertisers — which were subject to stricter spending restraints and reporting rules, thanks to the hotly contested law that many — including the province’s top appeal court — said amounted to a muzzle on free speech.
— BAD SMELLS: DONNA SKELLY, “a Hamilton MPP who represents an area that has been plagued by a relentless odour is welcoming a new hefty penalty that Ontario landfill owners will face for breaking environmental laws.” CHCH has more.
Here are the new, renewed and amended registrations over the past 24 hours:
Cody Mallette, Atlas Strategic Advisors: HumanisRx Corporation
Andrew Boddington and Ryan Cole, Policy Concepts: Ontario Home Care Association
Ryan Cole, Policy Concepts: ProResp Inc.
Jonathan Ricci and Lisa Samson, StrategyCorp: Nature Conservancy of Canada
Joshua Albert, The CCS Group: Attawapiskat First Nation
Benjamin Lamb, Wellington Advocacy: Ecotex Health Care Linen Services Inc
Christopher Chapin, Upstream Strategy Group: Abbott Medical Canada
Heena Kapoor, Temple Scott Associates: Canadian Bank Note
Piercon Knezic, Endgame Strategies: Edvance
Patricia Wilde, Daisy Consulting Group: Association of Snow and Ice Control
Jill Wilson, GW Group: Scarboro Golf & Country Club
Marc Kealey, Kealey & Associates: Cestar College, Hydromega Services Inc.
Amir Remtulla, Amir Remtulla Inc.: Ledbury Investments Ltd. / H & L Title Inc, BAIF DEVELOPMENTS LIMITED
In-house organizations: Workers’ Action Centre — Tourism Industry Association of Ontario — Heart and Stroke Foundation.
🥳 HAPPY BIRTHDAY: JEREMY ROBERTS, ex-PC MPP, now vice-chair at the License Appeal Tribunal…ON SUNDAY — JEFF BALLINGAL, founder of meme-machine Ontario Proud and president of Mobilize Media Group.
🎊 HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: ON SUNDAY — Premier DOUG FORD and wife KARLA, celebrating 35 years together.
🍽️ ON THE MENU: Thai curry vegetables and rice is on special in the basement cafeteria.
⏳ COUNTDOWN: T-minus 20 days until the byelection in Kitchener Centre…22 days until the Liberal leadership contest…34 days until the House breaks for winter…148 days until the Premier has to call a byelection for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.