NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addresses supporters as he kicks off his first cross-country tour at a rally in Ottawa, Sunday October15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Federal NDP kick off convention with harassment apology

Delegates learn NDP’s budget fell from $18 million in 2015 to $6 million the last two years

The federal NDP kicked off its national convention in earnest Friday with a sober apology from the party’s president to all those members, supporters, volunteers and MPs who have suffered harassment or discrimination.

“There are women within our party — volunteers, staff, MPs —who have survived unacceptable and unwelcome behaviour from peers and people who wield power over them,” Marit Stiles told the nearly 2,000 delegates gathered in a convention centre not far from Parliament Hill.

“They have been embarrassed, demeaned and violated. And in too many cases saw those in powerful positions ignore that conduct or worse, sometimes excuse it.

“Let me say on behalf of all of us, your party, we are sorry. You were failed, and we apologize.”

The mea culpa was the latest development as the anger and frustration over sexual misconduct that birthed the #MeToo movement has caused upheaval across Canada’s political scene as well.

The NDP has not been spared: former Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer, long a party stalwart in Ottawa, has faced allegations of sexual misconduct from several women, while the party has launched an investigation into allegations of harassment against current MP Erin Weir.

Stoffer and Weir have denied any wrongdoing, but the allegations have nonetheless shaken the foundations of the third-place party, which espouses to be a champion of equality and inclusiveness.

Stiles promised the NDP would do better as she introduced a proposed, party-wide policy “to renew and deepen our commitment to end discrimination and harassment and create an environment that is safe and welcoming for all.”

The question of how to better safeguard against misconduct is only one challenge facing the party during this weekend’s convention, where New Democrats are hoping to build momentum heading into next year’s federal election.

Delegates were also presented with a grave assessment of the party’s finances, thanks to a precipitous decline in fundraising since the last federal election in 2015 that has seen the NDP’s budget fall from $18 million in 2015 to $6 million the last two years.

The trend is starting to reverse, said NDP treasurer Tania Jarzebiak, but the party still has $3 million in external debt from the last election, and owes money to many riding associations that will need the cash soon to start preparing for 2019.

There was some good news: The number of party members blossomed from a low of 41,000 in March 2017 to 124,000 in August, thanks, in large part, to the leadership campaign that ultimately elected Jagmeet Singh.

But only 30,000 of those members have donated to the party, Jarzebiak said, and only 9,000 were monthly donors, “so we have work to do.”

Aside from money, the party also faces some potentially divisive battles over proposed policy resolutions, though one aiming to have the NDP endorse a controversial boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel won’t be debated.

Delegates will also hold a mandatory vote on Singh’s leadership, though he only became leader in October.

While Singh is expected to easily survive the leadership review, the stakes are nonetheless high for him as New Democrats will look to him to infuse the party with energy coming out of the meeting and heading into 2019.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Two Nuxalk artists awarded YVR Art Foundation scholarships

Several Nuxalk artists have won the award, some more than once

Convicted animal abuser to return to B.C. court May 21

Catherine Jessica Adams is facing a breach of probation charge

Concerns over democracy as Senate committee votes to nix oil tanker ban

Critics of the Senate’s recommendation to kill Bill C-48 say it goes against popular will

Open casting call issued for Trevor Mack’s first feature-length film

All Indigenous actors, preferably local Chilcotin people, are needed for Portraits From A Fire’s cast

New ferry to B.C.’s central coast sets sail, a year late and $20M over budget

Northern Sea Wolf will cost $76 million when it hits the waters in June

Kelowna toddler suffers cracked skull after fall from balcony

Neighbour who found the two-year-old boy said he has a bump the size of a golf ball on his head

RCMP probe if teen was intentionally hit with ski pole by mystery skier on B.C. mountain

The incident happened on March 20 on Grouse Mountain. Police are urging witnesses to come forward

Support growing for orphaned Okanagan child after father dies in highway crash

Family thanks emergency crews for assistance in traumatic incident

Pipeline protester chimes in on Justin Trudeau’s B.C. fundraising speech

The government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project for $4.5 billion

Baby boom seniors putting pressure on B.C. long-term care: report

B.C. leads Canada in growth of dementia, dependence on care

UPDATED: B.C. man says he’ll take People’s Party lawsuit as far as he can

Federal judge shut down Satinder Dhillon’s ‘nonsensical’ motion to bar use of PPC name in byelection

Canada stripping citizenship from Chinese man over alleged marriage fraud

The move comes amid severely strained relations between Ottawa and Beijing

Nevada court orders former Vancouver man to pay back $21.7M to investors

The commission says Michael Lathigee committed fraud over a decade ago

Most Read