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Stiles says 'bring it on'
In this edition: Stiles on her bid for NDP captain, countdown to job action, civic showdown in Brampton, the Rouleau inquiry, Jama in Hamilton, shadow critics
In this 12 minute read: a conversation with NDP MPP Marit Stiles on her bid for party captain — and what she has to say to the Tories. CUPE and the province enter mediation. Who’s in the new Conservative shadow cabinet. Plus, meet the NDPer set to be acclaimed in Steeltown and the Rouleau Commission has commenced.
Marit Stiles says “bring it on.”
The NDP MPP — who is viewed as the current frontrunner in the race — launched her bid to lead the party at Bar Neon in her Davenport riding alongside NDPers and caucus mates. She is the first candidate to enter the leadership arena ahead of the approaching December signup deadline.
Stiles sat down with us to discuss her bid for the top job and the lessons learned from the June election campaign. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
Why do you want the top job?
“I've been a member of our party for 30 years and I've been involved at all levels. I really, truly believe that Ontarians know why we need to replace Doug Ford. We need to inspire them to get out there and vote for the NDP in 2026. I believe that I'm the leader who can do that. I think I have the vision and I can inspire people to get out to vote and to unseat this government and replace it with a really good, dynamic New Democratic Party government in 2026.”
You have spoken about getting the party ready for the next election. What does that preparation look like?
“The most important thing we have to do is actually connect with voters. Right? And the key to that is that we saw it in the very low turnout in the last provincial election. Unfortunately, almost a million people did not vote in that election. We need to ask ourselves – I think every political leader should be asking themselves why? Why is this? What is it that didn't motivate people to get out there and vote? To believe that there is a reason to vote. I think that a lot of this has to do with people being told by a lot of the major political parties over many, many years, that their vote doesn’t matter and that the issues they care about already are really going to get the attention that they deserve.
People have come accustomed to this being normal. Having to fight to get support for your kid who is having a mental health struggle is apparently normal. The large class sizes in our schools are something that people have been told is normal. I think people are feeling very defeated because they've been taken for granted for too long. The key for us is going to be to give people a reason to vote for something else. And for something better. To actually believe that things can change. I think that's where I can make a compelling offer to Ontarians. That it doesn't need to be the way it is and that we can do better. That we should have higher expectations of our government. That's going to mean building on the grassroots. The election starts now. It's why I have been focused over the last few weeks on supporting candidates who are running at the local level in municipal elections. That level of government really matters too and connecting with people out there and those in the community is really critical to building the movement that we need to build again in order to defeat Doug Ford.”
The NDP lost seats in the last election while the Progressive Conservatives won a larger majority. What do you think went wrong for the party in June and how can you build upon the lessons learned for the next election?
“One of the most disappointing things in that election was that we lost some seats that we should not have lost. I think that's a disservice to the people out there in those communities who deserve a high level of service, which is what an MPP should provide. I do think that some of this really does speak again to what I just mentioned – I don’t think people were feeling particularly inspired by any of the campaigns last time. A large number of people just did not vote and if we can get those people to vote again, we will be able to form government next time. For sure, I think we have to focus on those areas where we’ve lost representation. Windsor is a good example of that – recapping our efforts on behalf of the people of Windsor to represent them again. Communities like Timmins are really important. And the NDP is going to have to connect with the 905, where we lost our seats in Brampton.
I'm hearing from people today that our activists and our people are feeling like they're ready to go again. They believe they can do it. They believe with a new leader; they can inspire folks to get out and get active. But we've got to remind people of why they support the NDP in the first place and that we don't have to settle for this kind of Ontario that doesn't provide us with the opportunities and the hope that we need in our communities.”
You spoke about building the grassroots in prep for the next election. There are critics of the party who say that former leader Andrea Horwath took the party too far to the center. Would an NDP under Marit Stiles shift the party to the left of the political spectrum to solidify support amongst progressives?
“I want to say that I think we made some incredible and very important gains under Andrew Horwath as the leader of the NDP. We are the Official Opposition for the second time. It's not what we wanted – we wanted to form government and we know that that's what we need to do for the people of this province. But we made some significant gains under Andrea and her leadership. We made gains in areas of this province where we hadn’t before. Like in the 905. We hadn't really connected there in many years. It was really important that we made those inroads, and that capacity still exists there. Right? It's not gone. It's there. What we need to do now is continue to build on that.
I like to think more in terms of what I think the issue is – we need to listen and connect with regions of this province around the issues that matter to people there. We know who we are as New Democrats. We know where our values are. We should be proud and should stand by them. I think that we have a very compelling offer for Ontarians. Right? I think that our social democratic roots are really exciting and established. We are the party that was formed by labour, farmers, social movements, and people that wanted to make change. There has never been a time when we needed that more than we need it right now. The vision and the policy we have is excellent. I really do believe that it is the foundation from which we can build a much better opportunity for everyone here in this province. I also think that we have to connect to what people are feeling in their communities. I know that there are people in my party and across the province who say, ‘maybe the NDP has lost working people.’ I don’t really believe that’s true. I do think we need to be listening very carefully to what people are saying to us in the north, in rural Ontario, in the southwest, in the 905, and in all regions. We need to be willing to respond with good, solid, innovative policy that’s going to generate interest that people can believe in and where people can see themselves. I think that's the part that's really important. I don't think we ever need to be fighting the last election. I don't want to fight 2018. I don't want to fight 2022. I want to fight 2026. I want to fight on the issues that are going to be crucial and important today and then. I don't want to be worrying about what we did wrong, but I do hear from my members. Absolutely we need to connect better with those local members and listen and actually hear the issues that are generating excitement or fear in their communities.”
Let’s talk about party politics. “Central NDP” is a term that we hear a lot from members who are dissatisfied with the way that the party is led. Former NDP MPP Rima Berns-McGown said the party leadership “made it impossible for me to stay.” Many believe changes need to be made to ensure the party is more inclusive and transparent. What would you do differently when it comes to party organization?
“It's a very good question and certainly it is a topic that I'm talking with members about every day. Our party is a democratic party, a membership-based political party. That's a really important part for me – the role of our members. It can't just be about calling people up and asking them to come out and knock on doors during elections. We need to be engaged and active and listen between elections. I think there are a few areas where there clearly needs to be some attention given and some of that is around transparency and accountability in the leadership and all levels in the party and the structures of our party. Absolutely. I think there's also a real hunger in the party for more opportunities for members to have input into policy. We tend to restrict some of this to conventions, which are really time limited. Members of our party put a lot of time and effort into innovative ideas and solutions and they want to have other ways to share that knowledge and capacity with leadership and caucus. I think there are some very interesting and innovative ideas that are coming forward that I'm hearing from members that I'm thinking about. I think you'll see coming from me some more talk about what those structures could look like and how we shift them. But at the end of the day, it is about ensuring greater transparency around some of the decisions that are being made. I think as well, valuing the work that we do organizing in communities between elections. If we think that we can win elections by just simply rubbing up six months ahead of time, we are going to be in trouble. I think we've attempted to do more of that work in between elections in the last 10 years or so. It's a tradition in our party to be active and advocating all the time in our communities. We need to also, as a party, support that work. I think I really would like to see us doing more to organize and support in communities across the province in between elections. Absolutely.”
While you launched your bid on a patio in Toronto, the Tories put out a tweet and press release branding you as “more of the same” as former captain Andrea Horwath. How do you plan to show the public that you are a different leader, unrelated to Horwath?
“Well, I said to the Conservatives: boy, they gotta be more creative than that. If that's all they've got, bring it on. Bring it on! Just wait and see is what I would say to them. No, absolutely. I mean, I have a lot of time for Andrea, of course, but that’s not who I am. I came from Newfoundland to this province for jobs and opportunities, like a lot of people come and came to Ontario for. Unfortunately, today, Ontario isn't that place for a lot of people. I want to get bring back that hope and that opportunity. I want to actually get some stuff done. I think you're gonna find that what maybe Doug Ford doesn't stand for, I'm all in. I'm going to fight really hard to win government. I believe we can do it. I'm proud of what we've accomplished and what we can do, and I'm really driven. I'm gonna work really, really hard. I think that if that's all they've got, wow. Great. Bring it on. I hope that folks in Ontario have seen the work I did as education critic over some really difficult times in this province. They’ve seen what I’m willing to put in and the work that I do. I hope the government also understands that we all have to work together.
People in this province are really sick and tired of that kind of divisive politics. They want us to work together to come up with solutions and do good things for the people of this province. We can't all be just oppositional, right? I'm willing to talk. I want to sit down; I want to work together. I want to try to develop good laws and make sure that we don't do too much damage in this really critical time. I hope that the Conservatives will join me in that.”
What will your policy priorities be over the next few months?
“Like I said, I think that a lot of Ontarians know why we need to defeat this government. Let’s be super clear. We know that the healthcare situation in this province right now is at crisis. It wasn’t so long ago when I first came to Ontario thirty years ago, there were still issues in many communities trying to get a family doctor. It is not a new issue. But it's so much more intense and so much dominates not just small rural communities anymore. Everywhere in the city of Toronto, people can't find a family physician or a nurse practitioner. These are the conversations and the concerns of Ontarians right now. I think that the attempt by the government to continue to divert funding out of our public services and into private pockets into companies is a real problem. And it's inefficient. It's going to cost us a lot more in the end. It's not good government. It's not going to provide good service for people in our communities in Ontario. That and of course, climate action is critical. If this government doesn't start treating this issue with the urgency that it deserves, I think that we're all going to pay a price and my kids are going to pay a price. We're paying the price right now. We're seeing the impacts right now in our communities. The other thing I would say too is the economy. Things are rough for a lot of people right now. Everybody's talking about it. The cost of everything is more and what we're seeing happen is wages stagnating at a time when we need to drive that up. We need to give people an extra boost, we need to help pick up the economy that way, and we need to be working to create more good jobs in this province. And that's going to take some vision and some innovation. I don't think that the Conservatives have that. I think it’s going to take the New Democrats to kick that into action. I think those are going to be some of the critical issues.
For me, as this leadership election gets going, a big part of what I have to do is to inspire people to sign up as members, to get involved, to vote for me and to start us on a path that's going to be a really exciting journey to replace this government with a government that cares about people, is smart and innovative and is going to tackle some of the biggest issues that we're facing. I really do believe that Doug Ford and his government have a very limited view of what it’s going to take to get us through this really difficult period and to deal with some of these urgent issues. They think they can take little steps and they can pay the private sector to handle certain things, but that's not the efficient way to do it. It's not good management practice. And we're all going to suffer. I'm really worried about the state of our economy. I don't think Ontarians can afford to see our economy slide anymore. People are hurting out there and we need to take some serious steps forward. That’s going to be our project for the next four years.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CUPE has received a ‘no board’ report from the Ministry of Labour with education workers now set to enter a legal strike position in early November. The union and the government entered private mediation on Monday with William Kaplan serving as mediator — the role he held in the union's last round of negotiations with the government.
The latest from a union memo to members: “Your bargaining team has concluded two out of three mediation days. Unfortunately, at this time we have no improvements or details to report. Your bargaining team remains committed to achieving the gains that you have clearly mandated.”
The Public Order Emergency Commission has kicked off the first week of hearings on the Trudeau government's invocation of the Emergencies Act. The public hearings will end in late November with Commissioner Paul Rouleau's report due to Parliament on Feb. 20. The commission will hear from 65 witnesses, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outgoing Ottawa mayor Jim Watson. Here's the full list.
Ontario has expanded eligibility for the bivalent Pfizer vaccine to children aged 12 to 17. The province says flu shots will also be available through healthcare providers as of early November 1. “We are entering into the fall season where traditionally we see a rise in cases of respiratory illness,” said top doctor Kieran Moore.
Brampton mayoral candidate Nikki Kaur is calling on the province to step in after incumbent mayor Patrick Brown cancelled a forensic spending audit on a proposed university in the city. Kaur — Brown's main opponent who is supported by prominent Conservative and Liberal operatives — said in a statement that a “dark cloud” hangs over the city. More from the Toronto Star.
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ON THE MOVE
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has unveiled his shadow cabinet. Here are the highlights (see the full slate here):
Finance and Middle Class Prosperity — Jasraj Singh Hallan
Environment and Climate Change — Gérard Deltell
Foreign Affairs — Michael Chong
Health — Stephen Ellis
Housing and Diversity and Inclusion — Scott Aitchison
International Development — Garnett Genuis
Civil Liberties — Marilyn Gladu
Natural Resources — Shannon Stubbs
Official Languages — Joël Godin
Public Safety — Raquel Dancho
Transport — Mark Strahl
Treasury Board — Stephanie Kusie
Infrastructure and Communities — Leslyn Lewis
Sarah Jama will carry the NDP banner in the upcoming Hamilton Centre byelection. Jama — an activist and the executive director of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario — is set to be acclaimed in early November at a nomination meeting and “dance party.”
The Tories — who were repped by Sarah Bokhari in the June election — have not yet named a candidate and Premier Doug Ford is yet to call the vote. He’s required to do so within six months of the vacancy.
After six years as the New Democrats' director of communications, Erin Morrison has bid adieu to Queen's Park. She is one of several NDP staffers who have exited after former captain Andrea Horwath quit in June.
Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma has a new press secretary and communications advisor: Andrea Chiappetta. He joins Surma's office after a stint as Issues Manager to Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
Chiappetta has federal experience — previously serving as Constituency Assistant to Conservative MP John Brassard.
Alberta's top doc Deena Hinshaw is on her way out of the job. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith told reporters that she thinks “we are in a new phase where we are now talking about treating coronavirus as endemic.”
“I will get new advice on public health,” Smith said at her first presser.
Deputy Fisheries and Oceans Minister Timothy Sargent “abruptly quit” last week and is headed to an NGO on assignment. “It has been an honour working with you all over the past several years,” Sargent said in a memo to ministerial staff.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly has unveiled new diplomatic appointments:
François Lafrenière becomes Ambassador to the Republic of Mali.
David Sproule becomes the Special Representative for Afghanistan.
Jeanette Stovel will be Ambassador to the Republic of Finland.
Andrée-Lyne Hallé has exited Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office — where she most recently served as a Strategic Advisor — after seven years. “It's time for me to turn the page and take on new challenges,” she wrote.
Hallé served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Finance Minister Christya Freeland prior to joining Trudeau's office as head of Issues Management.
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WHAT WE'RE READING
TORONTO STAR: “Justin Trudeau accused Doug Ford of ‘hiding’ during convoy protest, documents show” by Alex Ballingall and Tonda MacCharles
“Patrick Brown campaign flyer shouldn’t have our logos on it, universities say” by Kristin Rushowy, Noor Javed and Robert Benzie
THE CANADIAN PRESS: “Everything you need to know as Ontario education workers consider strike” by Allison Jones
GLOBAL NEWS: “Ontario’s top doctor urges mask wearing, warns mandate could return” by Isaac Callan and Colin D'Mello
CBC NEWS: “What the Conservatives' critics list says about Poilievre's approach to Parliament” by Peter Zimonjic
The last question: 93 percent of CUPE education workers voted in favour of job action during the last round of negotiations.
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Which NDP MP introduced the ‘greedflation’ motion calling on the feds to act on high food prices? Send us your answers.
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