Concerns raised about the process by which the NDP's candidate was selected.
The leadership of the provincial Scarborough-Guildwood New Democratic Party riding association is concerned that more than a third of those who voted in its recent nomination meeting—held to select a candidate for the byelection being held on August 1—were not properly registered to vote. Yesterday, they sent a letter to the provincial party secretary, registering those concerns formally.
The Scarborough-Guildwood NDP held its nomination meeting this past Sunday, July 7. According to the Ontario NDP’s constitution [PDF], only a “member in good standing” who has applied for membership at least 30 days before a nomination, and who lives in the riding, is eligible to vote for a candidate at a nomination meeting.
Torontoist has obtained a letter sent Thursday from the Scarborough-Guildwood riding association to the party’s provincial secretary. It briefly outlines an investigation by the riding association into the eligibility of twelve people who attended Sunday’s meeting and were allowed to vote. “Our subsequent investigation revealed that eleven of these twelve walk-in voters could not be verified as members in good standing in Scarborough-Guildwood,” the letter states.
Another source within the NDP, who asked not to be named because of ongoing participation within the party, told us that riding association officials challenged the eligibility of seven of the remaining eleven persons during the nomination meeting, including one group of three who share the same surname, but they were overruled by the NDP’s party secretary. All eleven people in question were given ballots and voted in the nomination.
According to the source, candidates receive a list of party members in advance of the nomination in order to be able to canvass them for support. “If candidates do not have full access to member lists, they are at a disadvantage and the process is not democratic,” the source said. The source added that “fully updated lists and databases are crucial for a transparent nomination vote.”
The riding association’s concerns could call into question the results of Sunday’s nomination meeting, in particular because they pertain to one third of all ballots cast.
Former Toronto city councillor Adam Giambrone, who represented Ward 18 (Davenport) for two terms, was declared the winner of that nomination, and he has begun campaigning in Scarborough-Guildwood. Giambrone defeated his only opponent, Amarjeet Kaur Chhabra, a union organizer who made an unsuccessful 2006 bid for city council in Ward 43 (Scarborough-East). The letter to the ONDP notes that Chhabra shares the riding association’s concerns about the nomination process.
Chhabra did not respond to a request for comment on the matter. A staffer with Giambrone’s campaign also declined to comment, and referred us to the ONDP executive.
The Scarborough-Guildwood riding association has asked the ONDP to confirm the eligibility of the twelve apparently unregistered voters. “Please forward to the Riding Association the name, current address, phone number; sign-up date and membership number of these twelve voters,” the letter requested, with a deadline of 1 p.m. today.
Darlene Lawson, the provincial secretary who ruled that the attendees in question were eligible to vote, declined to comment publicly on the nomination process. In an email to Torontoist this morning she wrote only that: “Our Party, as per our practice, deals with internal matters internally.”
Lawson did respond in much greater detail to the riding association, in an email sent out late this morning. In that message Lawson writes that “only one issue was brought to my attention at registration, to confirm the identity of an individual, which I did. I was not made aware of any additional concerns.” She also said NDP staff are continuously updating member databases, even after riding candidates receive their final update of member lists.
Lawson refused in the letter to verify the eligibility of the twelve attendees about whom the riding association raised concerns, and explained that the party only releases full membership lists under very specific circumstances. It is not clear what further action, if any, the riding association might take at this point.
There is precedent within the Ontario NDP for holding a new nomination if party officials determine that the initial process did not follow the rules. In 2011, the NDP removed Barry Weisleder as a candidate in Thornhill after determining he had failed to fully complete his campaign nomination forms; the party convened a second nomination meeting to replace Weisleder.
The full text of the letter sent from the riding association is below, followed by the full text of the party secretary’s response:
Members of the Scarborough Guildwood Executive,
I am responding to your memo regarding the recent Scarborough Guildwood nomination meeting, held on July 7, 2013 at which I was in attendance.
I have confirmed with the Chair of the meeting, Joe Cressy, that:
– The nomination meeting followed the agenda.
– The vote took place and the Chair announced the results. The result of the vote was upheld and a motion was moved to destroy the ballots and make the result unanimous. The motion was adopted by the members and the nomination meeting was adjourned.
– Only one issue was brought to my attention at registration, to confirm the identity of an individual, which I did. I was not made aware of any additional concerns. Registration is the proper time for any concerns about voter eligibility to be raised and addressed, prior to voting taking place.
Both candidates received the same membership list once their candidacy was approved.
It is standard practice to update the membership database prior to a nomination meeting, including the input of renewals, federal members, members who have changed their address, new memberships received at least 30 days prior by staff, online, by phone, by mail, etc.
In the short time frame prior to the nomination meeting, as well as preparing for three nomination meetings in three days, corrections, updates and additions of eligible members into the database necessarily continued subsequent to the candidates receiving the riding membership list.
On the matter of your request, full membership lists are released to the executive of a riding association for the purposes of conducting the functions of the riding association as outlined in section 5.02 of the Party Constitution, namely to organize within the constituency for electoral, political and education purposes and to nominate candidates and, in addition, for the purpose of recruiting members, carrying administrative work and carrying the responsibilities that the Party assigns under Ontario’s election laws.
Once by-elections are over, and staff resources permit, membership lists will continue to be made available to ridings for the above purposes.
With best regards,