July 13, 2022.
Dear friends in the NDP,
In recent weeks, many of you have asked me to run for the ONDP leadership.
You have been kind, thoughtful, and I’ve taken your words to heart – not just for me, but for the movement we’ve built here in Ottawa, on unceded Algonquin/Anishinaabe Territory. Our local wins in 2018 and 2022 were collective efforts.
In 2022 we earned the most votes in Ontario, and increased our vote share from 2018. We did this at a time of widespread apathy, frustration, and demoralization in politics. I am beyond proud of what we accomplished together.
I want to build on this work, but not as ONDP leader. My kids are young, and my partner has a very busy job. I don’t have the time required for a full-time Toronto role, and the life of an MPP is busy enough. I am putting my family first.
At the same time, I’m also a proud member of a community that I’ve loved long before I was a father, a husband, or an MPP. I want to give something back to the city that has given me and my family so much. That’s why I got into politics.
We will ensure the Ford government knows what Ottawa Centre needs, and we’ll know those needs by continuing to organize here. We’ll hold the government to account, make collaborative suggestions when possible, and oppose any moves in the wrong direction. This is my top priority.
There are also exciting days to come in Ottawa’s municipal politics. On October 24, the left can win the mayoralty with Catherine McKenny, and elect strong new city councillors like Yvette Ashiri, Laura Shantz, Ariel Troster, Laine Johnson, and Shawn Devine. We have a once-in-generation chance to push our city in an exciting direction.
Once municipal elections are over, I’m ready to help build an ONDP that invests in members, and puts our communities first. We need to think big, organize hard, and model the kindness we need in politics. The reasons for doing so are clear.
We are facing a resurgence of the far right and a crumbling political centre all over the world. Our climate emergency demands attention. More people are tuning out, or tuning in to intolerant views. We are living in a dangerous moment.
My friend Gilles Bisson says there are Pierre Poilievre signs up in Timmins, long before a federal election. I hear of similar stories from rural Eastern Ontario (where I was raised) and in Southwest Ontario ridings that were once NDP strongholds.
But while there is fear, there is also hope. In Ottawa, there is a community that supports each other through thick and thin, through test after test, and I know this is true for communities across this province. Our task is to learn from this community spirit, let it inspire us, and let it change our party for the better.
What does that mean? It means ending the dominance of consultants in our party, who take millions for advice that gets us nowhere. We are too cautious, too scripted, and too concerned about managing risk. We “message test” our way to irrelevance.
In Ottawa Centre, we’ve learned that canned responses don’t work. To chart a new course, we must do better. Our party’s membership is its biggest strength, so let’s invest in them, and host monthly ONDP organizing schools across Ontario.
Let’s learn from local leaders about the changes required to make progress, and not at each others’ expense. Let’s build the movement we need to not only win an election, but to transform our society.
I’m ready for that work. Are you? That’s the question I’ll be posing to ONDP leadership candidates in the days, weeks, and months to come.
I want to thank those who’ve reached out about the ONDP leadership. I share your vision for a party that can inspire change. Not in four years, but right now, by making lots of good trouble.
Let’s do this together :)
My very best,