Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Inside the Smoke-Filled Room

Today I made my first step into party politics. This evening I travelled to a union office in Thorold, which was to be the meeting place of the Ontario NDP’s Welland Riding Association meeting. When I arrived I discovered that there had been some confusion and the contact I had with the organization had mistakenly given me today as the date of a general meeting. Instead it was a meeting of the Selection Committee of the Welland NDP.

On June 3, 2011 Peter Kormos (NDP – Welland) announced he was retiring from the legislature he served in for over twenty years. The announcement came suddenly, and with very little warning. The Selection Committee I attended was anxiously trying to get together the much needed organization to replace Mr. Kormos as the NDP candidate to be the NDP MPP for Welland following the October election.

Peter Kormos is one my political heroes, and part of my participation in the Ontario NDP was to work with him. I am saddened at his departure from political life in the province of Ontario. I cannot say enough about this man who shaped my political identity and inspires me to this day.

I asked politely to sit in on this meeting. I contributed nothing, the Committee was selected through an unknown process and for me to shape the discussion because I showed up seemed improper. Before the meeting started a member of the executive encouraged me strongly to get more, and more involved in the party. I was excited and flattered to participate. Sadly, I held back in jumping in with both feet because of my impending change of life once I begin Master’s at Brock.

Something else, it will be difficult for me to volunteer for Welland. I live in the south end of St. Catharines, the most disconnected part of the riding. It would be far easier for me to work for the St. Catharines NDP, but I cannot be a member because I do not live in the boundaries. I cannot easily get to Welland, or Port Colborne to participate in the coming campaign, if I did have time.

The Committee discussed the nomination process and getting those interested the information they need. Constant concerns over the limited time left to get this all organized, and the issues with the postal workers strike were the focus of this meeting, along with who is in, and who is out. Looking over the forms a candidate needs to become the nominee I realized something. There are a lot of hoops a person has to jump through to get the nomination. It explains to me how strange people get the nominations in difficult ridings, like we just saw in Quebec. Local politicians – mayors, councillors, etc. and local notables (important businessmen/women and community leaders) don’t really have the time to do these things and they don’t want to risk his or her hard earned office. The people who do have the time are those who are determined to run or have the time to get their forms in order.

A person such as myself could easily get the forms in and stand as a candidate for nomination, but the mayor of Welland does not, or will not because he already has his position. It’s difficult to attract qualified and competent candidates for parties. We scorn career politicians, and people who want to enter politics. This Maclean’s article does a great job of talking about where we get our political talent. But unless we’re willing to run ourselves we are needed in quality control, and that’s why I can’t wait until my next party meeting.

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