Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Welland NDP Meeting

This Sunday I attended my very first nomination meeting. A nomination meeting is a when members of a political party in a riding/electoral district gather together to select a candidate for an upcoming election. As a resident of the Welland riding and a member of the Ontario New Democratic Party I, and other members of the party, were asked to help select a new candidate. The Welland riding consists of the city of Welland, Port Colborne, Thorold and the southern portion of St. Catharines.

Peter Kormos, the incumbent NDP MPP for Welland, has held that office since 1988. After twenty-three years of public service he has decided to retire, despite still being under sixty years old. With this being the case the Ontario New Democratic Party Welland’s Riding Association called a meeting to nominate a new candidate.

Being one of the safer NDP ridings in the province there was a great deal of interest over the nomination. Only two candidates were left standing at the time of nomination meeting. The meeting was held in a CAW hall in Welland. I estimated the crowd over 200 people. The crowd was large and enthusiastic, and there was only standing room at the back. With over twenty years as a leader in the community many wanted to say good-bye to Mr. Kormos.

To open the meeting was a speech by the provincial NDP leader, Andrea Horwath. I was quite impressed with her stump speech. She gave her audience a great deal of respect, her brief remarks contained what I think most people want to hear from their political leaders – concrete solutions to problems they are concerned about.

She also successfully highlighted the differences between herself and the two other provincial leaders, Dalton McGuinty (Liberals) and Tim Hudak (Progressive Conservatives). The record of the Liberal government has left few Ontarians happy, hence the Liberal weakness in recent polls. On the other hand the negative Tory campaign and some of the policy solutions they are offering is not holding much water for Ontarians.

Horwath, did well overall. I found her humour and straightforward policy proposals the most admirable aspect of her speaking-style, which my fellow Ontarians will get more familiar with over the coming months. Despite polling third in all recent polls she spoke confidently about forming government, and the crowd responded with cheers. The message that things can be better, and we don’t need to hack and slash the social safety net and services is an appealing one.

While he did not speak Malcolm Allen, the MP for Welland (NDP), was also in attendance and received warm, loud applause when introduced. Alongside that was the even more heartfelt cheer for a mention by Leader Horwath for Jack Layton’s speedy and full recovery.

The New Democrats of the Welland riding ultimately chose to select Cindy Forster over Mick Riddle, a former police officer and professor. I myself voted for Ms. Forster, who currently sits as a Councillor in the Niagara Regional Councillor. Forster was also a former mayor of Welland and a city councillor. The NDP candidate has long experience as a nurse and in the leadership of the Ontario Nursing Association.

Peter Kormos is one of my political heroes, and a large part of the reason I usually think of myself as a New Democrat. I was excited to hear that I could vote for him this fall, and then disappointed he chose to retire. I will say that unlike the federal election I am more determined who I would vote for in the fall, and less undecided. That being said I will do my best to provide objective information to my reading audience before offering my endorsements for the October 6 vote.

The final thing I’d like to add is that if we want our democracy we have to get active. We live in a participatory democracy. The more involved we are the more effective our democracy will be. We don’t all have to be members of political parties, but if we are, we can help ensure that the strongest candidates win the nomination processes. Then the electorate is presented with strong candidates that represent the local population well. The stronger the candidates the more faith people will have in the election and the process. Democracy is a foundational institution, the stronger the very basic elements – local government, and riding associations – the healthier the overall democracy. Something to think about.

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