NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addresses supporters as he kicks off his first cross-country tour at a rally in Ottawa, Sunday October15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Federal NDP kick off convention with harassment apology

Delegates learn NDP’s budget fell from $18 million in 2015 to $6 million the last two years

The federal NDP kicked off its national convention in earnest Friday with a sober apology from the party’s president to all those members, supporters, volunteers and MPs who have suffered harassment or discrimination.

“There are women within our party — volunteers, staff, MPs —who have survived unacceptable and unwelcome behaviour from peers and people who wield power over them,” Marit Stiles told the nearly 2,000 delegates gathered in a convention centre not far from Parliament Hill.

“They have been embarrassed, demeaned and violated. And in too many cases saw those in powerful positions ignore that conduct or worse, sometimes excuse it.

“Let me say on behalf of all of us, your party, we are sorry. You were failed, and we apologize.”

The mea culpa was the latest development as the anger and frustration over sexual misconduct that birthed the #MeToo movement has caused upheaval across Canada’s political scene as well.

The NDP has not been spared: former Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer, long a party stalwart in Ottawa, has faced allegations of sexual misconduct from several women, while the party has launched an investigation into allegations of harassment against current MP Erin Weir.

Stoffer and Weir have denied any wrongdoing, but the allegations have nonetheless shaken the foundations of the third-place party, which espouses to be a champion of equality and inclusiveness.

Stiles promised the NDP would do better as she introduced a proposed, party-wide policy “to renew and deepen our commitment to end discrimination and harassment and create an environment that is safe and welcoming for all.”

The question of how to better safeguard against misconduct is only one challenge facing the party during this weekend’s convention, where New Democrats are hoping to build momentum heading into next year’s federal election.

Delegates were also presented with a grave assessment of the party’s finances, thanks to a precipitous decline in fundraising since the last federal election in 2015 that has seen the NDP’s budget fall from $18 million in 2015 to $6 million the last two years.

The trend is starting to reverse, said NDP treasurer Tania Jarzebiak, but the party still has $3 million in external debt from the last election, and owes money to many riding associations that will need the cash soon to start preparing for 2019.

There was some good news: The number of party members blossomed from a low of 41,000 in March 2017 to 124,000 in August, thanks, in large part, to the leadership campaign that ultimately elected Jagmeet Singh.

But only 30,000 of those members have donated to the party, Jarzebiak said, and only 9,000 were monthly donors, “so we have work to do.”

Aside from money, the party also faces some potentially divisive battles over proposed policy resolutions, though one aiming to have the NDP endorse a controversial boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel won’t be debated.

Delegates will also hold a mandatory vote on Singh’s leadership, though he only became leader in October.

While Singh is expected to easily survive the leadership review, the stakes are nonetheless high for him as New Democrats will look to him to infuse the party with energy coming out of the meeting and heading into 2019.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Sunshine Valley songbird releases EP

Fifteen-year-old Ashley Pater has been singing and performing since age 9

Rescue boat theft marks third in 3 years for Agassiz-based SAR team

Eight-metre Spirit of Harrison rescue vessel was stolen Friday night, found Saturday morning

Hope stylist holds hair-athon for a good cause

Shayla Ross donating all proceeds of $10 cuts to the food bank

Hope arena turns green for hockey tourney

A second attempt at green ice, with proper ice paint, after food colouring experiment last year

Project Hope celebrates first birthday

Also: lego-mania comes to town, lineup of all-female comedians entertains Friday

VIDEO: B.C. Mounties reunite veteran with lost military medals

RCMP say Zora Singh Tatla, who served in the army in India for 28 years, is the righful owner

4 facts to ring in St. Patrick’s Day

What do you really know about the Irish celebration?

Experts urging caution as rabbits die by the hundreds in B.C. city

Province of B.C. confirms more positive tests for rabbit haemorrhagic disease

Canucks snap scoreless streak but fall short in 5-3 loss to Sharks

Swiss forward Timo Meier nets two, including the game-winner, to lead San Jose

Search continues for 10-year-old Montreal boy missing since Monday

Montreal police said they are exploring every possibility in search for Ariel Jeffrey Kouakou

Airline passenger-rights bill claws back protections for travellers: Advocate

Bill C-49 would double tarmac delays, scrap compensation for flights affected by mechanical failures

Canadian research vessel to explore 19th Century shipwrecks

Commissioned this week in Victoria, the RV David Thompson is Parks Canada’s newest vessel

UPDATED: ‘New wave’ of anti-pipeline protests return to Trans Mountain facility

About 100 demonstrators with Protect the Inlet marched to the Burnaby terminal Saturday

B.C. man to plead guilty in connection with hit-and-run that killed teen

Jason Gourlay charged with failure to stop at the scene of accident, attempting to obstruct justice

Most Read