NDP Candidate gets denied by Ontario NDP for past social media posts, here’s what Matt Soprovich
DISQUALIFICATION: PLEASE READ IN FULL.
These last few weeks have been an exciting time for me. Since announcing my intention to seek the NDP nomination in Kenora-Rainy River, I was fortunate to get a great deal of support and encouragement right from the start. People in our region are ready for some new energy and some positive excitement in politics, and I was genuinely humbled by the level of enthusiasm for my candidacy and my message.
In my view, our neck of the woods needs someone willing to put the people first, to speak up and speak out, have our voices heard – and show up. I thought I could be the person to help lead this energy. Sadly, it appears that I will not.
I’m writing today to tell you that I have been prevented from continuing my nomination campaign. Party officials in Toronto have rejected my application for candidacy, without consultation, question or any legitimate right of appeal. I’ve been declined. Denied. Disqualified. There has been no regard for the level of support I’ve received from members in this riding – one which has been faithful to the provincial NDP for decades. Not even a thanks for coming, better luck next time.
Party brass claim that my disqualification is due to historical content on my personal social media feeds. I understand the world that we live in, where any ill timed or unfortunate photo from college can be dredged up at a moment’s notice. Whether this should be considered fair or not is moot. This is what I signed up for. I did not take the time to scrub and hide the social media past of my youth as extensively as I should have, and I have no one to blame for that but myself.
To be absolutely clear though: none of the content that they have pointed to was adverse or critical of NDP policy, leaders or values, or demeaning of other people or groups. At most, my social media use over time has reflected lapses in judgement from my youth that I have let stand because they are reflections of the path that I have taken, and the sincere, honest person I wished to offer the electorate.
The ‘offending’ content is benign (and maybe humorous), and to me, their citation as grounds for my disqualification reflects little more than a witch hunt on the part of party headquarters.
With me, what you see is what you get. I do not think any of my online content is grounds for disqualification, but I’ll let you be the judge. For example:
In their letter detailing my disqualification, the powers that be in Toronto describe a photo taken in May of 2013 where my “whole behind” was exposed. This is true. It was my bottom. I cannot pretend that it was not. Both cheeks, in fact.
Another example was a February 2018 video clip posted to Instagram, in which I rip out of a shirt, ‘Hulkamania’ style. Apparently it is beneath NDP politicians to ever engage in such an unrefined activity. Oh, the humanity. How dare I.
If that were not enough, on New Year’s Day of 2013, I posted a status on my Facebook stating that I was so hungover that I woke up, fell back asleep, and had a dream about being hungover. It would appear that five years ago I enjoyed New Year’s Eve so much that I drank excessively and as a result experienced a hangover so awful that I would still be paying for it over half a decade later.
Lord, please forgive me. Are you clutching your pearls yet?
Were these instances immature? I’d agree with that statement. Juvenile? I suppose. Boneheaded? Sure, why not. But were they extraordinary enough to completely bar me from participating in a democratic race? To completely disqualify my application and outright block my ability to pursue elected office under this party’s banner? I don’t believe so.
If the bar of entry to politics is never having any fun and never having lived any life, then the world of politics would be comprised of only the most dour and wooden of sticks. Maybe it is already. I’ll never know, I suppose. I’m not welcome in this world, it would seem.
I don’t believe that I’ve been treated reasonably or objectively. Especially given that I’ve been informed that when similar incidents have come to light in other ridings across the province that those seeking nominations have been given opportunity to clean up their histories rather than being immediately given the boot. When I entered this world of elected politics just weeks ago
I held hope that my candidacy would be treated fairly. Rigging races and picking favourites? The other guys do that. Not us. Today I don’t believe that that is true however.
I have sought answers and requested discussion from Toronto party brass for the better part of the last two weeks. I have sent emails and left voicemails repeatedly asking for the ability to discuss this in depth. I was not even given the dignity of even a direct conversation on this matter until today, and even then it was little more than a cursory ‘please stop contacting us.’
This leads me to believe that had these incidents not been the issue, those involved would have found other means to deny my candidacy. The fix may have been in from the beginning.
I would like to hold up a quick compare and contrast though. Just a couple months ago the Manitoba political world was rocked by allegations of sexual harassment by a former NDP cabinet minister. Multiple women stated that they went to then chief of staff – and current Ontario NDP chief of staff – Michael Balagus for help. Sadly, according to the reports, instead of assisting these women he covered up the allegations and in one case punished a woman for speaking up. I will acknowledge that these are allegations and have not been proven in a court of law. But while heads in Manitoba rolled, all the Ontario NDP did to address these concerns was give Michael Balagus a vacation for a couple weeks and a nominal slap on the wrist before welcoming him back to the party with open arms – and seemingly without any investigation whatsoever. The Ontario NDP did not even have the inclination to contact these women directly to hear their side of the story. Apparently to the Ontario NDP #believeallsurvivors only matters when women accuse your political opponents, not you.
I introduce this last bit not out of malice or spite. Rather, I say it in reflection as I look out at the lake at night and ponder what could have been. If the barrier to entry of your club, group, or organization – whatever it is – is to have never shared a slightly crude, somewhat immature status about a hangover on Facebook, but at the same time be so completely comfortable with allegations that your chief of staff covered up sexual harassment that you couldn’t even be bothered to find out what actually happened? Well, maybe that’s a club where I’m comfortable just not being a part of. Maybe this isn’t the party for people like me.
To those of you who have come to me to offer your support, your time, your efforts, and your opinions: I thank you. To those of you who took out memberships to the party when I told you that positive change was possible and that this was the best manner in which to effect it, I’m honestly sorry. I think I talked you into wasting twenty five bucks. If you felt inclined to ask the party directly for a refund, I wouldn’t blame you.
Kenora-Rainy River, I still truly believe that the next MPP of this riding needs to put the people of the riding first and never forget that, no matter what party banner that person may wave. Thanks for being a part of whatever it is that this was, in the brief time that it lasted. Take care, and good luck.