There’s a Federal Election coming, but we don’t know when. It could be anytime because that is the nature of a minority government, and even in a pandemic, the possibility exists that the government will fall at any moment, even by its own hand. When that happens, local political parties will need candidates, and the Guelph NDP now has there’s. As a bonus, she already has experience running as a Federal candidate.
At a virtual nomination meeting on Tuesday night, Aisha Jahangir was acclaimed as the New Democrat candidate for the upcoming 44th Federal Election. The nurse and labour organizer ran for the NDP in the 2019 election, but current events have energized Jahangir for another run to be Guelph’s Member of Parliament.
“The pandemic has brought our already stretched healthcare system, underfunded for decades by successive Tory and Liberal governments, close to the breaking point,” Jahangir said. “As frontline health care workers, we have a right to safety in a work environment, and the government, quite frankly, has failed us. I want nurses to be safe on their jobs, and I want my patients to be safe.”
“Jagmeet [Singh] and the NDP will be putting forward a bold and transformative vision, bringing pharmacare, dental care, and, most importantly, long-term care into the Canada Health Act as part of our proud public Medicare heritage,” Jahangir added. “We will be talking about environmental protection, anti-racism and social justice, and support for workers who have been hit so hard by the pandemic with a plan that will ask the wealthiest, whose riches have actually been piling up during the pandemic, to finally pay their fair share.”
In the 2019 election, Jahangir finished in fourth place with 12.3 per cent of the total vote. The NDP vote share in that election was more or less the same as the 2015 result though Jahangir received about 1,000 more individual votes. The static result for the NDP in Guelph was partly blamed on the Green Party surge; candidate Steve Dyck finished in second place with 25.46 per cent of the vote. Jahangir had some choice words for the Greens and other parties.
“The Green Party had an opportunity last fall to reinvent itself as a left-wing party, and it basically chose not to,” Jahangir said of the election of centrist Annamie Paul as Green Party leader. “Canadians have learned from experience not to trust Mr. Trudeau and his promises, while the Conservatives have changed their leaders again, but it’s still the same old gang of corporate cronies looking after their rich friends,” she added.
To lend moral and political support to Jahangir in her nomination was Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, NDP Member of Parliament for Nunavut. The 27-year-old from Iqaluit is one of the youngest MPs in the House of Commons, and is currently the only non-Liberal MP from Northern Canada.
Qaqqaq said that as a member of the NDP caucus she’s been allowed to speak with her voice, and to the issues in her riding without having to worry about the usual party politics or being whipped by party leadership. “As Members of Parliament we should advocate for our constituents, and you can trust that Aisha will will be backing your needs specifically for your riding,” Qaqqaq said.
Trusting politicians to represent their constituents was a topic of conversation among some members of the local NDP, about 50 of whom took part in the virtual meeting on Tuesday night. On Monday, current Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield voted “present” on a Conservative motion to declare the Government of China’s treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority as a genocide, a vote that some on the call were shocked and disappointed by.
“A lot of the things that we have been seeing throughout this COVID crisis have been pushed by the NDP, and while the Liberals are taking a lot of the credit that’s not the reality,” Qaqqaq said noting that the CERB extension, the 75 per cent wage subsidy, and other COVID measures would not have happened without her party driving them. “We are always there to do our best to hold the government to account,” she added.
Holding Lognfield to account will be a little easier in the next election as members of the NDP raised $14,000 for the newly minted Jahangir campaign. The enthusiasm is notable since the 2019 NDP campaign had just over $32,000 in contributions from all sources. The MP from Nunavut said her party’s not looking to start a new campaign, but they need to be ready when the writ is drawn up.
“We don’t want to campaign this early, we don’t want an election this early, especially during COVID, but we do have to be ready,” Qaqqaq added. “So we don’t want it, but we have Aisha here, and we do need to be ready to get going and spread the message.”