POLITICS

Gaël Chantrel, NDP Riding President, Denounces Party For 'Antidemocratic Practices'

08/28/2015 01:00 EDT | Updated 08/28/2015 01:00 EDT
Gaël Chantrel/Twitter

An NDP riding president and former potential candidate is denouncing the party for what he calls “antidemocratic practices” that led to the imposition of star candidate Anne Lagacé Dowson.

Gaël Chantrel is so upset that he is stepping down from his post as president of the Montreal riding of Papineau — Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s riding — in protest.

In a blog published on Huffington Post Quebec, Chantrel said the NDP had denied local members a chance to have their say by parachuting in a candidate with no ties to the riding and bypassing a nomination race.

“This decision sends a negative message to NDP members in Papineau, to those who participate in the local NDP association and to voters in our riding,” he wrote.

Dowson is a former CBC journalist who ran unsuccessfully against Liberal MP Marc Garneau in the riding of Westmount in 2008. The party paved the way for her candidacy in Papineau by declaring Chantrel an unsuitable candidate.

He had run, and lost, earlier this year to Béatrice Zako in a contested nomination. Zako, however, was asked to withdraw in late July after she made comments comparing Quebec to a colonized African country – statements that the NDP said it wasn’t aware of.

Following Zako’s dismissal, Chantrel said, he thought it would have been “judicious” to give local members a vote. He tweeted on Aug. 4 that he was ready to rid Papineau of Justin Trudeau.

In an interview with the Montreal newspaper La Presse, Dowson said the NDP had approached her just before Zako withdrew from the race but that talks had concluded successfully only in the past week.

NDP spokesman Marc André Viau told HuffPost that Dowson was the only candidate approved to run in Papineau. “Gaël Chantrel’s candidacy was not approved,” he wrote in an email. Viau refused to explain, however, why Chantrel hadn’t been allowed to contest the nomination when, months earlier, he had been fit to challenge Zako.

“The process is confidential,” Viau simply responded.

Chantrel said he submitted the same file that had been approved for the first contested nomination.

“My candidacy wasn’t approved because they simply didn’t want a race, and they told me!,” he wrote in an email.

“The party had already decided,” he later told HuffPost. “I don’t want to start a war with the NDP – I support them during this federal election – but I just want to state how I don’t agree with some of their tactics and to flag their regrettable decision to stay true to my values and principles,” he said.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair was beaming Friday when he referred to his “great candidate,” Dowson, at a press conference in Montreal. “I sincerely couldn’t be happier than to have Anne Lagacé Dowson as the future member of Parliament for Papineau,” he said.

Dowson will be facing off against Trudeau and former journalist Yvon Vadnais, who is running under the Conservative banner.

Trudeau suggested he welcomes the fight at the door with his NDP challenger. He told reporters was incredibly proud to have been a “very local MP” over the past seven years. The concerns of the people he had the “honour of representing” were reflected in the Liberals’ plan for the economy, he said, noting what he called historic investments in social housing, public transit and seniors’ residences.

“These are the kinds of things that people in Papineau want and need, and I don’t envy any NDP candidate across the country who will have to explain to the voters at the door why they are supporting an economic plan that features cuts instead of help for the people who need it,” Trudeau said.

The Liberals have accused the NDP of running on an austerity plan after Mulcair promised a balanced budget in his first term and another star candidate, Saskatchewan NDP finance minister Andrew Thomson, said cuts would have to be made to reach that target.

Despite his balanced budget promise, Mulcair said his plan to fight poverty is the most ambitious and most focused of all three leaders. The NDP has said it will cut oil patch subsidies, raise corporate taxes and close stock option loopholes to pay for its promises.

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