TORONTO — Veteran Ontario New Democrat Cheri DiNovo announced Tuesday she would run as an "unofficial" candidate for the federal NDP leadership, but won't pay the $30,000 deposit the party requires of would-be leaders.
"I intend to fight not for me, but for the NDP ... to fight for principles rather than for a position," DiNovo told a handful of supporters at a United Church in her Toronto riding, where she is an ordained minister.
"Money should not in any way be a barrier for a leader of a democratic socialist party."
NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo is shown in an undated, handout photo. (Handout)
DiNovo criticized the NDP executive for requiring a deposit fee and setting a spending limit of $1.5 million dollars for candidates who hope to replace Tom Mulcair as federal leader and said she would run "a grass-roots fuelled" campaign.
"When you put the cap at that (level) you know to be in contention for the leadership you pretty well have to raise that or close to it," she said.
"It shouldn't be about how much money you can raise to buy buttons and bobbles to promote yourself. It should be about principles."
However, Elections Canada rules show DiNovo would not be able to legally raise funds for her candidacy unless she pays the $30,000 deposit for NDP leadership hopefuls.
The regulation states: "Every person who accepts contributions, loans or transfers, or incurs leadership campaign expenses, has to register as a leadership contestant even if he or she later decides not to run for the leadership."
DiNovo, a long time champion of the poor and the LGBTQ community, promised to step aside if a stronger candidate came along espousing the same social democratic principles as she does.
Ontario New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo announces her candidacy for leadership of the federal NDP in Toronto on Tuesday, June 7, 2016. (Photo: Christopher Katsarov/CP)
"Let's hope that happens, but if it doesn't, yes, I'm in it for the long haul," she said.
DiNovo has represented Toronto's Parkdale-High Park riding since taking it from the Liberals in a 2006 byelection when Gerard Kennedy resigned to fun federally.
It's more important for the NDP to defend its core values than to change in order to become more popular in hopes of forming government, she added.
"This should not be about polling and should not be about pundits," DiNovo said. "It should be about passion and principles."
The New Democrats drifted toward the centre in the 2015 federal campaign, said DiNovo, who warned that will never lead to success because the party needs to place itself in "distinct contrast" to the Liberal party.
"The Liberals will always run to the left of us and arguably govern to the right of us, and they'll always cut our grass doing that."
"The Liberals will always run to the left of us and arguably govern to the right of us, and they'll always cut our grass doing that," she said.
DiNovo said she would not seek re-election in the 2018 Ontario vote, but she wouldn't rule out a run for a federal seat in 2019.
"I'm not going to say no to anything," she said.
DiNovo, who boasts that she has had more private members' bills passed than any other member of the legislature, campaigned successfully to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity and expression, and introduced a bill to give same sex couples the same parental rights as male-female couples.
She also convinced the Liberal government to recognize post-traumatic stress disorder as being work-related for police, firefighters and paramedics, after introducing four separate private members' bills over seven years.
Need to hear from grassroots
There are no official declared candidates to replace Mulcair, who announced his resignation in May after 52 per cent of delegates at the New Democrats' post-election convention in Edmonton voted for a leadership review.
DiNovo had said she wasn't interested in the federal leadership after the convention, insisting she felt the decisions made by the party's grassroots would put the NDP on a new track to "reaffirm our socialist principles and confront the climate crisis."
But, she said Tuesday, that didn't happen.
"Sadly, some in the party then proceeded to attack the very rank and file who made their voices heard in such a democratic fashion at the same convention," said DiNovo.
Voting to select the new NDP leader will take place in September or October of 2017.