A former NDP candidate who was forced to resign on Sunday is defending his reputation.
Nova Scotia resident Morgan Wheeldon told The Huffington Post Canada Tuesday that he isn’t ready to say he resigned when the party forced his hand.
Wheeldon, 33, is featured in an item on a Conservative party attack website in which he makes a controversial comment about Israel. In a 2014 Facebook post, since deleted, Wheeldon wrote: “One could argue that Israel’s intention was always to ethnically cleanse the region — there are direct quotations proving this to be the case.
“Guess we just sweep that under the rug. A minority of Palestinians are bombing buses in response to what appears to be a calculated effort to commit a war crime.”
Wheeldon was told Sunday by NDP field organizer James Pratt that he had 30 minutes to decide whether he would resign or be stripped of his standing as the candidate for the riding of Kings–Hants.
“The thing that I am doing is I’m stepping out and saying I don’t agree with the decision,” Wheeldon told HuffPost. “I still support our platform, I still support our candidates, that hasn’t changed, but I don’t support this decision and I don’t agree with this particular strategy taken by internal staffers.”
Wheeldon declined to say whether he still supported NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.
He said he didn’t understand why he was booted out while others have not, such as Quebec candidate Hans Marotte, who suggested in a book written 25 years ago that he supported the first Palestinian intifada. The NDP is still defending Marotte. It has not said anything about another candidate, Matthew Rowlinson in the Ontario riding of London West, who is accused of making comments similar to Wheeldon’s.
“I am not now, nor have I ever been an anti-Semite,” he wrote in a statement to the media. “I condemn terrorism and believe that Israel is entitled to a secure state – one that is an ally and partner of Canada. I believe in, and hope for, a two-state solution, where both Palestinians and Israelis live in safety and security.”
Wheeldon said he had made “a historical comment” about something that has been debated in academic literature. He added that he had made “no comment about Jewish people.”
He blamed Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and the style of politics the Tories practice for creating a “chill on free expression.”
“It’s telling people that we can’t look at different angles of issues for fear of being labelled and for being branded on the public record,” he said.
He told HuffPost he now finds himself in the difficult position of having to ask his Jewish friends and acquaintances to vouch for his reputation and go on the public record to say he is not anti-Semitic.
“That doesn’t make me feel good, but I also feel like I’m left with no other option. This is a PR nightmare because we’re in an era where the words anti-Semitism could be associated with my name for the rest of life on a digital record and if I don’t do something about it, to clear the air, that will stand and will potentially follow me around.”
Wheeldon also took issue with a statement from senior NDP campaign advisor Brad Lavigne, who suggested he had kept information from the central party. He said he never hid his post from NDP officials.
“I was forthcoming at each stage of the nomination, and we collectively missed this comment in the vetting process,” he said.
“I’m coming into this wanting to be transparent and honest about what happened and be truthful with myself,” he told HuffPost.
“I’m not willing to say I chose to resign when it is not the truth.”
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