NDP’s Black caucus members criticize ouster of incumbent MPP

As members of the Ontario NDP’s Black caucus publicly criticize the party’s failure to protect an incumbent, MPP Kevin Yarde says he is weighing his future political options.

Yarde’s stunning loss to Sandeep Singh in a Brampton North nomination battle has jolted Queen’s Park, where the other major parties do not allow such challenges to sitting MPPs.

“I would rather have had … 100,000 people in Brampton North determine my fate as opposed to 150 people at a riding association,” the first-term member told reporters Monday at Queen’s Park.

“There’s still other options that I’m looking at. I’m not going to rule out anything,” Yarde said, adding that could include a move to municipal or federal politics or even running as an Independent.

Some of his colleagues in the NDP’s five-member Black caucus took to Twitter over the weekend to express their concerns about last Thursday’s nomination contest.

“This week has been anything but OK. Leadership is ensuring someone who needs help gets it,” tweeted MPP Laura Mae Lindo (Kitchener Centre).

“Exactly,” agreed Rima Berns-McGown (Beaches-East York). “If we are a team, then we support and lift each other up. If we don’t, there’s a deep, deep, systemic and structural problem. Well, many, actually.”

Berns-McGown, who is not seeking re-election on June 2, pointedly added, “I am not retiring. I am taking my voice back. It’s not the same thing.”

Jill Andrew (St. Paul’s) noted on Twitter “that’s the ‘tricky’ thing about committing to leadership rooted in anti-oppression and anti-racism. You’ve actually got to commit to the work and to the **PEOPLE*** who you ask to believe in you and be on the journey with you.”

Yarde, who on Monday marked the passage of a private member’s bill he co-sponsored that is designed to end “postal code discrimination in auto insurance,” said he was heartened by the support from his colleagues.

“We’ve done so much the last four years,” he said. “So for the Black caucus to see a colleague lose in a contested nomination, there’s a lot of passion — obviously, not only among them, but also among the citizens in Brampton.”

Asked if he had any hard feelings toward NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Yarde emphasized, “No, none whatsoever. It’s just not in my nature, I’m not that type of person.”

Horwath, for her part, stressed Friday that the New Democrats’ constitution allows for MPPs to be challenged in nomination contests.

“Our process is wide open and very democratic,” she said. “As a leader, I really have nothing to do with that.”

But former NDP MPP Paul Ferreira, once a top staffer in Horwath’s office, insisted on Twitter that “the leader’s office is always aware” of nomination fights.

“For Horwath to say she wasn’t involved or aware is BS,” wrote Ferreira, who was briefly the York South-Weston MPP in 2007 and has long been critical of her leadership.

“What happened to Kevin Yarde happened with her office’s blessing. It should never have been allowed to happen. So yes, people should be upset. And they should be questioning the integrity of the leader herself,” he continued.

“Kevin Yarde was the first Black MPP from Peel. I grew up in Brampton. His election was a big deal. Now he’s been ousted by his own party. Under-represented Black communities — who deserve so much better from the (Ontario NDP) — have been let down. Shame on Andrea Howarth.”

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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