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DiNovo's 'unofficial' NDP leadership bid is rad and everything, but what are we supposed to do with it?

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Image: Flickr/Alex Guibord

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As a young left-of-centre New Democrat and environmentalist hearing the news that Cheri DiNovo would be running for NDP leadership, I was ecstatic. While I made the conscious decision to remain an undecided voter (a novelty rarely afforded to leftists in Canada) for at least a few months, DiNovo being the first to make her intentions known would certainly indicate we are in for an exciting leadership race.

However, as more details have been revealed about her "unofficial" candidacy I cannot help but feel disappointed and a little confused.

A Cheri DiNovo leadership campaign certainly would have support within the NDP, a party whose leftist base first got a certain sense of validation upon the results of the 2015 election, then a sense of momentum when Tom Mulcair was only able to secure 48 per cent of the vote at the Edmonton convention and secured the party's commitment to at least seriously examine the Leap Manifesto.

I could see the steps leading up to this moment fit perfectly for DiNovo. Not only does she have a long, progressive track record at Queen's Park that has culminated in a number of high profile recent successes, but DiNovo was able to establish herself numerous times as a truly progressive voice in the party.

She vocally came out against Tom Mulcair before anyone else really did, she also made a stand when she butt heads with the Ontario New Democrats during the 2014 provincial election (and possibly held onto her seat because of it). I also had the personal pleasure (and slight discomfort) at a post-election NDP meeting where I sat at the same table as both DiNovo and Mulcair when she made the case for the NDP to support the Leap Manifesto.

Yet despite this perfect lead-up to Cheri DiNovo being the first serious democratic socialist to contend for the leadership position, it's unofficial. As in, she's not paying the entry fee and she isn't going to fundraise.

DiNovo's primary motivation for her 'unofficial' leadership bid is the $30,000 entry fee the party is requiring candidates to pay. Though she could probably easily raise the funds, I do sympathize with this position. I also 100 per cent agree with DiNovo in that politics should be about more than money, but the entry fee issue goes far beyond what some within the party would simplify to be the party brass being elitist and greedy.

Many seem to forget that promptly after Mulcair got ousted an emergency-like motion from the convention floor was passed to extend the period in which the party could have the leadership convention. Conventions are incredibly expensive and the NDP simply does not have enough money.

Having a longer leadership race allows for more chances to actually raise funds for the party so we're ultimately better equipped for the next federal election, when undoubtedly the focus will be on reclaiming key ridings lost to the Liberals (especially in Toronto, where the NDP was swept out including DiNovo's riding of Parkdale-High Park). There's also validity to the argument that a serious national party candidate should be able to raise $30,000, an amount that is not even half the federal election spending limit of DiNovo's home riding.

The reasoning behind the decision to remain unofficial isn't the source of my disappointment and confusion though, it's the potential results of it. As it stands now it's unclear for many if members will even be able to cast a vote for DiNovo assuming nothing changes for her between now and the leadership convention.

More immediately it's unclear what the role of young, left-of-centre, environmentalist New Democrats like me will be if we want to support Cheri DiNovo. With no official campaign to speak of we cannot donate, and with no funds being raised it's questionable if there will be any opportunity to volunteer and get involved. This also runs counter to Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K., who did indeed raise funds and operate a full campaign, as well as Bernie Sanders in the U.S., whose volunteer engagement has been staggeringly impressive.

So what are New Democrats who would otherwise be donating to and volunteering for DiNovo to do?

The next question is what is the next step for DiNovo? If her efforts are able to get the party to lower the entry fee then this is a clear win, but if she's unsuccessful this will just make her look ineffectual within a party she's already butting heads with; that is, if she decides to officially be a candidate.

Ultimately while I've always appreciated Cheri DiNovo's efforts to push the NDP leftwards, I can't help but feel we no longer need someone to push us -- we need someone to lead us. I just hope DiNovo realizes she could do just that.

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Image: Flickr/Alex Guibord

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