Sarah Jama speaking at a 2018 event in Hamilton. Credit: Joey Coleman

Ontario’s NDP has removed Sarah Jama from their caucus.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles issued a statement this morning:

“Ms. Jama and I had reached an agreement to keep her in the NDP Caucus, which included working together in good faith with no surprises. … Since then, she has undertaken a number of unilateral actions that have undermined our collective work and broken the trust of her colleagues. Some of Ms. Jama’s actions have contributed to unsafe work environments for staff.”

Jama will continue to represent Hamilton Centre as an independent member of the Legislative Assembly, but will not be recognized by the Speaker following a 63-23 vote in favour of the Conservative government motion to censure her and remove her speaking rights.

Village Media’s The Trillium reports Jama was removed from the caucus when she changed her speech today in the Legislative Assembly from the original script she shared with the caucus.

Censuring and Silencing Jama: Revoking Her Right To Speak at Queen’s Park

Following Jama’s expulsion from the NDP caucus, the Conservatives called the final vote on their motion to censure Jama for her statements regarding the war between Israel and Hamas.

The motion passed 63-23. The NDP and Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner voted against it.

Schreiner wrote, “I believe this motion was too sweeping and that voters in Hamilton Centre should decide whether MPP Jama should be their voice at Queen’s Park, not me. In a democracy we should lean on the side of defending an elected MPP’s right to speak in the House.

[Schreiner’s reasoning is similar to my own, as I wrote last week: the voters of Hamilton Centre get to sit in judgment of Jama’s comments, not the governing party.]

The NDP’s Government or Activist Framing

The Ontario NDP leadership wants to form the next government.

They’ve decided Jama’s potential future statements and activism are a liability to achieving that goal.

Jama enjoys strong loyalty among Hamilton Centre New Democrats.

Hamilton and District Labour Council President Anthony Marco quickly declared he is quitting the NDP, adding, “While I cannot predict [the Labour Council’s] continued membership with the party, I can say they voted to support Sarah!”

Hamilton Ward 2 City Councillor Cameron Kroetsch announced he is leaving the NDP, Ward 2 public school Trustee Sabreina Dahab denounced the removal.

X (formerly Twitter) and other social media platforms are full of NDPers expressing strong feelings against the removal.

Feuds between NDP factions have already cost the party two seats in Hamilton.

They lost Hamilton East – Stoney Creek in the 2022 provincial election, and Hamilton Mountain in the 2021 federal election.

The Ontario Legislature building at Queen’s Park, photo, license CC-BY by Flickr user abdallahh

The Factions of the NDP

Tension between NDP factions has happened before and is happening again.

“There are, within the Nova Scotia NDP, two broad factions,” wrote Graham J. Steele in his 2014 political memoir.

Steele was Minister of Finance in the one-term Nova Scotia NDP government.

He describes the factions: “One is moderate, pragmatic, centrist. the other is more ideological, less accommodating.”

“Faction 1 sees Faction 2 as inflexible, pushy troublemakers. Faction 2 sees Faction 1 as weak, liberal sellouts. Faction 1 is larger and almost always carries the day at party meetings, but Faction 2 is louder.”

Steele’s assessment of how his NDP government came to defeat is strikingly similar to Bob Rae’s assessment in his memoir about being Ontario’s NDP Premier.

The Ontario NDP turmoil playing out in Hamilton and at Queen’s Park these past two weeks can easily be seen through this lens.

The disruption of the NDP convention, with NDP delegates assisting protesters to bypass security, and the removal of Jama from the Party bring the divides into the public spotlight.

The Ontario and Nova Scotia NDP exist in a three-party system, competing against the Liberals and NDP at election time to form the next government.

The three-party system pushes the NDP further to the left of the political spectrum than its cousins in the two-party systems of Alberta, British Columbia, and Manitoba.

Ontario’s NDP won government once, from 1990 to 1995, with Bob Rae as Premier.

The Nova Scotia NDP won government once, from 2009 to 2013.

Both NDP governments ended after a single term, with voters vanquishing them to third party.

It took 23 years and a voter revolt against the Liberals for Ontario’s NDP to become the official opposition.

Stiles hopes to be Premier in 2026.

She has decided the path to government does not include Sarah Jama’s style of activism.

Voters will decide if Stiles becomes Premier, and they will decide if Jama will continue to represent Hamilton Centre.

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Published: October 23, 2023
Last edited: October 23, 2023
Author: Joey Coleman
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