Cheri DiNovo an 'unofficial' candidate for federal NDP leadership

Toronto MPP Cheri DiNovo is declaring herself an "unofficial candidate" for the leadership of the federal New Democrats, rejecting the party's rules for entering the top contest.

'I'm running for principles, not for a position,' DiNovo says, rejecting party's $30K entry fee

Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo declared herself an 'unofficial' candidate for the leadership of the federal New Democrats on June 7, shunning the party's rules for entering the top contest. She was in Toronto. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Toronto MPP Cheri DiNovo is declaring herself an "unofficial candidate" for the leadership of the federal New Democrats, rejecting the party's rules for entering the top contest.

The rules for candidates include a $30,000 registration fee and a spending limit of $1.5 million. The party will take a 25 per cent "administration fee" to be levied on all donations to the candidates.

"I just feel, in principle, that's wrong — that for the leadership of a democratic, socialist party, it shouldn't be about the money," DiNovo said Tuesday morning in Toronto. "It shouldn't be about how much money you can raise to buy buttons and bobbles to promote yourself. It should be about principles."

"I'm running for principles, not for a position."

New Democrats will choose a new leader in 2017; NDP leader Tom Mulcair lost a leadership review in April following the party's third-place finish in last October's federal election.

DiNovo, who is an ordained United Church minister and a longtime campaigner for gay, lesbian and transgender rights, said she will be running a grassroots campaign.

"I have a very difficult time when I see the marginalized attacked or [see] spin replace evidence-based analysis," she said. "That is why I am, in fact, putting my name forward as a candidate for the federal NDP leadership."

DiNovo, who is calling on the party to change its rules, said that since she doesn't have the money required "for the privilege" of officially entering the race, she is declaring herself as an "unofficial" candidate.

"Money should not in any way be a barrier for the leadership of a democratic, socialist party," she said.

Asked for a specific comment about DiNovo's "unofficial" bid, NDP National Director Karl Bélanger said "I won't be making comments about any leadership candidates."

Bélanger noted the nomination period opens on July 2, adding that, "All individuals will be subject to the regulations put forth in the Canada Elections Act, even before the launch of the race.

"In order to be officially registered with the party, a candidate must file the nomination paperwork, submit the registration fee, be approved to stand as a candidate and agree to follow all the rules adopted by the democratically elected bodies of the New Democratic Party of Canada," Bélanger said.

DiNovo's "unofficial" candidacy sparked a range of reaction on social media:

Others dismissed her announcement outright.

While some welcomed it.

DiNovo's announcement also prompted several questions from the media.

Asked whether she was really running for the leadership of the party or simply making a point, DiNovo said she would "happily step aside" should a "stronger" candidate who upholds democratic, socialist principles come forward.

"But I'm also not happy to just stand back and wait for that to happen," DiNovo said. "I'm in for the long haul."

Pressed on whether she was calling on the party executive to change the rules for entry, DiNovo said: "Absolutely. What I'm saying is what the party executive has done isn't the way to go."

Nathan Cullen, the veteran British Columbia MP who ran against Tom Mulcair for the leadership in 2012 and finished third, ruled out last week a run for the top job.

DiNovo said she will be running on the following four principles:

1. Combating climate change

This "existential crisis" will require an "aggressive and realistic response," DiNovo said

2. Social justice and human rights

DiNovo, an advocate of LGBTQ2S, women and labour rights, said she will push for banning conversion therapy across Canada, equal pay for equal work and childcare for all.

3. Justice for Canada's minorities

"It's not enough to say 'black lives matter.' It must mean an end to systemic racism," DiNovo said, adding that she would also look to seek "real justice for Canada's First Nations."

4. Social benefits for all

DiNovo said she will campaign for free post-secondary education, fully funded healthcare, affordable housing, higher social assistance and pension rates, and further protections for those with disabilities.

"It sounds radical, but there's nothing radical about any of this," DiNovo said adding that, "Paying for it is the least of our problems."

DiNovo, who represents the riding of Parkdale-High Park in the Ontario legislature, was first elected in 2006.