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NDP voters support Liberal candidate after Jonasson forced to step down

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/9/2015 (1770 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A longtime New Democrat in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headlingey says he’s voting Liberal because he’s so angry at how the NDP treated his local candidate.

Keith Haien ordered a sign from Liberal candidate Doug Eyolfson, and planted it on his lawn Tuesday night. Haien said he’s spoken to other NDPers in the riding who may also vote Liberal to protest the punting of former candidate Stefan Jonasson.

"This is bigger than Stefan," said Haien, who donated $400 to the NDP at the start of the race and planned to door-knock for Jonasson. "If we have a leadership that’s prepared to throw someone under the bus that quickly, I just can’t support them."

Jonasson was forced to step down after a three-year-old tweet surfaced in which he compared an ultra-orthodox-Jewish group, the Haredim, to the Taliban and other extremists. Specifically, Jonasson was referencing the Haredim’s treatment of women.

Within hours of the tweet surfacing, the federal party asked Jonasson to resign as the candidate in the riding. Jonasson has been replaced on the ballot by his campaign manager and riding association president, Tom Paulley.

Area MLA Jim Rondeau, who was very involved in Jonasson’s bid, said he is no longer volunteering on the NDP campaign in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headlingey. He said Jonasson’s resignation so late in the game took the wind out of the campaign’s sails.

"The effect is that we had momentum that’s now gone," said Rondeau. "You want to be the head-and-shoulders alternative. We could have been that alternative."

The riding has long been represented by Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Steven Fletcher. Though Rondeau acknowledged it would have been tough to unseat Fletcher, he said every election brings several surprises, and New Democrats in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headlingey were hoping to be one of those surprises. There was plenty of canvassing, nearly 400 Jonasson signs up and a second literature drop underway.

Rondeau would not criticize the federal party’s decision to punt Jonasson. But he did lament a political culture that allows old comments on social media to be dredged up, taken out of context and used by trouble-making websites as fodder to discredit would-be politicians.

Quietly, several other New Democrats have expressed dismay at their party’s decision to turn on Jonasson, a rare blowback against what’s become a trend this campaign. Already, more than a dozen candidates have been fired for gaffes, typically old ones catalogued on the Internet.

This week, in a letter to the Winnipeg Free Press, philanthropist Gail Asper, took Jonasson’s side.

"As a woman and a Jew, I was disappointed to see Stefan Jonasson asked to step down as an NDP candidate because of his comments about Haredi Jews," she wrote. "I know many Jews, including myself, who agree with Jonasson’s views and are extremely disturbed by the lack of respect for women’s equality exhibited by the Haredi."

Haien said he shared Rondeau’s enthusiasm for Jonasson’s campaign, and for the party’s national fortunes. But he believes the party overreacted, failed to seek an explanation from Jonasson and acted unilaterally.

"This business with Stefan is an indication to me that Tom Mulcair is unable to subscribe to his own standards," said Haien. "He said he brings people together. He certainly hasn’t brought us together."

Haien says he now thinks the Liberals have a chance at unseating Fletcher in the suburban, west-Winnipeg riding.


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