Ontario NDP wins provincial byelection in Hamilton

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Ontario NDP wins provincial byelection in Hamilton
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Published Mar 16, 2023 • 1 minute read

HAMILTON — Ontario NDP candidate Sarah Jama has won a provincial byelection in Hamilton Centre, the riding held for many years by former party leader Andrea Horwath.


Jama has secured 57% of the vote with 16 out of 53 polls reporting and was widely expected to win, despite being put on the defensive over some of her activism.


She is the executive director and co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and co-founded the Hamilton Encampment Support Network, among other community involvement, but she has faced criticism from Jewish organizations over her comments about Israel.

Jama has said the criticism has centred around what she describes as standing up for Palestinian human rights, which shouldn’t be conflated with anti-Semitism.



Horwath represented Hamilton Centre, as well as a predecessor riding, at the Ontario legislature since 2004 and consistently won with wide margins but stepped down as leader and resigned her seat last year after the party failed to win the provincial election.

Other candidates included Deirdre Pike for the Liberals, Hamilton Police Sgt. Peter Wiesner for the Progressive Conservatives and Lucia Iannantuono for the Green Party.
 

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Ontario NDP hugs radicalism as Hamilton candidate elected
Author of the article:Brian Lilley
Published Mar 16, 2023 • Last updated 16 hours ago • 3 minute read
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Jama has called for abolishing the police, claimed police kill babies and minorities and made strange comments about Israel.

The NDP easily won the Hamilton Centre by-election Thursday night, but not without some scars.


The party put forward a candidate who has controversial views on policing and who has faced claims of anti-Semitism from several Jewish groups.


To the voters of Hamilton Centre, to the NDP, it didn’t matter, Sarah Jama won handily. As of writing, her margin of victory is nearly the combined vote total of second place finisher Dierdre Pike for the Liberals and Pete Weisner for the Progressive Conservatives.

Jama, a disability rights activist, will soon take her position at Queen’s Park. The legislature will need to accommodate Jama and her wheelchair in a building that was first opened in 1893.

Politically, though, Jama’s election will lead to lots of questions but unfortunately little soul searching for Ontario’s NDP which has an ongoing and well documented problem with anti-Semitism.

During the campaign, Jama was called to task over past comments by B’nai Brith, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Hamilton Jewish Federation. Jama was highly active in student politics while at McMaster University and attended, even organized, several rallies to denounce Israel.



Her social media, scrubbed of many past comments on Twitter and Facebook, showed a woman who held extreme views on Israel.

Jama was taken to task for cancelling a speaking engagement with a disability group in Nova Scotia after finding out the Jewish CEO of the group supported Israel. She also faced criticism for comments made at a rally in Toronto in 2021 where her comments could easily be understood to mean that Israel funds the killings of people around the world.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles brushed off questions about those comments on Tuesday as Jama getting carried away at a rally. That was too much for FSWC which called her and the NDP out on Wednesday.

“Claims by the NDP that it stands against anti-Semitism must be more than just words. The decision by both Stiles and Jama to stay silent publicly on these important issues is deafening and sends a clear message to the Jewish community,” FSWC Canada CEO Michael Levitt said on Wednesday.


On Thursday, by-election day, Jama issued a statement.

“These issues are complex and my poor choice of words in the video that has been circulating has not helped. I apologize for my comments which have been harmful,” Jama said.

“I apologize for my comments which have been harmful. This was never my intention, but I recognize the impact.”

It wasn’t an apology that sat well with everyone, given that it’s been two weeks since claims of anti-Semitic views were first raised.

“Jama’s first attempt at an apology is not at a level acceptable to B’nai Brith Canada or Ontarians in general,” said B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn. “Her apology appears to inherently deny her pattern of radical behaviour and solely on the language recorded in one disturbing video.”


The problem with Jama as an elected official isn’t only due to her views on Israel, called out by several groups. It’s also her views on the police.

Jama has called not only for police to be defunded, but to be abolished. She has claimed that police in Hamilton protect Nazism and that across Ontario police kill babies and minorities.

Asked for clarification on these statements, made in now deleted social media posts, Jama refused to answer, as did Stiles.

In the 2018 election, the NDP came close to seizing power in Ontario but the radical elements of the party turned off voters. Between 2018 and 2022 they couldn’t get their act together to defeat a Doug Ford government that was often on the ropes and ready to be beaten.

Now, in the post-Andrea Horwath era, the NDP under Marit Stiles has embraced a candidate called out for radical views on policing and for radical views on Israel.

The NDP have shown they don’t want power in Ontario and that they don’t deserve it.

blilley@postmedia.com