TORONTO, March 16, 2017 /CNW/ - Today, Brian Graff of Toronto launched an application in the Ontario Divisional Court, challenging the New Democratic Party's decision not to let him run as a candidate for the party's leadership.
Mr. Graff – an NDP member with degrees in Environmental Studies, Architecture and Business – began his attempt to run as a leadership candidate in September 2016. "I considered the NDP's leadership race as an opportunity to rejuvenate the party," said Mr. Graff. "I wanted to run in order to champion the ideas I believe will help make this country a more democratic, prosperous, fair and just place to live."
Almost immediately, and without explanation, Mr. Graff ran into problems. His candidacy was held in limbo for over two months, while the party's National Director "vetted" Mr. Graff according to unknown criteria, with no set deadline. In December, the NDP's National Director emailed Mr. Graff stating that Graff's candidacy had been rejected. He was given no reasons for this decision. Mr. Graff had only two days to appeal in writing to the Officers of the NDP. He did so, but was at a significant disadvantage because he had no idea why the National Director had reached his decision or even what evidence was being used to support it. Mr. Graff was also denied the opportunity to see (much less respond to) the written submissions of the National Director on the merits of his candidacy – although the National Director was able to see and comment on Mr. Graff's written submissions.
Eight days after the initial decision, NDP President Marit Stiles advised Mr. Graff that the Officers had rejected his appeal. Again, he was given no reasons for this decision.
Prior to the NDP's current leadership race, no leadership candidate had ever been rejected in the history of the NDP. "I was totally shocked – not only by the result, but by the unfairness of the process," said Mr. Graff. "I still can't believe that a party that is supposed to stand for openness, justice and fairness would deny a member the right to run for party leader, without so much as an explanation."
In his legal challenge, Mr. Graff will argue that the NDP's decision to reject his candidacy is reviewable by courts, that the process leading to that decision failed to respect the principles of natural justice, and that the party's decision to reject his candidacy needs to be reconsidered through a fair process.
"Given their significant public impact and critical role in our democracy, political parties must be subject to the same basic rules of natural justice as other organizations," said Nader Hasan of Stockwoods LLP, Mr Graff's lawyer. According to Hasan, the process in this case fell well short of the mark.
SOURCE Stockwoods LLP