With the shortest month of the year wrapped up, I’m reflecting on February 2018 with amazement at what I was able to pack into it.

I had the pleasure of attending NDP convention in Ottawa this month. As with Edmonton 2016, it was a great opportunity to meet new people from across the country, reconnect with friends, and vote on major party policy.

I spent much of the weekend hanging out with the current University of Ottawa New Democrats, and was finally introduced to Joel Harden, the candidate in Ottawa Centre who won a surprising victory in a tight nomination race over three other candidates.

Joel’s win was in part made happen by the hard-work and organizing of those young New Democrats from the University of Ottawa, who formed a Ginger Group before the last Ottawa Centre AGM and have been making major waves in the Ottawa labour scene ever since.

Joel himself is a long-time activist, and only recently entered the foray of formal politics but is embracing it fully. He and his team of more than 200 volunteers have already knocked on thousands of doors in Ottawa Centre, and hosted several events.

As a leader, Joel is inspiring tons of first-time New Democrats to get involved in a party that they have been left out of for a long time. Joel and the Ginger Group had a major win at Convention, when we passed the Modernization and Democratization motion which asked the party leadership to explore new ways to make party conventions and the voting of party more accessible and modern. Despite what looked like some initial push-back from the party, the motion passed on the floor with a near two thirds margin.

It’s going to be a hard fight against Yasir Naqvi, a veteran MPP and Liberal cabinet minister, but I think if anyone can take him on, it’s the bold politics and leadership by Joel Harden.

Back in my hometown riding of Beaches-East York, we met a week after the federal convention to nominate our provincial candidate. Through a contested nomination, we chose Rima Berns-McGown, foremost an academic researcher and anti-racism advocate.

Rima brought a ton of youthful energy to our nomination race. The NDP veterans in Beaches-East York that I spoke to after the nomination meeting said that it was the most energetic and well-attended nomination meeting they had hosted in decades.

Andrea Horwath, leader of the provincial NDP was there to speak to the upcoming provincial election and the legislative record the NDP has been building over the last several years. She also talked about the specific record that he riding of Beaches-East York has given to progressive politics both provincially and federally, a record we are incredibly proud of.

Like Joel in Ottawa-Centre, Rima Berns-McGown truly is the best person to take on Arthur Potts in Beaches-East York. As the nomination meeting taught us, she is an incredible speaker and helped bring out a huge crowd to the meeting, which included Hamilton Councillor Matt Green who was one of her nominators.

There is a distinct excitement building within the party. People are starting to set aside their misgivings about the 2014 campaign. The Ontario NDP platform is shaping up to be bold, and unapologetically left-wing. Promises to implement a fully universal pharmacare system, buy back Hydro One, make it easier to join a union, and end hallway medicine are setting the NDP apart.

Candidates like Joel and Rima are bringing a fresh perspective to the table, with professional backgrounds outside of the bitter and draining world of formal politics, each bring a new skill-set and a sense of palpable optimism that will speak to young people in their ridings, and energize the provincial election.

With more candidates like Joel and Rima, the provincial NDP is showing that it’s ready to lead.

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