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Disqualified from running

Dear editor

and friends:

These last few weeks have been an exciting time for me. Since announcing my intention to seek the NDP nomination in Kenora-Rainy River, I was fortunate to get a great deal of support and encouragement right from the start.

People in our region are ready for some new energy and some positive excitement in politics, and I was genuinely humbled by the level of enthusiasm for my candidacy and my message.

In my view, our neck of the woods needs someone willing to put the people first, to speak up and speak out, have our voices heard-and show up. I thought I could be the person to help lead this energy. Sadly, it appears that I will not.

I'm writing today to tell you that I have been prevented from continuing my nomination campaign. Party officials in Toronto have rejected my application for candidacy, without consultation, question, or any legitimate right of appeal. I've been declined. Denied. Disqualified.

There has been no regard for the level of support I've received from members in this riding-one which has been faithful to the provincial NDP for decades. Not even a thanks for coming, better luck next time.

Party brass claim that my disqualification is due to historical content on my personal social media feeds. I understand the world that we live in, where any ill-timed or unfortunate photo from college can be dredged up at a moment's notice.

Whether this should be considered fair or not is moot. This is what I signed up for. I did not take the time to scrub and hide the social media past of my youth as extensively as I should have, and I have no one to blame for that but myself.

To be absolutely clear, though, none of the content that they have pointed to was adverse or critical of NDP policy, leaders, or values or demeaning of other people or groups. At most, my social media use over time has reflected lapses in judgement from my youth that I have let stand because they are reflections of the path that I have taken, and the sincere, honest person I wished to offer the electorate.

The “offending” content is benign (and maybe humorous) and to me, their citation as grounds for my disqualification reflects little more than a witch hunt on the part of party headquarters.

Were these instances immature? I'd agree with that statement. Juvenile? I suppose. Boneheaded? Sure, why not. But were they extraordinary enough to completely bar me from participating in a democratic race? To completely disqualify my application and outright block my ability to pursue elected office under this party's banner? I don't believe so.

If the bar of entry to politics is never having any fun and never having lived any life, then the world of politics would be comprised of only the most dour and wooden of sticks. Maybe it is already. I'll never know, I suppose. I'm not welcome in this world, it would seem.

I don't believe that I've been treated reasonably or objectively, especially given that I've been informed that when similar incidents have come to light in other ridings across the province that those seeking nominations have been given opportunity to clean up their histories rather than being immediately given the boot.

When I entered this world of elected politics just weeks ago, I held hope that my candidacy would be treated fairly. Rigging races and picking favourites? The other guys do that. Not us. Today I don't believe that that is true, however.

I have sought answers and requested discussion from Toronto party brass for the better part of the last two weeks. I have sent e-mails and left voicemails repeatedly asking for the ability to discuss this in-depth.

I was not even given the dignity of even a direct conversation on this matter until today [April 10], and even then it was little more than a cursory “please stop contacting us.”

This leads me to believe that had these incidents not been the issue, those involved would have found other means to deny my candidacy. The fix may have been in from the beginning.

To those of you who have come to me to offer your support, your time, your efforts, and your opinions, I thank you. To those of you who took out memberships to the party when I told you that positive change was possible, and that this was the best manner in which to effect it, I'm honestly sorry.

I think I talked you into wasting $25. If you felt inclined to ask the party directly for a refund, I wouldn't blame you.

Kenora-Rainy River, I still truly believe that the next MPP of this riding needs to put the people of the riding first and never forget that, no matter what party banner that person may wave.

Thanks for being a part of whatever it is that this was, in the brief time that it lasted. Take care and good luck.

Lovingly yours,

Matt Soprovich

Fort Frances, Ont.

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