I was disappointed by the news that NDP brass in Toronto had disqualified Matt Soprovich from seeking the party’s nomination in Kenora-Rainy River, sidelining a Fort Frances resident in favour of their preferred candidate from Kenora.
In doing so, they have smeared a good person and an active member of our community.
Matt and I do not share the same politics but as a young nomination candidate myself at one time, I was pleased to see him enter the fray. Young people bring new blood and perspective to reinvigorate our political organizations.
It is no secret that our region’s leadership-at all levels-is in need of a generational shift, and it was encouraging to see Matt put his name forward to try to be part of that change.
More importantly, I count Matt as a friend. I know Matt not for his party colours but for his work with the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau and the wide range of community initiatives he participates in or organizes, such as the Terry Fox Run and Borderland Pride.
Just last week, Matt was in the Fort Frances Little Theatre’s production of “Calendar Girls.” He is also one of the most animated and welcoming characters at The Flint House.
Our region’s future depends on the public service and goodwill of people like Matt, from all political camps.
This brings me to his disqualification. The NDP has taken issue with a number of Matt’s historical social media posts, including one in which his behind is exposed and a video clip in which he rips out of a T-shirt.
When challenged about whether this content was salacious enough to prevent him from running, the NDP issued a statement declaring that Matt had “glorified violence against women” and showed “predatory behaviour toward women,” citing some unfortunate social media comments from his past.
Matt has addressed these, admitting he has made juvenile online comments in his past. And to his credit, I think it can be fairly observed that none of these posts are hateful, nor do they target or disparage anyone.
They reflect the immaturity of youth and nothing more. They do not reflect real-life Matt Soprovich today.
The NDP has busied itself crafting slanderous headlines since Matt’s disqualification. These do not reflect Matt Soprovich, either: “Soprovich barred from NDP race over ‘predatory’ posts” (TBNewsWatch), “Ontario NDP Says Rejected Party Hopeful ‘Glorified Violence Against Women'” (Huffington Post), and “Ontario NDP says it barred would-be candidate for glorifying violence against women” (CBC) are just a few.
This is a Toronto-led smear campaign to silence one of their own and tarnish his reputation here.
We should be angry that these NDP operatives would use such scant examples to malign someone with a track record of making positive contributions to our community. While the social media content at issue is certainly undesirable, most of it is dated and none of it is a reasonable reflection of his character.
The suggestion that Matt is a predator in our midst is outrageous, hurtful, and uncalled for.
Of course, this entire saga is a case study in the challenges facing young people pursuing elected office or public service careers. A generation that has grown up with the internet as a necessity, and that has aged alongside Facebook, has entered adulthood with a record of their past that is vulnerable to public exposure and scrutiny.
They are more susceptible to witch-hunts over unprofessional remarks than prior generations have had to face over actual but undocumented misbehaviour.
Until we move past our quest for purity in political candidates or artificially sanitized online records, Matt Soprovich and other emerging leaders out there will be turned away from politics-at a cost to all of us. Our desire for authenticity in politics is at odds with these realities.
Matt and his party would not have had my vote, but I am always a cheerleader for young people who wish to get involved in politics and let their name stand for election. Our community is better for it.
It is shocking that a mainstream party would launch such a shamelessly exaggerated assault against its own future in our region.
Douglas W. Judson
Fort Frances, Ont.