"Voters over donors! Hurt people holler. Sometimes it sounds like Black Lives Matter. Sometimes it sounds like Bernie Sanders. Sometimes it sounds like Donald Trump. But they are hurting and we need to listen to them."
These words passionately filled the Baille Court room at the Art Gallery of Ontario as CNN commentator and political activist Van Jones addressed the guests in attendance at the 5th annual Broadbent Progress Gala. Founded by Ed Broadbent, the institute is Canada’s leading progressive, independent organization championing change through the promotion of democracy, equality and sustainability.
During his presentation to some of Canada’s elite including Andrea Horwarth, Leader of the Ontario NDP, Jones spoke strongly to the political snobbery and elitism that has stunted the liberal or progressive movement in the United States over the last four years. Prior to his presentation, Jones made it clear to the press that Canada should not consider itself immune from the lesser acknowledged side of progressive politics. “People keep saying this hate wave that’s moving across the west cannot hit Canada. You are wrong. It is happening throughout the western democracies.”
The small gathering of Canadian Press that attended both the media meeting and the Progress Gala was lacking in Visible Minority Media Houses. To our knowledge, ByBlacks was the only Black media in attendance and there was no Latino or Islamic media representative. “The Democratic Party took one billion dollars threw it in a trash can and lit it on fire,” Jones stated in a scathing critique of poor data analysis, political advertising and too many White consultants. “For the Democratic Party to win a US election they need to secure 92-94% of the Black vote. Yet they spent pennies on reaching these communities. They spent even less on the Latino community.”
Jones urged the room to shun complacency and hate rhetoric and embrace inclusivity and diversity. He scolded the Democrats for ignoring the coal mining country, and called this an affliction of the political elite. Jones a long proponent and activist for the green economy has been a long supporter of industry workers. In his first book, The Green Collar Economy, Jones presents his solution for pulling Americans out of poverty and solving two of the country’s biggest issues- the economy and the environment. These two issues divided voters in this most recent election. It is fair to conclude that on this occasion the economy won. This is a crossroads Canada is sure to find itself at in our next election as Canada moves to aggressively phase-out coal-fired power plants by 2030 putting almost 50,000 jobs at risk. This comes at a time when unemployment and precarious rates increase among White Canadians. Chronic unemployment is something the Black community can speak strongly to. In Ontario, Black Canadians have a 73% higher unemployment rate than non-racialized groups.
As the Conservative Party’s leadership race begins to take shape in Canada with candidate Kellie Leitch embracing Trump-type rhetoric Canada’s reputation as the multicultural capital of the world will surely be on the line in 2019. When Van Jones asked, rhetorically, if there was a prototype for Trump, a voice from the crowd replied, “Rob Ford”. Perhaps, it isn’t that the “Trumps” of the world will infiltrate our utopia but rather that we cannot continue pretending that they haven’t been here all along.