The federal NDP has named two senior members of their 2019 campaign team as the party sets its sights on the fall election.
The party is making Singh’s chief of staff Jennifer Howard the federal campaign director and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s chief of staff Michael Balagus a special adviser to the campaign.
“Jennifer and Michael are the best in the business when it comes to the NDP family and we’re so lucky to have their wealth of experience help us form the government Canada deserves in 2019,” said Singh.
“Jennifer has been instrumental as our chief of staff in the last six months and we are very fortunate that, with the help of Michael, (she) will lead our hard-working team during the election.”
Howard, a longtime party strategist, has been Singh’s chief of staff since December. She was elected to represent Fort Rouge in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly in 2007, where she served as house leader, minister of family services and labour and as minister of finance.
Before being elected in Manitoba, Howard was a senior adviser and strategist in NDP Premier Gary Doer’s government.
She was one of five Manitoba ministers who started a revolt against the leadership of NDP Premier Greg Selinger by resigning their cabinet posts, citing “turmoil” and “grave concerns” about not being able to speak their minds in government.
Balagus only returned to work for Horwath in March of last year. He was put on leave the month previous over claims he ignored women’s complaints of harassment by a member of cabinet in Manitoba’s NDP government.
The allegations stemmed from concerns that Balagus did not take seriously staffers’ concerns about former Manitoba MLA Stan Struthers. Struthers left provincial politics in 2016 and has since been accused by several women of inappropriately touching them.
Balagus was the Manitoba NDP’s chief of staff from 2003 to 2012, first under Doer and later under Selinger.
He was seen as the architect behind the Manitoba NDP’s last two election victories, in 2007 and 2011, and after being reinstated went on to lead the Ontario NDP’s 2018 election campaign.
Upon his return to Ontario, he published an open letter apologizing to his former staffers.
“A number of years ago in the Manitoba legislature, a cabinet minister behaved very inappropriately towards several women, who were left feeling unsupported, and that their concerns about this were not addressed,” Balagus stated in the letter.
“As the chief of staff in the Premier’s Office when some of these events occurred, I must take my share of responsibility for the fact that proper systems were not in place and that these women were left believing they weren’t listened to, and that they had no recourse.”
The party says it will have its federal platform out before the end of June.