The more than 300 constituents who spent Monday evening (July 17) in Parkdale Collegiate's sweltering gymnasium to pick the NDP candidate for the upcoming provincial by-election in Parkdale-High Park were treated to impassioned speeches by both Cheri DiNovo and her opponent, Mohamed Boudjenane.
Despite Boudjenane's impressive list of backers, DiNovo ended up the victor, her experience in the pulpit of Emmanuel Howard Park United Church, where she's the minister, shining through when it counted most.
"This is just the beginning. Stand back - you have unleashed something amazing," DiNovo shouted to a cheering crowd after the vote.
Although the final tally was kept under wraps, as per NDP policy, Boudjenane's supporters were far less visible than DiNovo's. The few outside carrying green signs with handwritten lettering were outnumbered by DiNovo backers in bright orange T-shirts.
Michael Lewis , former NDP provincial secretary, endorsed DiNovo, explaining that he thinks she has the public profile to fight Liberal candidate Sylvia Watson .
When DiNovo took to the podium, her moving speech was delivered preacher-style, complete with repetition and audience involvement. By the end, she had her supporters chanting, "If not now, when?"
One voter who came to the meeting undecided, former federal NDP secretary Chris Watson , also ended up siding with DiNovo.
"I was very impressed by Mohamed's speech, but at the end of the day I chose Cheri. She knows how to run a room."
Boudjenane had tried to rally the gathering by highlighting his political and immigrant experience while switching between English, French and Arabic.
But in the end it wasn't enough for the Canadian Arab Federation executive director, who expressed disappointment that the result may make visible minorities feel excluded from the party.
The governing Liberals have until November to set the date for the by-election forced by the resignation of former Education minister Gerard Kennedy , who vacated his seat to take a run at the federal leadership.