Political activist and local health professional Vanessa Hamilton has resigned as president of the Brandon-Souris NDP federal riding association, and is no longer a member of the party.
Hamilton said she made the decision for personal reasons, and still supports the party’s platform.
"It’s nothing to do with the party, I think they do great work," Hamilton said. "I’ve made a lot of friends and I’m still friends with a lot of people within the party … but I think I just had to look at my overall mental well-being and what was right for me."
Hamilton was president of the association since February 2012, and had been a card-carrying NDP member since 2010. She has been active in the community over the last several years, running for the Brandon school board in 2010, and joined various committees and boards, including CancerCare Manitoba, the Brandon and District Worker Advocacy Centre, the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals and the City of Brandon’s poverty committee.
While she didn’t win the school board election, the experience inspired Hamilton to continue pursuing politics. Last year, she ran for a spot on Brandon City Council in the Meadows ward byelection, but lost to Coun. John LoRegio.
Hamilton is a healthy living facilitator with Prairie Mountain Health. In an interview with the Brandon Sun, she said there have been allegations she is using her position in the health system to advance her political career. She wouldn’t get into details, but flatly denied the allegation.
"That’s not true at all," she said. "I just felt like I had to choose between advocating for publicly funded health care, which is hanging by a thread, and belonging to a political party."
Hamilton said she is very disappointed, as she is a "big proponent of democracy and citizen engagement."
"It’s very unfortunate, and I find it very disappointing that people have to choose between their work and being affiliated with a political party," she said.
Resigning from the party means Hamilton is no longer a member provincially or federally. The resignation also means she can no longer sit on the council of federal ridings or the NDP Brandon Women’s Association.
"It is disappointing, not only for me, but for all the time that I’ve spent with the party," she said. "Where it’s going to head, I have no idea, but I just feel that just for my overall wellness and mental well-being, I felt like I had to do it."
Hamilton said she still believes in the NDP and will continue to support the party’s initiatives as a member of the public.
George Soule, associate director of media with the NDP, said the party will be organizing its annual general meeting soon, but did not wish to comment about Hamilton’s time as president.