Why I’m voting Sullivan.

I’m endorsing Mike Sullivan, NDP, as our federal candidate. I do so cautiously.

The five federal candidates are

  • Stephen Lepone, Libertarian
  • James Robinson, Conservative
  • John Johnson, Green
  • Ahmed Hussen, Liberal
  • Mike Sullivan, NDP

I won’t vote for Lepone. He’s a libertarian.

Robinson does not respond to my emails, had an extremely unusual education, and does not debate. He’s out.

John Johnson, bless the man, mounted a campaign and worked tirelessly. He seems honest and decent. But, and this might be a compliment, he’s not a political creature. He doesn’t have a head for policy or wonk. I don’t think he’s suitable for a career on The Hill.

That leaves Hussen and Sullivan, the Liberals and the NDP. We face the same decision as all right-thinking Canadians who want to end Harper’s governance.

There is a good argument for voting Liberal, which I owe to a regular reader: if the Liberals hold power, then we might benefit from federal pork0barrel spending, and god knows we could use some. Also, Hussen does seem like a smart, accomplished man.

He still won’t get my vote.

First, Hussen didn’t debate in front of his electors because, the organizers allege, he thought the debate was organized by NDP partisans.

This is dead wrong. The organizers were outraged he would suggest so. Alan Tonks, our former Liberal MP was there, as was Liberal MPP Laura Albanese. The questioner, Jules Jose Kerlinger, is a former Liberal nominee, for Pete’s sake.

But who cares? If Hussen wins, more than half of the residents will not have voted for him. Will he refuse to hear their ideas? Will he refuse to engage with them? Explain himself? Challenge or be challenged? It bodes poorly that he will not face his public—even if he believes, wrongly, that they are partisan—now, when he needs votes. He competes, after all, to win them, not gather them.

Is this a weakness? I think so. Hussen does seem to run rather cool; he has certainly not courted this site with prompt and polite communication.

Debating on TV is an unacceptable substitute. Hussen does not live in the riding—nor, I presume, does the television questioner. He missed his only opportunity to face a heterogenous local audience and their questions about the particular issues that matter to them. He also missed his only chance to challenge Sullivan’s failures to his constituents.

So he is out.

That leaves Sullivan.

Sullivan is a capable MP, no less. He and his staff seem to do a good job in the riding, helping constituents with their problems. He is interested—perhaps overly—with local problems.

And though the intervening years have been a little fallow, Sullivan had a substantial early success on the national stage, creating a cell-phone registry that cut phone thefts, which had plagued Weston, among other places. He’s active in committees, speaks in the House now and then, and has taken an leadership position on railcar safety, a serious issue with local implications.

Still, I’m not thrilled about my endorsement. I don’t feel like Sullivan wakes up every morning excited to be our advocate.

Perhaps its too much to ask that an opposition MP brings real change, real money, and real jobs to the riding. It is hard, I’m sure, to get federal money here for infrastructure, a department, a museum, or a federal building. I remain saddened that we haven’t seen more of our federal tax dollars returned to our riding.

I certainly don’t think it’s too much to ask our representatives to publicize, promote, and defend Weston’s interests. Sullivan does this half-heartedly.

Under Harper, for instance, the Humber River had its environmental protection gutted. Sullivan, to his credit, tried to mitigate the damage in 2013. And then…. What?

It’s been two years. Nothing happened, as far as I know. Was Bill C-502, which he introduced, only a token gesture? If not, why hasn’t it been reintroduced? Has he lost interest? 

I stand corrected. The bill was winding its way through parliament. My apologies. 

Then there is his view of our riding. When he speaks in Ottawa, it is almost always with despair about York South Weston.

  • In June, he said that many of us are poor and “scared”  and that “the biggest problem is my riding is unemployment”
  • Yet in May, he said “In fact, the problem in my riding is the preponderance of handguns, particularly among young people.”
  • He also said are many trains, filled with explosive crude, going through town.
  • And even when news is good, it is bad: “While the success of the Hammer Heads program is something to celebrate, the grip of poverty in my riding shows that we have much more work to do.”

You can read his speeches yourself or watch the Rogers’ debate. Sullivan appears worn down by our misfortune, not convinced of our potential. His frustration is too close to abdication.

In the next four years, I want to see Mike Sullivan energized by our latent power, advocating for us, not only because we have needs, but because we have capacities.

We have problems. Some are serious. But we have much to offer, too.

Vote – Canada depends on you.

Image: Wikipedia.

Image: Wikipedia.

Every four years or so voters get a chance to make their collective wishes known. It’s a privilege that the people of many other countries don’t share. Some citizens may think that their vote makes a difference but for example, in the United States and Cuba (to name but two), the choice is limited to a very narrow field and even a turnover of personnel often makes little difference to government policies and actions.

In York South-Weston we have two candidates from parties with a chance to unseat the current Conservative government – or the Harper Government as it likes to be known. Mike Sullivan is the NDP incumbent and Ahmed Hussen the Liberal challenger. Other parties are running but it is more than likely that one of these candidates will be elected.

Anyone with an impartial eye could probably see that over the past few years, the Conservatives have brought real change to the Canadian political process. It’s not just the nastier tone but a willingness to cheat and upset the democratic process far beyond anything that has happened in the past. Readers with the desire to read the gory details may read this long but excellent summation in The Guardian. Good luck staying calm after that article.

Along with the cheating goes a whole other raft of divisiveness and fear mongering but t’s the cheating that has allowed the Conservatives to be insensitive to voter reaction so it remains (in the minds of many) their most egregious behaviour.

There is, therefore only one possible action for citizens of this country and that is to get out and vote. You have a choice of two parties that, should they gain power, will not cheat you out of your future hard won votes. Whether the Liberals or New Democrats form a government after this election, we can be reasonably assured that politics will be conducted in a more equitable fashion. The same, unfortunately cannot be said if the Conservatives win.

It’s time for the citizens of York South-Weston (and indeed ridings all across this great country) to let the the Conservative Party, its members and even its volunteers know that cheating will not be tolerated by Canadians. The best way to do this is to deliver an overwhelming mandate to as many non-Conservative candidates as possible.

Get out and vote – it’s never been more important.

That’s all folks

The vision from way back. Some slight changes made along the way...

The vision from way back. Some slight changes made along the way…

The last community consultation over the Weston Hub was held Wednesday night and it seemed to be designed as a bit of a cheerleading session in the form of a snoozefest. Members of the Weston Village Residents’ Association (which has supported the project from day 1) seemed to make up a good number of the audience of about 100. Audience members seemed split between total support, support but concerned by the negative aspects and those opposed. It’s fair to say that a fair number in attendance seemed ready to swallow the negatives of a 30-storey tower, townhomes and a storage facility as the price to be paid for 26 live-work spaces for artists and some space for community organizations. Refreshingly, no major surprises were unveiled and one or two minor tweaks were announced that will improve things but the bottom line seems to be that the project is now a ‘go’ and will be presented to the Etobicoke York Community Council for approval in November and then to City Council in December.

In the question period, in spite of Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat’s insistence that the majority of people are overwhelmingly in favour of the project, several people spoke against it, some having reservations about the 8-storey building limit being set aside. Dan Harris wondered what new rabbit (e.g. storage) was to be pulled out of the hat. Another interesting comment came when a resident asked if Affordable Housing would consider allowing low income tenants to occupy the rental building if the developer failed to secure enough tenants (he hoped they would consider it). Developer Jack Winberg responded that there is every indication that the building will be filled by market-rate tenants. The affordable housing rep said he would look into it if approached by the developer.

The latest tweaks:

  • The fire route will now be along King and John Streets rather than through the ‘community space’.
  • Seven more parking spaces have been found as a result of a remnant area from the Toronto Parking Authority
  • The townhouse base of buildings along John Street will be adaptable to commercial.

The bottom line:

There will be a 30-storey rental apartment building and large storage facility. According to Ms. Keesmaat, the rental tower was never negotiable. The Farmers Market space will be smaller than the space currently in use. The storage lockers won’t provide much employment but won’t produce much traffic either.

On the other hand, the site will be attractively landscaped with a small (but perfectly formed) public area and there is a possibility that the Artscape portion will work and be a roaring success. Ms Keesmaat claims that the project is a special opportunity for Weston and a special effort to bring re-investment into Weston.

Only time will tell how ‘special’ it will actually be.

Hussen responds

One of Ahmed Hussen’s campaign officers has responded to my questions about why he did not attend the community-group-organized debate this week.

Ahmed didn’t attend the debate last night for a number of reasons, chief among them being canvassing, scheduling, and the fact that he has committed to two other debates – a Rogers TV debate being taped on Wednesday and the West Coalition on Housing and Homelessness Debate on October


The organizers had asked him more than three weeks in advance if he would be able to make it, and the event lasted 3 hours. They say that they were “appalled” at his “cheery” decline 12 days before the debate.

Fanny Sunshine from InsideToronto was able to get some more answers from the candidate and his party (and the article is worth reading in full): he told her that he sees many people when he is out going door to door.

Sunshine was also able to get a response from the Conservatives, who never talk to me.

When reached by The Mirror the next day, Robinson’s campaign manager Ansford Pearson said he could not say why the political hopeful did not reply to the invitation or attend the debate.

“It’s the responsibility of the candidate to respond, not mine,” he said.

What an operation. On to other news.


Hussen blows it.

The Federal election campaign has been running for, well, a whole campaign now and some strange things have been happening on the road to Ottawa.

Ahmed Hussen was the surprise nomination of the York South-Weston Liberals back in December last year. Many had expected YSW Liberal Riding executive Jules Kerlinger to be a nominee but he inexplicably withdrew from the race quite early and wouldn’t talk about it. Rumours were that he’d been invited to step aside by the Liberal Party but confirming those rumours proved elusive. Riding Association President, Ryan Ward was unable or unwilling to open up on the subject, referring me to Ottawa functionaries. Jules himself declined to respond.

Former Toronto councillor Bill Saundercook was then expected to get the nod but during the voting process, a strange turn of events took place. Large numbers of people came by the busload to vote and somehow, a bottleneck occurred at the membership and credential checking process. Late in the afternoon, with time pressing, organizers decided to close the polls before everyone was able to reach the voting booths. Outsiders shrugged and thought that this was simply business as usual for the Liberals.

Bill Saundercook.

Bill Saundercook confidently awaits the result at the nomination meeting.

The result of the vote that fateful day was a shock, not merely because a seeming long-shot had won but also because of the surprisingly small number of votes cast when compared to the huge numbers lined up – no doubt a result of the glacial pace of the voting line. The winner was a relative unknown, Ahmed Hussen but he had a well known local backer, George Smitherman.

As 2015 progressed, Mr. Hussen was seen at various events in York South-Weston and it was thought that his campaign was shaping up nicely. With a good tail wind from Justin Trudeau, he had a reasonable chance of winning the seat.

Moderator Judith Hayes listens to the candidates.

John Johnson (Green) and Mike Sullivan (NDP) tackle the issues.

There is usually one major debate in York South-Weston before an election. This is meticulously organized by an army of hard-working volunteers from one or more organizations in the riding who do what is necessary to hold a fair debate. Many of these people are politically active but not exclusively for any one party. On September 16, Mr. Hussen announced to organizers that he would not attend the debate. More recently, the candidate allegedly let it be known that he considered the debate to be partisan; skewed in favour of the NDP.

Moderator Judith Hayes listens to the candidates.

Moderator Judith Hayes listens to the candidates.

Knowing the scrupulous lengths to which organizers of these events go makes it clear that no party owns or controls these debates. To make the allegation even more fatuous, Liberal riding executive Jules Kerlinger was part of the proceedings and read audience questions to the candidates. Witnessing the event were former YSW Liberal MP, Alan Tonks and Liberal MPP Laura Albanese who would have quite correctly blown the whistle had anything underhanded been transpiring.

Jules Berlinger reads audience questions at last night's debate.

Jules Kerlinger reads audience questions at last night’s debate.

At this stage it should be mentioned that the Conservative Party candidate also failed to show up at the debate. This was neither a surprise nor much of a disappointment as it seems to be Party policy, especially in York South-Weston where the right-wing vote along with Tory candidates’ speaking skills are generally on the marginal side.

York South-Weston's democratic deficit.

York South-Weston’s democratic deficit.

One can only surmise that Mr Hussen’s sudden attack of shyness was not from a fear of entering some sort of NDP stronghold where he would be ambushed by frothing hordes of rabid lefties. The only conclusion that the public can come to is that he was woefully unprepared to respond to audience questions and decided to bolt. That alone is telling.

So much for the Big Red Wave. Thanks to Mr. Hussen, its now likely to be a trickle in this riding and YSW federal Liberals are facing four more years in the political wilderness. Perhaps the geniuses at Party HQ should have gone with Mr. Kerlinger after all.

Liberals do not show up to debate

The Liberal candidate, Ahmed Hussen, seems to think that we are not worth campaigning for. He did not show up to the all-candidates debate tonight, which was organized by five local groups.¹

About 100 people were at the York Civic Centre tonight to hear the candidates speak. Ahmed Hussen, the Liberal candidate, declined the invitation to attend. The Conservative candidate, James Robinson, who nobody expected to show up, fufilled those low expectations.

The debate was an exceedingly cordial affair; far from sparring, John Johnson and Mike Sullivan seemed to support each other. Johnson made no concerted effort to separate himself from the other left-leaning candidate, and once or twice Sullivan reached out, both figuratively and literally, to the man beside him. There was some laughing and no jabbing.

Sullivan was polished and stuck to the party platform: pro-transit, anti-war, pro-niqab, anti-Conservative and pro-environment (with the disappointing exception of pipelines). He was genuine though, and he was relaxed and charming. He seemed most passionate when speaking about Weston and his decision to run here.

Johnson may have been a bit less polished and a little less schooled in the doctrines of the Greens. He never had the inclination (or the occasion) to bang the table, and seemed content to answer questions with his own ideas and to improvise. I respect him very much for putting himself forward. I do regret, however, that he did not hold Sullivan more to account.

Of course, that is not really his job. He is a fringe candidate. The other parties–and especially the Liberals–should have been here, testing their own ideas and those of their opponents.

And in this, they have let us down. No. That doesn’t do this situation justice. Allow me to take off my thin veneer of objectivity and put it aside for a moment.

Ahmed Hussen and James Robinson want the fame, feeling, and fortune of political candidacy, but they do not deserve a vote, let alone a job. They refuse to stand before you and your neighbours and answer your questions. They refuse to explain. They will not say how their party’s platforms will affect you and your riding.

You wouldn’t hire a plumber who wouldn’t meet you, but this is much worse. Politics is war by other means. It makes winners and losers, and Hussen and Robinson owe it to you to explain their doctrines—after all, you might be one of the losers. They should have the guts.

Worse, much worse, they missed their chance to challenge the incumbent, Mike Sullivan. They would not face him, test him, and hold him and his record to account. Even if they think they will lose (and they are ensuring that) they owe us their expertise. Democracy, like capitalism, works only with competition. Gerrymandering and vote suppression are evil because they prevent that battle of ideas. Refusing to engage your opponent is no better: it makes a clash of ideas into a contest of advertising.

So shame on these gutless cowards who want much and give little. Shame on Ahmed Hussen, in particular, whose put himself forward in a competitive riding and refused to compete.

Ahmed Hussen did York South–Weston a terrible disservice. He asked to be elected but not accountable, and, worse, he abetted Mike Sullivan in being the same.


¹ The 12 Community Alliance, the Rockcliffe-Smythe Community Association, The Weston Village Residents’ Association, the Mount Dennis Community Association, and the Greenhills Community Association deserve your thanks and support.