Debate report

Wednesday night’s debate was extremely well attended. The hall at Weston Park Baptist Church was full, and the audience was very engaged. Faisal Hassan (NDP), Tom Hipsz (New Blue), Nadia Guerrera (Liberal), and James Fields (Independent) attended.

The questions covered social supports, the environment, flooding, the Eglinton Crosstown, and housing, among other things. In general, the responses were unsurprising: both the Liberal and NDP candidates promised much and differed only in details, such as what the minimum wage would be and how rent control would work. Their promises were expensive, too: I’m not sure either of the leading candidates said they wouldn’t fund a program, whether it was tunnelling under the Eglinton Flats or a universal basic income.

I do wish someone had asked about debts, deficits, and how the candidates planned to pay for their promises. I also wish Michael Ford had attended—but he did not. Perhaps he would have had a more fiscally-conservative plan.

I was also hoping there would be a decisive moment or a victor, but Nadia Guerrera and Faisal Hassan sparred only infrequently and there was no mortal blow that settled the contest. In fact, the candidates were almost always very generous with one another. At one point, Guerrera even applauded Hipsz, her very conservative competitor, while Hassan was nodding in agreement.

Guerrera did fire on the NDP at a few points, saying that Hassan and his party have not been an effective opposition. In her concluding remarks, she said “This is our moment to decide what matters, to be visionary and aspirational… The NDP did not hold [the Ford] government to account and will not prevent them from forming another Conservative majority”. It was, perhaps, the most stirring moment of the night, but also, perhaps, a concession that the Liberals are trailing in the race and will not form the government.

Hassan criticized the record of past Liberal governments, especially regarding our riding. He said “we have seen the promises they made with respect to electrification and the UP Express” and “the record of the Liberals and the Conservatives when it comes to the environment is horrible”. In his closing comments he said “we cannot count on Michael Ford to stand up to his uncle, or on Steven Del Duca to fix the mess they made—or even to win his seat.”

Both Hassan and Guerrera were extremely well prepared, with an excellent command of the issues and their parties’ platforms.

Tom Hipsz and James Fields were, I think it’s safe to say, a little less polished. (I don’t blame them. I’m a pretty big YSW nerd, and I was lost much of the time.) Both of them were exceedingly good sports. Hipsz often tilted at green-power “windmills”, and COVID mandates (he was maskless the whole night). He also admitted when he didn’t know the answer to a question, which I thought was refreshing. Fields was harder to pin down: he seems to have an eclectic platform—but as he said, as an independent, he can steal the best ideas.

While Michael Ford is the highest-profile candidate to skip last night’s debate, he wasn’t the only one. Ignacio Mongrell, who is running for the Green Party, did not attend. Neither did Ana Gabriela Ortiz, of the Ontario Party. Neither seems to be campaigning very much, if at all.

The debate was organized by the Weston Village Residents’ Association, the Rockcliffe–Smythe Community Association, and the Mount Dennis Community Association, who did, as always, a super job.

Michael Ford skips debate

Surprising nobody and disappointing many, Michael Ford did not attend last night’s debate. I think this is inexcusable.

Perhaps Ford was afraid he’d embarrass himself in front of his constituents. If that’s the case, he shouldn’t go any further. If he can’t take the heat of two hours in a church basement, he’ll be incinerated over four years at Queen’s Park.

Maybe Ford was worried his ideas or experience won’t stand up to the scrutiny of the other candidates. If so, he should quit. There is no shame in that—a good person knows when they’ve been bested.

But I think these possibilities are very unlikely. Michael Ford has been city councillor— he’s not afraid of the spotlight, nor a little rough-and-tumble.

He is almost certainly following the instructions of his masters in the party. If so, he’s got his responsibilities backward: he works for us, not the PCs. He needs to take courage and make his pitch. If he catches hell for it, so be it. York South–Weston needs someone with guts to represent us, not a PC puppet taking orders from above.

Meeting with—and representing—his constituents is the job. If he won’t show up for the interview, we would be fools to hire him.

I take debates seriously because politicians are too sure, too often. Debates test their ideas in front of constituents and competitors. If politicians won’t bring their ideas into the light, they are afraid of what we’ll see—or that we’ll see nothing at all.

I won’t be voting for Michael Ford.

MDCA says Metrolinx should redo planning for Eglinton flats

Metrolinx must rethink its plans for elevated tracks through the Eglinton Flats, according to the Mount Dennis Community Association.

The MDCA says “a huge amount of parkland will be lost including parts of Pearen Park both temporarily and permanently.” They also say that the renderings of the tracks are inaccurate.

In their email circular, the MDCA said:

MDCA was told by Metrolinx that the elevated guideway would be similar to the picture [above], similar to the already built section at Black Creek Drive.   Recent information reveals that the elevated solution requires a far wider right of way, and it will be located at the bottom of the treed slope, not at the top.  Furthermore, the elevated section will be far wider due to station platforms and a third track to permit trains to turn around near Jane Street. 

An online group called Stop the Trains in Our Parks (STOP) has built a website to marshal support and show the reality of the trains. They say “if it was worth the money to go underground in Etobicoke, it’s worth the money in Mt. Dennis.”

Upcoming events

The Weston Artists Good Food Market launches this Wednesday, May 25, at the Weston Common.

Now in its second year, The Weston Artists Good Food Market aims to bring the residents of Weston together by forming a community hub, with fresh produce, engaging activities, community programming, and local artists and artisans. The market will be held at Artscape Weston Commons, 34 John St. Wednesdays 4 – 7 pm, May 25th – Sept 7th.

A Good Food Market is not a farmer’s market, it is a program run in conjunction with Food Share Toronto and community members in order to increase access to high quality, affordable produce in neighbourhoods where it might not otherwise be available. Food Share delivers fresh produce sourced from local farmers and from the Ontario Food Terminal (local and imported).

We have many local vendors lined up as well as the Junction’s Indie Alehouse. We hope to see you all there!

The Humber River Pals will be hosting a cleanup at Weston Lions Park next Sunday, May 29th from 10 am until noon. A guide will also be showing registrants how to identify and remove invasive plants.

UrbanArts will be having a grand reopening this weekend.

They’re also launching a zine-making workshop that sounds pretty neat.

Three other candidates for election

The big political parties get most of the attention, both on this site and in the downtown media, but three other gutsy people are running as candidates in the provincial election.

Ana Gabriela Ortiz is campaigning for the Ontario Party, a newish, socially-conservative party that opposes lockdowns, climate-change plans, and the public education system. According to her bio, she “is a wife and mother of three. Born in the Dominican Republic, she chose to come to Canada seeking a better life for herself and her family.”

Tom Hipsz is running for the New Blue Party, which is also new and conservative. They too are opposed to lockdowns, climate change mitigation, and “‘Woke’ Activism in our Schools”. It’s not very clear how different the New Blues are from the Ontario Party, but they seem to have a little less God and a lot more rhyme:

They aren’t blue.
And they aren’t for you.
It’s time for something NEW!
And it’s time for something BLUE!
Let us stand up for you …
… with the New Blue!

I can’t say I’ve spent much time reading political platforms (though it’s felt like an eternity), but I am pretty sure this is the first time I’ve seen one in verse.

Hipsz “is the proud father of his amazing ten-year-old daughter, Zofia. Tom has over two decades of experience in education at both the secondary and post-secondary levels. Tom has a Masters’s Degree in Education”. He is also a former professional CFL player and has advocated for better treatment for athletes at risk of brain injury.

James Fields is running as an independent. It’s pretty hard to pin down from his tweets where he stands on the political spectrum, but I like his sense of humour.

Polling says PCs will win

Mainstreet Research says that Michael Ford will win the provincial election in York South–Weston.

From iPolitics

According to their model, Ford has a modest 6% lead on Nadia Guerrera, the Liberal candidate, and a substantial 11% lead on the incumbent NDP candidate, Faisal Hassan.

I’m generally skeptical about results like this because I’m not sure that polling companies are typically able to get good data at the riding level. But Mainstreet seems very confident: they wrote “PCs’ Mike Ford set to take York South-Weston from the NDP”

An earlier poll by Forum Research also projected that the PCs would take York South–Weston.