Yafet Tewelde is the York South-Weston New Democratic Party candidate running to unseat Liberal MP and Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussen in October’s federal election. In a short upbeat speech yesterday, the candidate outlined the major platform planks and stressed that the riding is hungry for change after Liberals’ broken promises and ambiguous messaging on green energy. The event was held in a beautiful back yard overlooking the Humber in glorious weather.
There’s a lot of time between now and voting day on October 29 but the local party seems ready, organized and enthusiastic.
Three-and-a-half years into his four-year term, our MP, Ahmed Hussen, continues to avoid responsibility for his department’s abject failures.
Hussen was under fire (again) for bungling the chaotic rollout of the family reunification program. Some applicants sued the government because they were locked out of the computerized registration system that closed after only 9 minutes. The plaintiffs were quietly offered residency in exchange for dropping the suits.
Michelle Rempel asked Hussen whether this is any way to run an immigration system (it is not). He said that they’re doing a bang-up job (they are not), and that they have cleaned up a mess left by the Conservatives (they have not).
In follow-up questions, Rempel gave Hussen the facts. He further embarrassed himself by avoiding the questions and—again—saying the Conservatives, who have not been in power for three years, were worse.
Hussen has a tough job, and he has also done it terribly. That is beside the point. In the House, Hussen continues to reveal a deep character flaw: he is immature.
Grown men make mistakes and accept responsibility. They do not blame the other ‘team’ for their losses; they blame themselves—especially when the stakes are so high. They improve, grow, and strive to do better by the people who trust them, as well as the people who don’t.
Ahmed Hussen needs to learn this to deserve the position of Minister.
Our MP is not rising to his station. He’s flailing and falling far beneath it.
After much consideration, I am withdrawing from the 2019 Federal Election as the Conservative Party candidate of record. I have decided to focus on my role with the Government of Ontario. I would like to thank my family and the people of York South-Weston for all the support.
Mark DeMontis has withdrawn his candidacy in the upcoming federal election. He said on Twitter the he has “decided to focus on [his] role with the Government of Ontario”.
DeMontis challenged incumbent Laura Albanese and winner Faisal Hassan in the Ontario election. He placed second with nearly a third of the vote, and, in my opinion, he would have been a very strong contender in the federal election. DeMontis has been a successful broadcaster, speaker, and has a gripping story of overcoming adversity—he lost most of his sight in early adulthood, but rollerbladed across the country to raise money for blind hockey players.
Ahmed Hussen, our MP, introduced Bill C-99, to amend the Citizenship Act. The bill will change the Oath of Citizenship to include reference to treaties with aboriginal peoples. The new oath will say:
I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.
Canada’s Auditor General hammered our MP this week. Ahmed Hussen’s department took fire for a very poor response to refugee claims and an increasing backlog of claimants. Hussen, however, said that the situation was the fault of the Conservative government of three years ago, due to an increasing number of refugee claims, and being dealt with by new processes.
The AG said that immigration bureaucrats were unprepared for the surge in claimants that started in 2017. Bureaucrats use paper files and faxes instead of electronic records, and they hold hearings inefficiently, she said. As a result, wait times increased from 60 days to two years.
Ahmed Hussen said in response that they have new processes in place. He also said:
We have inherited an asylum system that was seriously underfunded by the Harper conservatives. That system was inefficient, and it simply wasn’t funded…. In addition to that the scheduling changes and and some of the measures they put in place actually made things worse. Some arbitrary timelines that they imposed on the Immigration refugee board resulted in thousands of people being held in limbo for many, many years. For years and years, the previous government didn’t fund the system… they actually put together some half-baked reforms in 2012…. So we had to deal with that in addition to rising volumes.
The AG disagrees.
She said that the funding problems were the Liberals’ alone.
The Conservatives belatedly gave their departments enough money to cover the claims they faced (s. 2.24) and were dealing with the backlog (s. 2.15) that worsened under the Liberals (s. 2.18).
Funding is still not sufficient, and “the backlog and wait times will continue to grow”. She expects wait times to reach 5 years if the number of claimants remains steady (s. 2.26).
The “arbitrary timeline” was a 60-day mandatory timeline to hear asylum claims, and it was developed in response to a backlog of claims less serious than the Liberals face now (s. 2.15).
Hussen also said “Last year the … board processed 32,000 claims, the highest they’ve done since 2012.” That is good news—but 55,000 claims were made. The backlog, in other words, wasn’t solved; it worsened.
Michelle Rempel, Hussen’s Conservative critic, said, “I cannot believe that six weeks left in parliament after four years that they are coming out here and saying it’s Stephen Harper’s fault…. it was only under this government that those timelines were abandoned. This government should be taking responsibility for that issue.”
Mark DeMontis is the Conservative candidate for York South–Weston.
DeMontis previously ran as a Progressive Conservative in the provincial election, and he did reasonably well, getting 18.5% of the vote in a left-leaning riding.
DeMontis lost most of his sight in high-school. He had to give up his dreams of playing professional hockey, but his career didn’t slow. He roller-bladed across the country raising money for blind hockey, and he became a television commentator and motivational coach.
DeMontis is the third entrant in what is sure to be a good race. Yafet Tewelde is running for the NDP, Ahmed Hussen, the Minister of Immigration, will likely be seeking reëlection, and Yafet Tewelde, among others are seeking the NDP nomination.
Our MP faced brutal criticism this week for an first-come, first-served family reunification website that opened and closed in less than 10 minutes. Tens of thousands of people, including those who found it impossible to use the website quickly because of disabilities, will not be reunited with their families because they couldn’t click fast enough.
Who would have guessed that your WPMs would determine whether you’d see your children again?
Hussen, deservedly, got grilled in the House for this complete disaster. His response? Three years after the Liberals were elected, it’s still the Conservatives’ fault:
Mr. Speaker, we inherited a backlog of 167,000 people in the parents and grandparents program. Under Conservative leadership, families were waiting eight years to be reunited with their parents and grandparents.
Honestly, it brings me no joy to report on our MP’s tough times¹. However, Ahmed Hussen brings a fair bit of the trouble on himself. Yes, he has an extremely tough portfolio, but his long-standing habit of attacking instead of understanding has led him into trouble over and over again.
This week, the Canadian Press said (more delicately than I will) that Hussen lied when he told Canadians that the Liberal government has brought more parents and grandparents into Canada as part of the family reunification program than the Conservative government did.
The CP said that Hussen’s statement had “a lot of baloney”, its second-worst ranking, only short of “completely inaccurate”.
Hussen told the House:
We are responsible for quadrupling the number of spaces that parents and grandparents have to come to Canada. We will continue to reunite more families. I am amused by the Conservatives’ new-found passion for reuniting families. However, when they had the chance they failed.”
The CP took issue with the ‘quadrupling’ part of that quote. The number of families brought to Canada under the reunification program actually declined about 5% under the Liberals. The Conservatives brought together about 20,000 families; the Liberals about 19,000.
The Minister’s spokesperson said that Hussen wasn’t making things up: he was including spousal reunification in his numbers. “When talking about family reunification, as the minister does in the second portion of the quote, it is important to not limit yourself to the parents and grandparents program,” he told the CP.
Of course, this isn’t correct either. Hussen said “parents and grandparents”, and said that the Conservatives had brought 5000 families compared to the Liberals’ 20,000,