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.

Weston a dump? Not so much.

An interesting article in Toronto life ranks all of Toronto’s 140 neighbourhoods based on ten weighted categories such as affordable housing, crime, transit, shopping and so on that others more qualified can argue over. What matters is that perception is everything and outsiders have perceived Weston and Mount Dennis for that matter to be quickly improving places. You may remember that Mount Dennis came dead last in 2013.

Some notable local rankings (2013 ranking in brackets):

  • Humber Heights Westmount: 66 (112)
  • Weston: 75 (105)
  • Mount Dennis 93 (140)
  • Weston Pellam Park: 96 (125)
  • Kingsview Village The Westway: 136 (123)

Interestingly Edenbridge came in at 81 (81) and Lambton Baby Point at 82 (78).

Coming soon in a meeting whose location is yet to be determined, people will be explaining to the citizens of Weston that since we’re a dump, we shouldn’t expect nice things and that nobody wants to invest in anything too fancy here.

Perhaps they’re wrong.

MDCA asks Nunziata to save money on Gardiner

The Mount Dennis Community Association asked Frances Nunziata to not vote for the ‘hybrid option’ on the Gardiner Expressway.

In an open letter, the MDCA said “you plan to commit half a billion extra tax dollars by voting for the Gardiner Expressway Hybrid option. [Tearing it down] will add a few minutes travel time for people driving between the Gardiner and the Don Valley Parkway. We see this extra time as a very small price to pay for:

  • much better access to Toronto’s waterfront
  • a grand boulevard like University Avenue…
  • lower taxes in future”

The letter goes on to say that the money saved could be spent on infrastructure, schools, transit, or community programs. 

The final vote will happen later this afternoon. Frances Nunziata is widely expected to vote against the MDCA and in favour of the hybrid Gardiner, which will preserve most of the highway but lower the easternmost section.

Mt Dennis Jane’s Walk

Ever-awesome Simon Chamberlain will be leading a Jane’s Walk through Mount Dennis this weekend. The tour promises “Boom and Bust. Canals, Masons, Booze, Railroads, Disease, Flooding” (or historical facsimiles thereof).

The walk will begin at 1 pm on Saturday, May 2 at the Portage Trail School.

JW

Metrolinx kills resident’s tree, behaves poorly

Last week, a boor hired by Metrolinx killed a 130-year-old tree without the landowner’s permission. The tree was limbed, and is “likely too damaged to save”.

 

The tree was along the route of the UP Express, and its killing shows insensitivity to local sentiment. Mount Dennis residents have been begging Metrolinx for years to limit the felling of trees along the route, and Metrolinx has been zealous in “clear-cutting” trees along the corridor—cutting back as much as 8 metres from the track. According to the Star, “Metrolinx officials say they plan to clear the entire 20-kilometre corridor from property line to property line.”

Police were called and they prevented the complete destruction of the tree, although no charges were laid. 

Metrolinx has planned a meeting with the affected residents and says the contractor has been “reminded of our policies”.