Debate was tons of fun. I declare a winner!

Nobody goes to a political debate to hear about policy. If you want policy, get a white paper.

We go to see the candidates in action, sense their personalities, and watch them duke it out. By those measures, tonight’s political debate was a huge success. It’s a bit silly to name winners and losers, but if we must, I’d say Nicki Ward, the Green candidate, won. She was very impressive.

All candidates

Ahmed Hussen, Liberal, was spirited and confident, confrontational and in command of the facts. He did very well, and often spoke passionately. Having watched his career, I was surprised. He’s often seemed at turns needlessly defensive and aggressive. He was very good tonight, speaking with feeling and purpose.

I can’t think of a kind thing to say about his touts, though. They were atrocious. Several times they shouted over the speakers, yelling dim-witted criticisms and true-believer hoots. They reached a nadir when they shouted down Yafet Tewelde, making him impossible to hear. I can’t imagine what Hussen is thinking. His crowd is having an effect opposite to what he intends: they’re utterly off-putting.

Ahmed Hussen and Yafet Tewelde

Yafet Tewelde, NDP, punched back hard. He took Hussen to task on his record and his (supposed?) absence in the community. He went full-tilt against Hussen, fighting hard and tenaciously. He knew the facts and had some zingers. He went at Hussen like an underdog should.


Tewelde was very good, but principled too: he stood up for both his Liberal and Conservative peers when they were unfairly heckled. It was quite honourable.

The underdog to match, though, had to be Nicki Ward. I thought that the last of the three people to find the Green’s AGM had to run as the riding’s candidate. The party has no presence between elections—they don’t even tweet—they don’t seem to have an infrastructure or pull, and they never do very well. I wasn’t expecting much. In fact, I wasn’t expecting anything.

And was I ever wrong.

Nicki Ward started off the debate brilliantly. She emphasized her independence, saying the party doesn’t have a whip, and “the opinions expressed on this stage are mine. I’m a one-issue candidate. My issue is York South–Weston.” It was a bold thing to do: to promise her brain, rather than focus-grouped policy promises. It could have been a disaster of dim-witted improvisation and talking points. I’ll spoil the ending: it was anything but.

Nicki Ward and Jasveen Rattan

Ward was bold, well read, and aggressive. She jabbed her opponents and wrestled with the issues. Her principled, articulate, and passionate stand on Indigenous clean water rights was the most inspiring moment of the night. She made it clear she didn’t have a monopoly on truth, too: “Take our platform. Take our ideas. But for God’s sake, implement them”, she told her peers. They’d do well to.


Gerard Racine, the PPC candidate, was both physically and emotionally distant. He sat, somewhat unfortunately, off to the right of the rest of the candidates. It suited him, though. He doesn’t seem to have any pretensions about winning, and judging from his Twitter feed, I thought he was a bit of a kook.

Gerard Racine

He may be, but he was charming enough as a bit of a grump, all function and no inspiration, pointing out that the feds don’t do transit, childcare, or healthcare, that the climate crisis is merely a climate problem, and that “complex problems have complex solutions”. He put his foot in it a bit when he said that kids these days should “learn a little more about Canada”, but I doubt he cares. He said he wasn’t going to  pander. He kept that promise.


Jasveen Rattan, PhD, and the Conservative candidate, did fairly poorly. There’s a kind of academic who speaks knowledgeably, because she knows. There’s another who speaks bullshit, as if she knows. And then there’s the kind that figures out answers based on what they know already. I like this kind of academic. They puzzle things through. They’re honest. They’re great to drink with. But they’re not the least bit fun to watch.

I think Rattan is that last kind. She fumbled. She spoke in fragmented sentences as if she was figuring things out as she went—because, I think, she was. She didn’t nail any zingers as a result, and she didn’t seem in command of her platform.

Rattan also, frankly, screwed up. She said that she has a lot of experience with youth, “but not in York South–Weston” and humblebragged that she’s travelled to more than 200 cities and learned so much. She is a parachute candidate and privileged. She doesn’t need to emphasize that. When I met her, she said she was in the race to win. If that was the case, she should have spent more time prepping.

The organizers, as always, did an excellent job. They deserve our thanks. For the first time, the livestreamed the debate, and it’s well worth the watch.


Author: Adam Norman

I am raising my two children in Weston.

12 thoughts on “Debate was tons of fun. I declare a winner!”

  1. Thanks for the review, Adam.
    And, for the most part, I have to agree.

    The Red team rep – like the Red team’s leader, skillful & experienced.

    The Orange team rep – compassionately opposing the incumbent.

    The Blue team rep – physically struggling to connect, even with her mic.

    The Deep Blue team rep – mumbling away, over there.

    And then, there was the Green team’s hopeful – following up on her written submission a few weeks ago, and behaving like she’s been there before.

    When I read her essay on this site (“If Nothing Changes..”), I took it to be part of her “job application” – her “letter of introduction” to the community telling us how we might benefit from her representation, in Ottawa.

    I also remember that at the end of her essay, you invited and would welcome the other candidates to submit something more personal for our consideration, too.


    Anyway, I wasn’t so sure about this relative outsider representing us, but her thoughtful note left me curious – and I wanted to hear & see her in debate mode. And, I too found her performance quite strong and surprisingly passionate, articulate and well prepared (or rehearsed, if that’s possible).

    So, good job, Ms. Ward.
    And, good luck.

    I’m not exactly sure where I’ll place my “x” next Monday, but I’m quite glad I attended and caught most of the debate. And, at this point I wouldn’t be too uncomfortable choosing a whip-less, hopeful green “watch dog” rep.

    At the very least, it would send a message to the usual suspects who expect success, just because it’s always been that way around here.

    A breath of fresh air?

    (And yeah, the young folks planted in the audience “whooping it up” punctuating ends of sentences for the front runners, were annoying. It was easy to see through their noisy strategy.)

    1. I did not attend this debate, so can’t speak in authority, but “young folks planted in audience” doesn’t pass the sniff test. More likely young volunteers who are passionate about politics than an orchestrated “plant”. Volunteers are seldom undecided voters – they believe and serve the party they are aligned with, and naturally are against other parties. It’s somewhat disingenuous to imply they are mere tools, though I concede they can come off that way when the vibe you get is that they only root for their home team.

  2. I hope liberal guy gets kicked out.
    why is nunziata out canvassing with the liberal guy instead of doing what she needs to do to improve the ward???

    1. You do realize that the Nunziata clan has long deep and established roots with the Liberal party, right? Frances has strongly supported Liberal candidates in both federal and provincial elections since forever, discounting the complications with her brother who was previously elected as a Liberal MP during the Chretien years, but went Independent. Municipal wards often depend on financial support from their federal and provincial counterparts (they reap bigger $ from taxation), so by sucking up and helping the incumbent, she is also helping herself, and possibly the ward. I scratch your back, you scratch mine.

      1. LOL…and after how long she has nothing to show for it.
        See Weston Rd as prime example of her contributed failure.

    2. I was not able to attend this debate, but did attend the previous provincial and municipal ones. I definitely have concerns with moderation, specifically with how the shots are called with regards to questions from the public. I concede that a filter is very much necessary for various reasons, but also feel this diminishes the role the community can have in this very limited public engagement. For the purposes of transparency, it would be nice to be able to actually see all submitted questions online post debate (discarding the names attached to submissions). In respect of democracy, I’d basically like to decide for myself what is not acceptable for this format of discourse. To be clear – I’m not actually advocating for a free for all blood match – I just feel we should have access to the data after the fact.

      1. I don’t know, Barber.
        But, it seems like you have a plan.

        And, given that maybe you should volunteer to moderate, in future whether live & in person, or online? But, only once everyone submits their questions for review? For quality control reasons?

        That’s a pretty tall order & quite fanciful.

        The local organizers did a pretty good job, under the circumstances. Especially, given what we’ve witnessed in the most recent televised English language leadership debates – with all those experienced moderators and wanna be leaders.

        It’s understood that not everyone can get to everything, all the time. And so, it’s too bad that you didn’t witness the event first hand – followed by your unique and important perspectives.

        No matter.

        Like it or not (objectively or subjectively), the host’s report on last night’s debate was pretty good, accurate & fair – and all under low budget circumstances. And, perhaps most helpful to undecided, non partisan types.

        But, as always with this stuff – to be taken with a grain of salt.

  3. Argee. Nikki stole the show. Well spoken, seems like she’s done this for a while.

    NDP and Liberals just promising billions and billions more of taxpayers dollars to get votes. Could hear half their speeches with their entourages clapping every 30 seconds. Hussein practiced rhetoric. Good on candidates for calling out crowd for inappropriate behaviour.

    Conservative – yeah she may have fumbled a couple questions only, but was only candidate to talk about women’s issues though. She is thoughtful, A nice change in a politician…..And honest, so you call her out for not working with YSW youth, but honesty, again refreshing change. Parachute candidate, heck the NDP Leader parachuted to Vancouver cuz he couldn’t win here.

    PPC – monotone , hard to hear his answers sometimes. Agree he looked alone out there on the stage, need to organize that better.

    1. And, before the impression is totally given that Nicki Ward gave an extraordinary award winning performance – there was that one moment where she channeled her very best “Greta Thunberg” impression.


      Not really sure – couldn’t hear what brought that one on.


      True to her school..
      .. I guess.

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