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.