Hussen wins

Ahmed Hussen, the Liberal incumbent, cruised to an easy victory last night in the federal election. He received more votes than the rest of the candidates combined.

As always, voters were swayed by party leadership and national trends. The Conservative candidate, Sajanth Mohan, received more votes than the NDP candidate, Hawa Mire. I hadn’t heard of Mohan before the election (and didn’t see him during it), while Mire had built a campaign for months before the writ.

The PPC candidate received 5% of the vote, in line with national numbers. Nicki Ward, the Green candidate, came in last, with 2%.

I’m voting Green

I will be voting for Nicki Ward, the Green candidate. I think she would be a superb representative for York South–Weston.

I’ve seen Ward at three debates, and she’s always the same: extremely smart and very direct. She speaks her mind, and she does so with panache. She’s also quite funny. I get the impression that Ward is running a capable campaign on an $8 budget—and I’d love to see what she can do with an office staff.

I happen to agree with much of Green Party platform, but I don’t think it really matters. Ward is a pragmatist, not a dogmatist, and in the debates, she showed herself to be extremely focused on York South–Weston, and the issues that affect us here. She had good ideas for getting more federal money into the riding, and has been—correctly—shocked that we have seen so little.

She’s not the perfect candidate. I think more people would vote for Ward if they knew her, but she hasn’t had much of a presence in the community between elections. That’s a shame, and it’s to her detriment and ours. I also think that the Green Party likely has more dumb drama than The Bachelor.

Finally, I’m unwilling to reason circularly for long enough to vote strategically. I should vote for the person I think you think I will vote for, and you’ll vote for the person you think I think you’ll vote for? No.

What about Hawa Mire, NDP?

Mire seems to be a very good candidate, and I gave serious thought to voting for her. She knows the issues and the details, and has an excellent grasp of policy and her party’s platform. She seems to be energetic and smart, and she has been working locally for months before the election. She appears to be a good advocate for local issues.

And, there’s no getting around it: it would probably help to have a party machine to get stuff done. Nicki Ward may struggle because of this, but Mire would bring the NDP’s machinery with her to office.

That said, Mire did say Canada “could be called a terrorist state”, an idea I find offensive. She also said that Trudeau faced violence on the campaign trail because elected officials haven’t taken the rise of hate groups seriously; I don’t believe that, and I don’t think it’s fair. Mire also declined to attend the second debate.

What about Ahmed Hussen, Liberal?

Ahmed Hussen is smart, hardworking, and frequently charismatic. In my view, though, he is not a good representative for our riding, nor an exceptionally good federal minister.

Hussen does go door-to-door, but he doesn’t answer my messages and he doesn’t attend debates. I get that I’m just a blogger, so I’m not much bothered by the former. I am very irritated by the latter. Debates are a crucial part of democracy—the only chance most of us get to hear candidates defend their records and to be challenged on local issues.

As long as he refuses to attend debates, I will refuse to vote for him.

Also, as far as I know (I could be wrong), the only money he has brought to Weston recently was a $35 million loan to build low-cost housing. In an era of unprecedented public spending, a modest loan seems to me like very little pork from a federal minister.

And though all politics is local, I can’t forget that he was an intransigent and dogmatic Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship during the period refugees were seeking asylum through a literal and legal loophole.

More recently, Hussen has overseen the housing portfolio and an unfair and unsustainable rise in housing prices. And yes, though this is a global phenomenon, it is to some degree his responsibility. Canada’s housing prices rose the second most in the OECD. They are also the third-least affordable. He should have done more, faster, and farther in advance.

What about Sajanth Mohan?

Mohan, the Conservative candidate, may be an excellent person and a superb candidate, but we wouldn’t know it. I had never heard of him before the election, and he didn’t attend the debates. Also the Conservatives’ climate change “plan” is unworthy of the name.

Hussen skips second debate, others follow

Incumbent Liberal candidate Ahmed Hussen declined to attend the debate hosted by the Mount Dennis Community Association. Last week, he skipped the debate hosted by Friends of Smythe Park—meaning he has not attended any debates this election.

According to the MDCA, after Hussen decided to not attend, the other invited candidates cancelled. The MDCA said, the NDP and Conservatives “both felt that their candidates time was better spent at other activities.” (The PPC candidate was not invited to attend.)

Nicki Ward, the Green candidate, did attend, and answered questions as part of a town hall. Though I had to miss the first hour (kids had homework), it was quite a nice meeting. Ward was irreverent, knowledgeable and frequently funny. She also showed some of the research she did on hyperlocal inflation in the riding she’d like to represent, which I thought was quite interesting (though I am an economics nerd).

NDP candidate Hawa Mire said

… Less than 24 hours before the debate we had not been provided with any of the usual information – format, questions, or attendees. We were also informed the Liberal and Conservative candidates had dropped out of the event.

We went back and forth with the organizers to determine a format. Nothing was confirmed.

As a result of these discussions with organizers we withdrew from the event. Some hours later, we were informed it was to become a townhall and candidates were to get further information.

Unfortunately this did not happen.

I recognize that a 35 day election makes debates challenging to schedule, and understand the toll it takes on organizers of such events.

What I must be clear about was my intention to attend from the very beginning.

Our democracy relies on the opportunity to engage with and hold those seeking public office to account. This is a value I hold close to my heart…

(Capitalization corrected, otherwise as written)

I haven’t heard back from Ahmed Hussen, nor from Sajanth Mohan, the Conservative candidate.

Is it arrogance? Let’s hope so.

There’s been a long standing Tory tradition of swerving candidate debates. Here in York South-Weston, Tories are sent in as sacrificial lambs. Being a national party, the Conservatives feel obliged to have a candidate in every riding and while expectations in this corner of Toronto are slim, they always manage to find someone who will enter the race. 

In the days before Covid, debates were noisy, filled with, er, rabid and partisan socialists and were held in some remote location far away from their home – aka  the riding. Conservative candidates presumably thought that their time was better spent canvassing. Now it’s the Liberals too who are making this a thing. 

One can understand a Tory candidate’s unwillingness to be exposed to the mob. For one thing, their grasp of issues is likely to be confined to a few sentences. They’re usually running on a couple of wedge issues and don’t get the subtleties of an argument having two sides. The Liberals rarely swerved a chance to debate. Now we have a sitting MP and federal cabinet minister deciding that a debate isn’t important. 

Liberal Ahmed Hussen is a success story. He, like many of us in Canada, came to this country for a better life. He succeeded, became a community advocate and then a lawyer so it would be fair to assume that Mr. Hussen isn’t shy. Public speaking should be a natural fit for the Liberal candidate. During the 2015 election it was alleged that Mr. Hussen felt that debate organizers were partisan and he wouldn’t be treated fairly. The strategy didn’t hurt him and he handily beat Mike Sullivan with 46% of the vote.

In 2019, all candidates attended the one debate and Mr. Hussen romped to victory with 58% of the vote.

Now he seems to feel that any exposure to the public that he can’t control will either weaken his chances or waste his precious time. Although Mr. Hussen doesn’t live in the riding, there is strong evidence that he knows where it is and has been here on quite a few occasions.

So what was Mr. Hussen’s problem with participating in a candidate debate? Especially one held remotely. As a cabinet minister, he will assuredly have a good grasp of the issues and how to use Zoom. As a lawyer, he will have decent and confident debating skills. Heaven forfend that anyone could accuse a Liberal cabinet minister of arrogance but unless Mr. Hussen has a compelling reason for avoiding debate, one has to assume that’s exactly what it is.

Well done Mr. Hussen. You have what it takes to be a Liberal Prime Minister.

The debate, a report

Tonight’s debate on the environment showed what debates could, and should, be in the future: accessible to all from home, with detailed questions and civil engagement by the candidates.

Nicki Ward (Green) and Hawa Mire (NDP) discussed about twenty environmental issues for 90 minutes. Both candidates were, frankly, very impressive. They had deep grasps of the issues, the history, the facts and the proposed solutions.

As you might expect in a debate between the NDP and the Greens, there was little difference on matters of policy. Both were against nuclear waste, climate change, and fossil-fuel subsidies. Both were for more consultation with Indigenous peoples, and for working with other levels of government.

They shared a similar style, too: each was refreshingly complimentary of the other, and there seemed to be kindness and mutual respect. I got the sense that they would happily work together to solve common problems if the chance arose. And, because the debate was online, there was no forced cheering and zealous applause by partisan supporters. What a relief.

While the candidates were both smart, fast, and in broad agreement, there was a difference in their relationships to their parties.

Hawa Mire knows her party’s platform in fantastic detail, and is able to quickly apply it to issues. She emphasized that there would be synergies working with Faisal Hassan, because he is an NDP member of provincial parliament. She also said twice that she would “push the NDP caucus” in directions that benefit York South–Weston.

Nicki Ward, on the other hand, emphasized that one of the best things about her party is that it doesn’t have a party whip. She is able to work independently, and for her constituents. “When you elect Nicki Ward, you elect Nicki Ward, not the Green Party”, she said.

Liberal, Conservative candidates skip debate

Ahmed Hussen (Liberal) and Sajanth Mosan (Conservative) skipped the only debate yet scheduled in York South–Weston.

Hawa Mire (NDP) and Nicki Ward (Green) both attended a debate on the environment organized by Friends of Smythe Park. Both Ward and Mire took ample shots at the absentee MP Ahmed Hussen.

Ward said, “we have someone who is absent and inactive. We have someone who isn’t here.” Mire said, “The Liberal candidate for this riding has been entirely unresponsive.”

The Mount Dennis Community Association is trying to organize another debate, which may occur next week.

The People’s Party of Canada candidate was not invited to this debate.