Contrary to pundits‘ polling, it wasn’t even close in York South–Weston. Ahmed Hussen won in a landslide, with much more than half the vote. The other candidates trailed far behind, none getting more than 19%.
The results must be particularly upsetting for Yafet Tewelde, who ran a strong campaign. He was shellacked by Hussen and barely eked out a lead against a lackluster Conservative parachute candidate.
Perhaps we are seeing demographic change in the riding and we are moving rightward. In the past, the York South–Weston has voted NDP or Liberal, but in this and the provincial election, the conservative candidates did reasonably well. Rattan tied Tewelde despite her lack of experience, poor debate performance, and absence in the community. Before her, PC Mark DeMontis received a strong second-place finish in the provincial election.
On the fringes, Gerard Racine did dismally, with 1.7% of the vote. Nicki Ward fared hardly any better; despite a strong debate and considerable charisma, she received only 3.6% of the vote.
It’s likely that Ahmed Hussen was reflecting on his spectacular political career at this week’s debate. After all, Weston Collegiate Institute was the building where he seemingly came out of nowhere to win the Liberal nomination back in December 2014. He won the seat in 2015 (the first Somali-Canadian to be elected to parliament) and was appointed Minister of Immigration in 2017. Mr Hussen could well have been wondering if the circle was complete or if he can win another four-year term as Member of Parliament for York South-Weston.
There’s a website called 338canada.com that uses polling data to prognosticate on elections. They have made a prediction on the outcome of York South-Weston’s tussle for the federal seat currently occupied by Mr. Hussen. Their four-point prediction scale ranges from ‘toss up’, ‘leaning’, ‘likely’ to ‘safe seat’. Readers may remember that Toronto went totally Liberal in the Big Red Wave of 2015. Times have changed and now only five of Toronto’s Liberal seats are considered safe. Four Toronto seats are thought by 338canada to be (merely) leaning Liberal and YSW is one of them. The latest prediction may be based on data that is a few days old and with the ongoing surge of the NDP in the polls, contender Yafet Tewelde (with a back story no less compelling) may be inching ahead enough to have a shot at unseating the incumbent. Incidentally, the predecessor to 338canada.com (threehundredeight.com) correctly predicted a strong win for Hussen in early 2015, well before the election was called.
You can bet as time ticks away today and tomorrow, the Liberal and NDP campaigns will be frantically redoubling their efforts.
This week’s debate left me deeply impressed. All the candidates were worthy of consideration. Most were more than worthy: they were excellent, and any riding would be lucky to have them. We’re spoiled for choice in York South–Weston.
That said, I’m voting for Nicki Ward, our Green candidate. She is thoughtful, smart, articulate, and fiery. She would be an excellent representative for us. She would be a particularly excellent Green candidate because she would stand out in a party of beige.
It’s taken me a long time to reach this decision, though I was able to eliminate two parties quite quickly. I won’t vote Conservative because they do not have a viable plan to deal with climate change. Their plan is nonsense on stilts. I won’t vote for the PPC because they are far-right populists.
The Liberal party has led on issues I believe in, including legalization and carbon taxes. I would gladly vote for them if Hussen weren’t our MP. However, I don’t think he is a good representative for his riding, and he has been a quite bad Minister of Immigration.
Hussen lauded and posed with Turkey’s autocrat warmonger, Erdoğan, who this week launched an invasion of Kurdish-controlled Syria.
He has mismanaged the Safe Third Country agreement. He has lied about his ministry. He has insulted other politicians. And he has consistently blamed the Conservatives for his department’s problems.
I think Hussen is the worst kind of politician: he’s a team player. We elect people to work for us, not their party. I’ve long felt that Hussen shows up every day for the Liberals.
That leaves the NDP and the Greens.
I think that Yafet Tewelde would make an excellent MP. He seems to work hard and be serious. He lives in the community, and he is smart. He also has a good ground game and support. I was going to vote NDP until I saw Ward in the debate.
Nicki Ward was very impressive. She seems to have run her campaign almost alone (and by public transit!), and she brought a well researched, zingy performance in a field of bright minds. She was brave and funny, and she held her own against better supported candidates. I would love to see what she is capable of if she had a party apparatus behind her.
Ward also impressed me very much when she said she would express only her own opinions, not her party’s. Canada needs more of that. While everyone else was standing on platforms, Ward committed to building one to represent York South–Weston.
But, I hear you say, “strategy”! “Divided votes!” “The next Harper!”. I hear you complain “the Greens don’t stand a chance”.
Honestly, I don’t care. Strategic voting is a bit of silly “I know that you know that I know…” where we all try to guess what everyone else is doing. Knock yourselves out. Really. I can’t be bothered.
I think the real strategic vote is for a person who should hold a prominent position in a party that could hold the balance of power. The real strategy is electing a hard-working, respectful, smart and principled person to represent us.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With great uncertainty and mixed polls, the October 21 general election is anyone’s to win or lose. After nearly four years of a Trudeau Liberal government, local MP, Ahmed Hussen is hoping for a second term. During the last election, a dump Harper movement coincided with a charismatic photogenic new Liberal leader. If that wasn’t enough, the NDP leader talked more like a Red Tory than the rabid socialist his opponents would have preferred. People had their doubts about Trudeau but gave him a chance and he won a majority government.
As the next election looms, the NDP and Tories have new, young leaders – Trudeau at 47 is the old man to Singh’s and Scheer’s 40 – even though Andrew Scheer is looking more and more like a young version of one of his Tory predecessors – John Diefenbaker.
Sadly, this time around, there is no clear and compelling reason to vote for any of the three main leaders (realistically, neither the Green Party’s Elizabeth May nor the People’s Party’s Maxime Bernier will form a government). During the last election campaign, Trudeau made and later ignored important promises. His promise of electoral reform was broken when the party realized that it meant fewer elected Liberals. On the Aboriginal file, he’s been less than stellar but in fairness the job is monumental and will take a lot more effort, time and money to deliver. Other negatives are his virtue signalling prissy mode, the firing of two cabinet ministers and his cringe-worthy trip to India. Justin’s costume changes are gifts that will keep on giving during the campaign. On the plus side, he’s almost universally hated in the prairie provinces.
Trudeau’s major achievements are that he legalized cannabis, instituted a carbon tax and didn’t give away the (non-dairy) farm during NAFTA negotiations.
In the meantime, Andrew Scheer promises to be the reddest Tory ever and wants us to believe he would fail to pick out Doug Ford in a police line-up.
Leading the NDP is Jagmeet Singh, a dynamic and charming man who, judging by recent polls, is failing to connect with the people of Canada. Fundraising is also becoming an issue for the NDP and a lack of money will hurt them in the final stretch of the campaign.
York South-Weston has been a Liberal riding since its formation in 1979 with two brief exceptions. Liberal John Nunziata (and brother of Councillor Frances Nunziata) was kicked out of the party and sat as an independent from 1996 – 2000 and more recently, Mike Sullivan unseated multi-term Alan Tonks in the Jack Layton propelled orange wave of 2011.
To win in York South-Weston therefore, it takes a compelling candidate plus a small red wave, large orange wave or a never before seen blue tsunami. Interestingly, for the 2019 election, it looks like a small beige wave is on the way. This should favour the incumbent.
The major candidates:
Incumbent Liberal Ahmed Hussen is currently making up for lost time in the riding and has increased his local presence considerably in the past few weeks. He has adopted the ‘meet, greet and feed’ style of Doug Ford in his latest encounters with constituents.
Mr Hussen has the power of incumbency. As Immigration Minister (and first ever Somali-Canadian in Cabinet), he has travelled extensively and rubbed shoulders with international leaders (not all of them savoury). His background is compelling having arrived in Canada as a refugee. Being a rookie MP and a cabinet minister is not for the faint of heart and Mr. Hussen seems to have coped well with the huge learning curve presented to him. I get the feeling his ambitions go beyond a cabinet appointment. On the negative side, Minister Hussen seems to run a pretty aloof and unresponsive operation and doesn’t live in the riding.
Yafet Tewelde is Ahmed Hussen’s main challenger. He has a solid organization and strong connections to YSW, not just as a resident. He’s been politically active in the community for a while. Mr. Tewelde is well educated and immigrated to Canada from Eritrea. Style wise, he’s as charming and talkative as Ahmed Hussen is quiet and reserved.
Tory nominee Dr. Jasveen Rattan is a successful and well-educated candidate with a compelling story having come to Canada as an infant. Her PhD is in recreation and leisure studies and she has been active as an organizer in provincial and civic politics.
Mr. Tewelde will need to run an exceptional campaign and Jagmeet Singh will need to connect with voters Jack Layton style in order to return York South-Weston into the NDP fold. Without that, it looks as if Ahmed Hussen will win another four year mandate.
As for Dr. Rattan, based on past results and barring a miracle, York South-Weston’s seat will have to be be a long term goal for her. The Harper years failed to register in YSW. She will need to make herself known during this campaign and stick around if she hopes to capture the seat in 2023 0r 2027.
Today, the first of what I fear will be many fact-findings on fibs, fabrications, and falsities.
First, Ahmed Hussen. Hussen made an outrageous and false accusation on July 1 that came to light this week. He accused the Conservatives of “dancing with racists” at a speech on Canada Day, which is also Somalian Independence Day. The Post Millennial picked up the story today.
Hussen told a crowd:
in an election year, one of the main responsibilities is what? To vote. And vote for the right leaders, the real leaders that bring people together, not divide you, not dance with white supremacists, but actually bring people together and confront hatred, confront Islamophobia, and prove once again that Canada is the best country in the world by making sure that everyone is represented.
Hussen has a history of baiting conservatives. He said that Lisa MacLeod’s criticism of his department was “irresponsible, it’s divisive, it’s fear-mongering and it’s not Canadian and it is very dangerous.” He’s also said that the Conservatives want to “militarize” the border. He’s long blamed the Conservatives for the problems in his department.
But implying last month that Conservatives would “dance with white supremacists” is an ugly slander. It is, in fact, irresponsible, divisive, and fear-mongering.
Yafet Tewelde said this week:
We are in a crisis. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes. We need to stop talking and act now. #YSW#cdnpolipic.twitter.com/wEzyz0OGdJ
Not quite so. The lead author of this section of the IPCC report says this:
Please stop saying something globally bad is going to happen in 2030. Bad stuff is already happening and every half a degree of warming matters, but the IPCC does not draw a “planetary boundary” at 1.5°C beyond which lie climate dragons.
[If] we don’t halve emissions by 2030, will we have lost the battle and just have to hunker down and survive? Of course not.
No scientist I’ve read says that the next decades aren’t critical. None, though, says that there is a threshold in 2030. It’s more complicated than 240 characters allow.
Happily, I don’t have to wade through tax policy to figure the truth of this out. The Economist covered it last week. They said there’ve been tax cuts for the working and middle classes (and deficits for our children):
To stimulate growth [Trudeau] let a near-balanced budget move into deficit…. Most important, he has put money into the pockets of people on middle and low incomes. A means-tested child-benefit programme gives families on the lowest incomes C$5,600-6,600 a year per child.
More moolah came from cutting the tax rate on the bottom income bracket and raising it for the richest 1%. The government expanded a tax credit for workers on low incomes. Its critics claim that middle-class families are worse off because it took away some tax credits. In fact, says Mr Morneau, the finance minister, a family of four at the median-income level is C$2,000 better off
Technically, there have been small tax hikes: on the rich, and on carbon. But neither of these tax increases hurt the median Canadian. Rattan’s statement then isn’t entirely false, but it’s pretty close.
For some reason, the Canada Day fireworks started about 15 minutes before their scheduled time of 10 p.m. last night. The show was all over before 10 p.m., taking some people by surprise and disappointing those who had planned to arrive just before the scheduled time.
Ahmed Hussen’s spokesperson told me that the MP was at the Amesbury fireworks there and couldn’t shed any light on the reasons for Weston’s early start. There was nobody available at Councillor Nunziata’s office when I called but will update any response received.