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.