I’m voting Green

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.

Turkey’s autocrat, Erdogan, L. Ahmed Hussen, R. Edogan has imprisoned journalists, among other repugnant acts.

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.

That person is Nicki Ward.

 

Guest Post: Nicki Ward, Green Candidate

If Nothing Changes… Nothing Changes

By Nicki Ward

MP Candidate, York South–Weston, Green Party of Canada

As a “Blue-Green” I believe that our economic and political environment is directly connected to our natural environment. In other words we must address employment and economic development as part of our clean up.

I also have a background as a technical, scientific and medical writer – So I’m not a catastrophist. I’m a centrist who believes in evidence-based problem solving and that means tackling the things we can actually change. (One of which is who represents our interests in Ottawa)

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how York South–Weston has evolved from a beautiful collection of vibrant and self-sustaining communities to its current state.

Over the past 50 years, this area has been expropriated, annexed, absorbed and re-absorbed multiple times by neighbouring towns and cities. Some might argue that this is a normal part of growth and city living. However what is not normal is the speed and brutality with which this has occurred.

In addition to this, politicians have continuously and cynically manipulated our electoral boundaries. There are many examples, but one of the biggest Federal examples was in 1976 (and 1987, and 1996, and 2003) where they shoe-horned the distinct communities of York South, York West, Davenport, High Park–Humber Valley, and Etobicoke into a single voting block.

Gerrymandering is nothing new. But what is different is the speed and frequency with which this happens in York South–Weston. Each electoral shake up is disruptive and means that the newly created communities struggle to find their own voice and push back against political, financial and development pressure.

A cynic might suggest that since this so clearly favours incumbency that this is deliberate.

I’ve had several hundred conversations and met many wonderful individuals who continue to fight vigorously for the rights of their fellow constituents.

But this changes nothing if our pleas fall on deaf ears. If our elected politicians can only keep their job by obeying their boss in Ottawa, by being “whipped” to the party line, by being forced to vote against their conscience and their constituents…

…then York South–Weston loses…yet again.

It’s tempting to think of extinction events as singular dramatic moments like a meteorite hitting the earth. But most extinction events are slow, steady states of decay and are only visible when you look back over time.

Sadly, I think that there are signs that this is what is happening to Weston. Decades of mismanagement and misgovernment that have brought us to this point and that are pushing us further down the same dark path.

As to evidence? The long-term environmental symptoms are everywhere and the trend is all in the wrong direction.

Social issues like violence, mental health and addiction abound.
Institutional and multi-generational poverty continues to increase
Economic development (other than knocking down food stores to build condos) is absent.

Local water management allows massive quantities of sewage and other pathogens to enter our streets, basements and rivers.

Local air quality is dangerous, proven to be carcinogenic and potentially lethal. Air quality hotspots include: Weston Road, Jane Street, Keele Street, Black Creek Drive, Highway 401, Lawrence Avenue West, Eglinton Avenue West, St. Clair Avenue West and Rogers Road.

Overwhelming evidence that York South–Weston is in serious, serious trouble.

Can this tide be turned?

To be frank…If nothing changes… nothing changes.

However, you can vote for change.

With new representation and an active plan for political, economic, social and environmental solutions … then yes, we can turn this tide.

Nicki Ward

MP Candidate, York South–Weston
Green Party of Canada


We would be delighted to post a statement from other interested candidates. Send us an email!

Hussen blows it.

The Federal election campaign has been running for, well, a whole campaign now and some strange things have been happening on the road to Ottawa.

Ahmed Hussen was the surprise nomination of the York South-Weston Liberals back in December last year. Many had expected YSW Liberal Riding executive Jules Kerlinger to be a nominee but he inexplicably withdrew from the race quite early and wouldn’t talk about it. Rumours were that he’d been invited to step aside by the Liberal Party but confirming those rumours proved elusive. Riding Association President, Ryan Ward was unable or unwilling to open up on the subject, referring me to Ottawa functionaries. Jules himself declined to respond.

Former Toronto councillor Bill Saundercook was then expected to get the nod but during the voting process, a strange turn of events took place. Large numbers of people came by the busload to vote and somehow, a bottleneck occurred at the membership and credential checking process. Late in the afternoon, with time pressing, organizers decided to close the polls before everyone was able to reach the voting booths. Outsiders shrugged and thought that this was simply business as usual for the Liberals.

Bill Saundercook.
Bill Saundercook confidently awaits the result at the nomination meeting.

The result of the vote that fateful day was a shock, not merely because a seeming long-shot had won but also because of the surprisingly small number of votes cast when compared to the huge numbers lined up – no doubt a result of the glacial pace of the voting line. The winner was a relative unknown, Ahmed Hussen but he had a well known local backer, George Smitherman.

As 2015 progressed, Mr. Hussen was seen at various events in York South-Weston and it was thought that his campaign was shaping up nicely. With a good tail wind from Justin Trudeau, he had a reasonable chance of winning the seat.

Moderator Judith Hayes listens to the candidates.
John Johnson (Green) and Mike Sullivan (NDP) tackle the issues.

There is usually one major debate in York South-Weston before an election. This is meticulously organized by an army of hard-working volunteers from one or more organizations in the riding who do what is necessary to hold a fair debate. Many of these people are politically active but not exclusively for any one party. On September 16, Mr. Hussen announced to organizers that he would not attend the debate. More recently, the candidate allegedly let it be known that he considered the debate to be partisan; skewed in favour of the NDP.

Moderator Judith Hayes listens to the candidates.
Moderator Judith Hayes listens to the candidates.

Knowing the scrupulous lengths to which organizers of these events go makes it clear that no party owns or controls these debates. To make the allegation even more fatuous, Liberal riding executive Jules Kerlinger was part of the proceedings and read audience questions to the candidates. Witnessing the event were former YSW Liberal MP, Alan Tonks and Liberal MPP Laura Albanese who would have quite correctly blown the whistle had anything underhanded been transpiring.

Jules Berlinger reads audience questions at last night's debate.
Jules Kerlinger reads audience questions at last night’s debate.

At this stage it should be mentioned that the Conservative Party candidate also failed to show up at the debate. This was neither a surprise nor much of a disappointment as it seems to be Party policy, especially in York South-Weston where the right-wing vote along with Tory candidates’ speaking skills are generally on the marginal side.

York South-Weston's democratic deficit.
York South-Weston’s democratic deficit.

One can only surmise that Mr Hussen’s sudden attack of shyness was not from a fear of entering some sort of NDP stronghold where he would be ambushed by frothing hordes of rabid lefties. The only conclusion that the public can come to is that he was woefully unprepared to respond to audience questions and decided to bolt. That alone is telling.

So much for the Big Red Wave. Thanks to Mr. Hussen, its now likely to be a trickle in this riding and YSW federal Liberals are facing four more years in the political wilderness. Perhaps the geniuses at Party HQ should have gone with Mr. Kerlinger after all.

Election Results: The 20% Solution.

With no word from Alan Tonks about his stunning defeat, regular folks and political insiders are buzzing about Mike Sullivan’s upset victory in York South-Weston.  Sometimes statistics can provide an insight into what happened.

The voter turnout this time was 51% which is well below the average of around 61% for the country. In 2008 it was 50.4%. Why is our voter turnout so low? Who knows; maybe non-voters feel disconnected from the process or perhaps they feel that it doesn’t matter who wins. Either way, democracy is not well served when half of eligible voters decide that it is a waste of time to vote. The winning candidate won by a comfortable margin yet received 14,119 votes –  that’s only 20.4% of the riding’s 68,978 eligible voters. Think about it; 20% of voters decided the result.

Here are the vote counts and electorate percentages:

  • Mike Sullivan 14,119 …..20.4%
  • Alan Tonks 11,481 ……..16.7%
  • Jilian Saweczko 8530 …..12.4%
  • Sonny Day 1045 ………….1.5%

In municipal elections, voter turnout is even lower – only 40% bothered to vote in Ward 11 last time.

A determined candidate needed to marshal less than 20% of the vote this time—Mike Sullivan was that candidate. Without taking away from Mike Sullivan’s message and excellent campaign, this should be a warning to all politicians who feel that they own a safe seat. The fact is that where voter turnout is traditionally low, a candidate with credibility and determination can overcome even the most comfortable of incumbents.

Our Election Pick

On Monday, May 2, democracy is calling. Voters have a realistic choice between incumbent Alan Tonks (Liberal) and longtime resident Mike Sullivan (NDP).

Conservative candidate Jilian Saweczko has played a peek-a-boo campaign – if anyone has seen her please would you let us know?

The Green’s Sonny Day struck us as a true gentleman but is very inexperienced and will need some time to learn the ways of politics.

Let’s look at the two front runners:

Career politician Alan Tonks, has been the Liberal member for York South-Weston since 2000: half of that time as a government MP and half in opposition. In all that time, there has been no great achievement on which he can stake a claim. In fact, since 2000, York South-Weston has continued its steady decline. While his style is congenial and he is by all accounts well-liked in Ottawa, as has been pointed out in WestonWeb, Mr Tonks is the Liberal who voted with the Tories more than all but one of his colleagues. Tellingly, Mr Tonks no longer resides in his own riding.

Mike Sullivan has worked hard to bring improvements to Weston and was the NDP candidate in the 2008 election. For the past seven years he has worked to bring some transparency and accountability to the Air Rail Link project and has battled to make it an asset to Weston rather than a source of noise and disruption. As head of the grassroots Clean Train Coalition, he applied pressure (with some success) to electrify and/or cover the line so that Weston residents would not be subjected to the noise and pollution of diesel locomotives. It was through such activism that the Air Rail Link was pressured into stopping in Weston rather than barreling straight through. We need continued advocacy to ensure electrification now, not at some future date as well as minimizing disruption to residents. He is also working to bring jobs to the empty Kodak site.

Sullivan is intelligent, articulate and well-informed. As a Weston resident of two decades’ standing, he knows the issues.

We need a strong, knowledgeable, well-spoken advocate for Weston with a proven record of getting things done. Alan Tonks’ would be a great MP for Rosedale where everything is going swimmingly, but Weston is in dire straits and we need someone who can advocate with knowledge, passion, intelligence and forcefulness. The fact that Mike Sullivan is a long-time resident is another plus.

WestonWeb’s endorsement therefore goes to Mike Sullivan.

Fool me once…

Google the phrase ‘Conservative candidates missing from debates 2011’ and you will find a veritable treasure trove of Tory candidates skipping out on debates. Here in York South Weston, Conservative candidate Jilian Saweczko, running against Sonny Day, Mike Sullivan and Alan Tonks has missed the two held so far. Either this is a brazen contempt for voters or an attempt to hide an embarrassing ineptitude at public speaking – neither of which is the hallmark of a suitable candidate.

Perhaps Conservative candidates are taking a page from the playbook of Julian Fantino who, despite a similar absence from all debates, managed to squeak into first place in a by-election held in Vaughan last year. This year, he continues to absent himself hoping to repeat his good fortune.

These two are not alone. All over the country, a disturbing number of Conservative candidates are unwilling to face the people and answer questions. In the end, it is up to voters to judge the meaning of all this but as the old saying goes; Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

 

All Candidates Debate

The all-candidates debate for Federal election candidates was held at the Mount Dennis Legion on Wednesday, April 13th.

The event was well organized and attended with a well-structured questioning process which allowed both neighbourhood organizations and individuals a chance to address the candidates. An air of respect and courtesy was evident throughout the evening due mainly to the comportment of the candidates who answered questions without resorting to negativity, and the audience’s interest in listening to the candidates. It was evident that everyone was there to exchange and receive information rather than engage in the discussion of preconceived ideas. The Mount Dennis Legion should be congratulated for their contribution to the democratic process by hosting this event.

Unfortunately there was one negative aspect to the evening; the non-participation of the Conservative candidate who apparently had a more pressing engagement which prevented her from meeting with ordinary voters and responding to uncensored questions. Her empty chair stood as a testament to the discomfort the Conservatives seem to have with Toronto. No doubt voters will return the favour at the ballot box.

The other candidates showed an interest in helping Weston area residents and a knowledge of our needs. All three as stated above presented a professional attitude. Of the three, Sonny Day (Green Party), Mike Sullivan (New Democratic Party) and Alan Tonks (Liberal), Sonny came across as a genuinely nice man who demonstrated a generosity of spirit when he praised the good work Mike Sullivan has done for Weston. Mike came across as well prepared, confident, professional and articulate. Many of his answers met with the approval of the audience. Alan Tonks as the elder statesman of the group was suave and well-spoken. Unfortunately, he has developed and perfected the career politician’s habit of restructuring questions while answering them, thereby never really addressing questioners’ concerns. As a non-resident, he suffers in comparison to the other two candidates. Hopefully Weston has matured beyond the need to be represented by gentleman candidates who claim to know our concerns better than we do. It might be time to be represented by one of our own.

Each of the candidates had winning moments, the best was Sonny’s answer to a question about Harper’s proposed purchase of jet fighters designed for aircraft carriers (Canada has none). He won loud applause when he stated that Canada needs to purchase military equipment that meets Canada’s needs; ‘We are not a northern branch of the U.S. Air Force’.

Mike Sullivan had a lot of solid ideas on how to improve the Weston area and received loud applause many times throughout the evening. He stated that the proposed airport express should be an above ground subway line serving all of the communities along the line. This would be a good step towards bringing Toronto’s transportation system in line with other world cities which are extensively served by rapid public transit. Alan’s major good point was that he claims to be working to bring a campus of George Brown College to Weston, a great way to stimulate the Weston economy.

Overall, all three candidates did well but if one were to pick a winner it would have to be Mike Sullivan who presented clear answers and was able to point out some of Alan Tonks’ worse decisions as a Member of Parliament. As an experienced advocate for the Weston area, he is the most closely tied to the community and its improvement. Tonks came across as smooth and professional which is fine if Weston is happy with the status quo and sees no need for improvement. Sonny Day is well-intentioned and would certainly be a breath of fresh air in Ottawa.