Small beige wave’s a comin’

From surfysurfy.net

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.

A return to the good old days of Dief the Chief?

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.

Under-dressed Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan meets er, the Prime Minister of Canada.

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.

Sullivan: I’m (probably) back.

Now that the dust has settled after October’s Federal Election, I was curious as to how former York South-Weston Member of Parliament, Mike Sullivan was adjusting to the new reality of being a regular citizen once more. He agreed to an in-depth interview and we sat down last Friday over coffees in a busy Perfect Blend Bakery. We touched on four main topics that we will roll out over the next four days;

1. Fallout from the election

2. The Weston Cultural Hub

3. Metrolinx

4. The Church Street, former Humber River Regional Hospital Site.

Mike Sullivan in April 2013 as an MP campaigning for protection of the Humber.
Mike Sullivan in April 2013 as an MP campaigning for protection of the Humber.

1. Fallout from the election

We started with his experiences during the last election. Sullivan claims that he would not have done anything differently during the campaign that was the longest in modern history. He believes that the shifting of votes away from the New Democratic Party happened very suddenly during the last weekend of the campaign.

“People in the riding weren’t paying attention to the local situation They were also voting against Harper and choosing Liberals to be the ones to beat him. None of the Toronto area NDP MPs were re-elected as the Liberals captured all 25 Toronto seats. I lost a lot of friends in other ridings (who were also Toronto area MPs). It’s politics though and if you can’t take that, don’t run. You can kick yourself afterwards over things we should and shouldn’t have done but I don’t think we did anything wrong locally.”

It’s not all bad though; Sullivan is now able to see a lot more of his five beloved grandchildren, three of whom live in Mississauga and the other two in Edmonton. Last year, Sullivan and his wife spent Christmas in Edmonton and this year there will be celebrations in his home in Toronto and in Mississauga. The Sullivan family’s holiday fare is traditional and includes lots of turkey and ham.

I asked if he was thinking about staying in politics and setting himself up as the opposition to the new MP. He pondered that for a minute, smiled and said,

“Probably. Time will tell how long it will last. It’s (the next election) four years away and I’m not necessarily setting myself up in opposition to the local MP but when I see something that is unfair or not helpful then I’ll be unafraid of saying it.”

Remembering that Sullivan had a constituency office on South Station Road, and not being able to find much information about Mr. Hussen’s constituency office, I asked Sullivan if he knew where it was. Sullivan replied that it is not set up yet but that it will be in the same vicinity as MPP Laura Albanese’s. He suggested that having an office in an industrial area is, “Not helpful”.

The complex where MPP Laura Albanese has her constituency office.
The complex where MPP Laura Albanese has her constituency office.

On Monday, I checked the address, 85 Ingram Drive from where Mr Hussen will be operating. There was nothing to indicate that he has a presence in that building although a sign on a sports equipment store in the same building seemed to indicate that a number of people have been trying to contact the new MP.

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MPP Laura Albanese and Councillor Frank DiGiorgio already have offices in that same complex. The location may not be handy for constituents who walk but perhaps communications between those particular politicians will be made somewhat easier.

To ensure that he stays in the public consciousness, Sullivan has begun writing about issues of concern to York South-Weston residents once more. His first since the election deals with the Liberal tax cut plans.

Postscript: I had a call this afternoon from Christine Whitten who will be working in Ahmed Hussen’s constituency office. She explained the delay in setting up new parliamentary offices because, for example incoming MPs inherit their furniture from the previous incumbent. In addition, the furniture, previously used in Mike Sullivan’s Constituency Office could not move directly but had to be delivered to a storage location before being forwarded to the new MP. Things like internet and phone lines likewise cannot be arranged directly but have to be ordered through the House of Commons. Christine says that as soon as the office opens (hopefully early in the New Year), Mr. Hussen will be holding an open house so that constituents can drop by and meet their new M.P. In the meantime, York South-Weston residents are invited to contact Ms. Whitten at 416-432-2974 should they require further information or assistance.

Tomorrow: Sullivan’s thoughts on the Weston Cultural Hub.

Big Red Wave – Epilogue

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The official results from last night’s election are:

  • Apathetic non-voters: 26,743
  • Ahmed Hussen: 20,091
  • Mike Sullivan: 13,203
  • James Robinson: 8,394
  • Stephen Lepone: 1043
  • John Johnson: 887

Sixty two percent of the York South-Weston electorate voted which is an improvement on the 53% who voted in 2011. As can be seen, the largest group of people in the riding were the ones who couldn’t be bothered to vote. Whether it was ever possible to interest any of those thousands of non-voters in supporting Mike Sullivan is something that we can only speculate on. As Sullivan himself will attest, it’s hard to stand against a wave. Alan Tonks couldn’t do it in 2011 against Sullivan when Jack Layton powered an NDP surge that swept the country and now, with change being the operating word, the Liberals have roared back and astonishingly swept the NDP from all Toronto ridings.

Mike Sullivan was warned in WestonWeb over a year ago that the Liberals would be coming on strong for yesterday’s election. This was even before the selection of Ahmed Hussen as the Liberal Party nominee. Three Hundred Eight, the website that kept a running average of the polls consistently predicted a Sullivan loss throughout the campaign. No doubt, many in Weston will be saddened by Sullivan’s departure from Ottawa – after all, we had an MP living in the neighbourhood who knew local issues well and had earlier played a large part in promoting Weston’s causes when the UP Express was first proposed. Even though he wasn’t part of the government, he was a voice for Weston and York South-Weston as part of the Official Opposition. When floods struck the area in 2013, Sullivan organized events to support residents whose homes had been devastated. Mike has always been an approachable and friendly presence at local events and provided a welcome foil to the partisan activities of the other levels of government.

We wish Mike well as he packs his things and returns full-time to Weston. He will now be able to take a well earned rest and spend more time with his beloved grandchildren. We can only hope that our next MP will, as part of the new government make it his first priority to introduce himself to residents and be an effective and forceful representative of the people in his riding.

That is of course until the next wave comes along.

Vote – Canada depends on you.

Image: Wikipedia.
Image: Wikipedia.

Every four years or so voters get a chance to make their collective wishes known. It’s a privilege that the people of many other countries don’t share. Some citizens may think that their vote makes a difference but for example, in the United States and Cuba (to name but two), the choice is limited to a very narrow field and even a turnover of personnel often makes little difference to government policies and actions.

In York South-Weston we have two candidates from parties with a chance to unseat the current Conservative government – or the Harper Government as it likes to be known. Mike Sullivan is the NDP incumbent and Ahmed Hussen the Liberal challenger. Other parties are running but it is more than likely that one of these candidates will be elected.

Anyone with an impartial eye could probably see that over the past few years, the Conservatives have brought real change to the Canadian political process. It’s not just the nastier tone but a willingness to cheat and upset the democratic process far beyond anything that has happened in the past. Readers with the desire to read the gory details may read this long but excellent summation in The Guardian. Good luck staying calm after that article.

Along with the cheating goes a whole other raft of divisiveness and fear mongering but t’s the cheating that has allowed the Conservatives to be insensitive to voter reaction so it remains (in the minds of many) their most egregious behaviour.

There is, therefore only one possible action for citizens of this country and that is to get out and vote. You have a choice of two parties that, should they gain power, will not cheat you out of your future hard won votes. Whether the Liberals or New Democrats form a government after this election, we can be reasonably assured that politics will be conducted in a more equitable fashion. The same, unfortunately cannot be said if the Conservatives win.

It’s time for the citizens of York South-Weston (and indeed ridings all across this great country) to let the the Conservative Party, its members and even its volunteers know that cheating will not be tolerated by Canadians. The best way to do this is to deliver an overwhelming mandate to as many non-Conservative candidates as possible.

Get out and vote – it’s never been more important.

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.

Ahmed Hussen wins YSW Liberal nomination.

On Sunday, York South-Weston Federal Liberals held their long anticipated nomination meeting at Weston Collegiate Institute. Readers may remember that WestonWeb introduced three of the candidates earlier this year. The full slate was:

Mubarak Ahmed
Anthony Cesario
Ahmed Hussen
Masum Hossein
Monique Rudder
Bill Saundercook

WestonWeb arrived about half-an-hour into the voting which began at 2:00 and it was clear that this was no ordinary political event. Large numbers of people were packing the hallway, moving slowly towards the voting booths. Rumours were that Ahmed Hussen had signed up about 1800 new party members. Candidate speeches began in the dimly lit auditorium at 3:00 pm sharp but were unheard by those lining up to vote.

Voters line up in the halls.
Voters line up in the halls.

Of note, former Ontario Health Minister and (as he took pains to point out) Weston born George Smitherman was there in support of Ahmed Hussen.

Bill Saundercook.
Bill Saundercook relaxes in the hallway.

Supported by Marion O’Sullivan, Masum Hossein, of Weston’s BIA was also a candidate.

Mason Hossein waits to speak.
Masum Hossein waits to speak.

During the speeches, the long line of voters shuffled slowly and inexorably past and down the hall. Mercifully there was only one round of voting (ending at 5 pm) and voters ranked candidates in order of preference.

When WestonWeb left the meeting at 3:45, people were still arriving and the crush in the hallway seemed unchanged.

Results came via twitter before 7 pm.

Ahmed Hussen waits to deliver his speech.
Ahmed Hussen waits to deliver his speech.

As pointed out earlier in WestonWeb, the Big Red Wave is coming and clearly, local Liberals feel that York South-Weston can be wrested away from incumbent MP Mike Sullivan. While there is an urgency among progressive voters to end the Harper Government’s grip on power, it remains to be seen whether Ahmed Hussen can build support from a wide swath of the electorate. Mike Sullivan will also need to run a good campaign and convince voters he is worthy of a second term as MP.

I Can Too Research.

Last week, an anonymous commenter responded to an article on the coming Liberal revival with the following comment:

Roy may not know this — research doesn’t seem his strong suit — but there was a fourth candidate contesting the Liberal nomination: A young, gay, Aboriginal man who actually lives in YSW. He had a very vigorous campaign going and was signing up plenty of members. But he was instructed by Trudeau’s minions to drop out. So much for a new, inclusive Liberal party. No thanks . . .

The blatantly truthful bit about my research skills (we have thick skins here at WestonWeb) was overshadowed by the possibility that this commenter, while lacking the integrity to come forward with his or her real name and email address, may actually be on to something. OMG, an actual scoop. With this in mind, I put on my ace cub reporter’s hat and contacted Riding Association President Ryan Ward for a comment. He quickly referred me to Liberal Party spokesperson Kunal Parmar who again quickly responded that for confidentiality reasons he was unable to reveal why the candidate had withdrawn. He stated that, “Anything to do with this individual is up to them. He will not be commenting further.”

Repeated attempts to contact the candidate by phone and email failed – even though as of July 15, a website still proclaims his candidacy. Obviously if he feels aggrieved, he’s not saying so.

So there we have it – pretty much a non-story but I promised a follow-up and here it is.