Wednesday night’s debate was extremely well attended. The hall at Weston Park Baptist Church was full, and the audience was very engaged. Faisal Hassan (NDP), Tom Hipsz (New Blue), Nadia Guerrera (Liberal), and James Fields (Independent) attended.
The questions covered social supports, the environment, flooding, the Eglinton Crosstown, and housing, among other things. In general, the responses were unsurprising: both the Liberal and NDP candidates promised much and differed only in details, such as what the minimum wage would be and how rent control would work. Their promises were expensive, too: I’m not sure either of the leading candidates said they wouldn’t fund a program, whether it was tunnelling under the Eglinton Flats or a universal basic income.
I do wish someone had asked about debts, deficits, and how the candidates planned to pay for their promises. I also wish Michael Ford had attended—but he did not. Perhaps he would have had a more fiscally-conservative plan.
I was also hoping there would be a decisive moment or a victor, but Nadia Guerrera and Faisal Hassan sparred only infrequently and there was no mortal blow that settled the contest. In fact, the candidates were almost always very generous with one another. At one point, Guerrera even applauded Hipsz, her very conservative competitor, while Hassan was nodding in agreement.
Guerrera did fire on the NDP at a few points, saying that Hassan and his party have not been an effective opposition. In her concluding remarks, she said “This is our moment to decide what matters, to be visionary and aspirational… The NDP did not hold [the Ford] government to account and will not prevent them from forming another Conservative majority”. It was, perhaps, the most stirring moment of the night, but also, perhaps, a concession that the Liberals are trailing in the race and will not form the government.
Hassan criticized the record of past Liberal governments, especially regarding our riding. He said “we have seen the promises they made with respect to electrification and the UP Express” and “the record of the Liberals and the Conservatives when it comes to the environment is horrible”. In his closing comments he said “we cannot count on Michael Ford to stand up to his uncle, or on Steven Del Duca to fix the mess they made—or even to win his seat.”
Both Hassan and Guerrera were extremely well prepared, with an excellent command of the issues and their parties’ platforms.
Tom Hipsz and James Fields were, I think it’s safe to say, a little less polished. (I don’t blame them. I’m a pretty big YSW nerd, and I was lost much of the time.) Both of them were exceedingly good sports. Hipsz often tilted at green-power “windmills”, and COVID mandates (he was maskless the whole night). He also admitted when he didn’t know the answer to a question, which I thought was refreshing. Fields was harder to pin down: he seems to have an eclectic platform—but as he said, as an independent, he can steal the best ideas.
While Michael Ford is the highest-profile candidate to skip last night’s debate, he wasn’t the only one. Ignacio Mongrell, who is running for the Green Party, did not attend. Neither did Ana Gabriela Ortiz, of the Ontario Party. Neither seems to be campaigning very much, if at all.
The debate was organized by the Weston Village Residents’ Association, the Rockcliffe–Smythe Community Association, and the Mount Dennis Community Association, who did, as always, a super job.