It wasn’t a close one

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 gonna be a close one.

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.

Incidentally, other candidates in the running are Jasveen Rattan (Conservative), Nicki Ward (Green) and Gerard Racine (Peoples Party of Canada).

Find the 338canada Toronto predictions here.

Find the Elections Canada voter’s checklist here.

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.

 

Debate was tons of fun. I declare a winner!

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.

All candidates

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.

Ahmed Hussen and Yafet Tewelde

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.

Nicki Ward and Jasveen Rattan

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.

Gerard Racine

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.

 

Rentsafe results in Weston: pretty good, with notable exceptions

Last month, The Star reported that “Ward 5 (York South-Weston) was the ward with the highest number of complaints” to 311 for apartments.

Of course, that number means nothing at all—wards with more buildings will have more complaints. But it did get me thinking.

The city inspects every large apartment building for the quality of common areas, amenities, elevators, garbage handling, lighting, heating, parking, security, structural features, and cleanliness. They do warn the building owners in advance, but they publish the ‘RentSafeTO‘ information online as part of their open data initiative

How does Ward 5 fare? In a word, quite well. Our apartments are on par with the rest of the city. We got a 71.7% (50.2 out of 70), compared to 72% (50.4 out of 70) citywide.

So The Star had nothing to complain about. Weston rentals are just fine.

City-wide, Toronto Community Housing buildings also do quite well, which I found surprising, considering the chatter and the recent news about 5 Bellevue (more on that in a minute).

TCHC buildings do perform a little worse than average, but the difference is  small. They received 69.6%—again, compared to 72% for all buildings.

One standout, though, is 5 Bellevue, in Weston.  Bellevue received a score of 40 out of 70, or 57.1%.¹

From Google Maps

This is a quite bad score: according to my calculations,  5 Bellevue is in the bottom 2.5% of all buildings in Toronto. This is not a recent result that came about because of the terrible hot water problems, either. The inspection was in March. Something has been wrong at 5 Bellevue for a while.

The worst sub-scores were for the condition of interior walls and garbage chute rooms (2 out 5). No aspect of the building did very well, though, and the typical result was only 3 out of 5.

I’m not an urban planner or an architect, but this situation makes me worry. To start with, nobody in Canada should be living without hot water. It’s simply unacceptable.

But I also worry about a death spiral. People living in bad conditions may, quite naturally, feel they don’t want to invest time, money, or work into making the community builder. That effort could be better spent moving on. As a result, the conditions worsen, the community deteriorates, and people invest even less.

There’s no reason why Westonians should live in some of the worst housing in the city. There’s certainly no reason why the city should be letting them down.

I’m sure the fix is complicated, long-term, and expensive. All the more reason to start fixing it now.

 


¹ My scores are a little different from the city’s, because I cleaned up the data and excluded results (such as balcony railings) where many buildings had no score, presumably because they lacked the feature.

Please feel free to check my work.
 

5 Bellevue without hot water

The residents of 5 Bellevue have been without hot water for two weeks, according to CityNews. The building is owned by Toronto Community Housing and has had a history of water problems. In September, they had no water at all for a few days.

The boiler was scheduled to be fixed early this week.

Yafet Tewelde, who is campaigning to be our NDP MP, took to Twitter to complain—though he did so inaccurately, saying that it had been six months.

Frances Nunziata did not return my email.