Last night’s debate at the York Civic Centre was an exercise in civility as well as democracy. There’s a lot at stake in this election and all but one of the main party candidates showed up to answer questions from ordinary folks. Not all people present were regular voters. Many were party movers and shakers, aficionados and rabid hacks from all sides (you know who you are).
The ‘elephant’ not in the room was PC candidate Mark DeMontis. Whatever the reason, as Adam wrote yesterday, his absence was a loss to the debate. Mr. DeMontis allegedly spent the evening canvassing, tweeting profound thoughts while doing so. Here’s a sample:
Walking down #westonroad the heartbeat of #yorksouthweston and the #6ix tonight to meet and listen to the residence whose voices feel they have not been heard. I’m tired of talking about the past, I’m ready for a new vision for the future. This community raised me to take action
— Mark DeMontis (@MarkDeMontis) May 23, 2018
Organizers could have left an empty seat and name tag out for the missing candidate but didn’t, reflecting the professionalism and civility mentioned earlier. While candidates who miss debates are generally Conservative, Liberal MP Ahmed Hussen skipped out on the main YSW debate back in September 2015 and it didn’t seem to hurt him in spite of predictions to the contrary.
A consortium of groups came together to organize the debate including For Youth Initiative members GreenHills, Rockliffe Smythe and Mount Dennis community groups and the Weston Village and Stockyards residents’ associations.
Political debates can get nasty and raucous. This one was a positive love-fest thanks to superb organization with a team of volunteers performing a variety of tasks including ushering and gathering written audience questions. Questions were presented, usually by their authors. Candidates were able to deliver their answers without interruption. Moderator Sean Hertel outlined his expectations then kept things in line with effortless skill and injections of humour. Timekeeper Cherri Hurst kept candidates on the straight and narrow.
One thing pointed out during the debate was that all but one of the candidates present was an immigrant to Canada and how that reflected well on our country. Another thing that came across was the decency and sincerity of the candidates.
Faisal Hassan is the NDP hopeful in YSW and has been active in the party for a long time. He began his life in Canada in Winnipeg and more recently worked for former YSW MP, Mike Sullivan and for the NDP in Etobicoke North during the last federal general election. He has lived in Weston for 20 years and believes in the importance of helping members of the community. Over the last fifteen years, he thinks that life has become harder for people in YSW, referring to inadequate transit links, hallway medicine and expensive childcare. He believes that we need to make life more affordable for everyone. More on Mr Hassan here.
Libertarian Party of Ontario candidate Bonnie Hu is a grocery store worker who has run for the party here and in a Vancouver by-election in 2016. Her party is big on self-sufficiency, lower taxes and minimal government involvement and Bonnie’s answers were mainly consistent with that philosophy – although she does feel we should spend money on ESL teachers. She would like more services for immigrants, decriminalization of all drugs and is opposed to the $14 minimum wage and says it was too large a hike.
Grad Murray is the Green Party of Ontario’s nominee. Articulate and knowledgeable, Mr. Murray has a degree in political science and it shows. He wants to put the community first and believes everyone has a right to live in dignity and that would include comprehensive health care and transportation systems. Mr. Murray believes in the need for ‘fearless public transportation’ and says that investing in people is a helpful hand up, not a humiliating hand-out.
Laura Albanese for the Liberal Party of Ontario stressed the importance for voters to be informed. She reminded the audience that she has represented YSW for the last 10 years and believes that the most important job of a legislator is to bring real improvements to a community. As evidence, she pointed to investments in the West Park Health Care Centre, the UP Express and Eglinton Crosstown Line, training and support for young people, full day kindergaten in schools, modernizing classrooms. She would like to continue to do more like provide free childcare and tuition programs.
To watch the full debate go here.
Debate Winners in each category:
Passion – Faisal Hassan
Sincerity: Bonnie Hu
Effective Messaging: Grad Murray
Gentility: Laura Albanese
York South-Weston is indeed fortunate to have such great community involvement and the opportunity to view the slate of candidates in a calm and rational atmosphere. Kudos to all involved.