Friday, October 9, 2015

Voting in Toronto: Chrystia Freeland vs Jennifer Hollet

#cdnpoli #elxn42 Advance voting for the October 19, 2015 Federal election is starting today, continuing throughout the Thanksgiving long weekend, and with that in mind, we'll be taking a brief look at our candidates and the issues of this election.

WolfondCentreAdvancePollingStationI have already voted. The advance polling station was conveniently served by a BikeShareToronto station and had free Wi-Fi, which is awesome. Even though I was there within 1h of opening, at around 12:30pm on the first day (Thanksgiving Friday), I waited through about 8 people who were ahead of me. The wait time was about 15 minutes. The Wolfond Centre had a secure door that had to be opened from the inside. The people manning the polling station were nice and efficient and even apologized for me having to wait, even though this was obviously not their fault. Though the Elections Canada website could not verify me, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself on the list. I verified myself in person with my citizenship card and several recent letters (bank statements) showing my address, then voted on a piece of paper (no machine); next to me, a student with papers from UVic.

I started with Elections Canada website and I suggest you do the same. Checking if my name was on the voters list was inconclusive when I first tried, about a month ago, so I registered online right away.

generalities

Before looking at the candidates, let us take a quick look at the political parties. The incumbent PM, the Conservative Party’s Stephen Harper, is universally despised by a majority of Canadians, whose vote is split between the Liberal Party and the NDP. Harper has a very loyal following in suburbia and farming communities as well as among predominantly Asian new immigration, who find themselves in his talk of family values, increased security and Islamophobia. The niqab “debate” which he shamelessly elevated to national prominence from Quebec’s rural armpit, is remarkably similar to the minarets affair in Switzerland, in that is similarly irrelevant (only 2 Muslim women have refused to remove their niqab during the citizenship ceremony in Canada, just like in Switzerland there were only 4 minarets). Still, that subject was enough to push out NDP out of electoral preferences and play on people’s fears, re-energizing the Conservative base. Incidentally, this is also what Trump has been doing in the USA.

If you have the courage to vote for an unproven party, the Greens have all the good parts from the Liberals and the NDP platform and take it further – they truly respond to most of my and my friends’ ideas (see below the digital report card), but unfortunately have little chance of getting elected.

If you don’t find yourself in the Conservative desperate clusterfunk of security theatre, fears and hate, you may choose between Liberals and NDP. The Liberals have a bold plan to run deficits in order to combat weak growth and austerity policies through spending on infrastructure, but they have dithered on their commitment to restore civil liberties from Harper’s onslaught. NDP is more principled in terms of laws and personal freedoms, but Mulcair has moved them sharply to the right in terms of economic policies. They are sticking to a balanced budget and corporate taxes which also make some sense in the current climate.

Where the Conservatives lack in empathy or logic they make up in fanaticism, with one of the most dedicated and stubborn voter bases. Most Conservative voters do not have a second choice, which cannot be said about the other parties’ supporters. Here’s an Ekos Poll Sept 2-8; the NDP/Liberal numbers might fluctuate, but Conservatives will likely stay the same:

EkosNationalPollSept2-8

In terms of digital policies, the Greens are best, followed closely by NDP, the Liberals at distance, clustered with the Conservatives.

DigitalGradingCanadaPoliticalParties

VoteTogether (v2g) has a pretty good summary of each party on Voting reform (end FPTP, replace with MMPR for NDP and commission for Liberals and Greens), Strong Democracy (Greens and NDP want C-51 repealed while Liberals would amend it), Fair Economy (NDP+Green would increase corporate tax rate, they’d all decrease for small business, Liberals would increase taxes on the 200K+, Greens would eliminate on $20k/year while Liberals would reduce on middle class, NDP – pharmacare, Greens: Guaranteed Liveable Income + abolish tuition fees), Clean Environment (as expected, Greens are best here, but NDP stands out with $1.3 billion/yr in public transit and cap-and-trade, Liberals would invest $6 billion / yr x 4 in green infrastructure and $20 billion over 10 years), Indigenous Rights (Liberals: $2.6 billion in education over 6 years; NDP: $1.8 billion over 4 years and $4.8 billion over 8 years; Greens: create Council & recognize land rights) and Migrant and Refugee Rights (Liberals: repeal parts of C-24, 25000 Syrian refugees; NDP: 46000 Syrian refugees, repeal parts of C-24; Greens: repeal C-24).

Most polls today indicate a Liberal lead: Nanos, L├ęger, EKOS, Mainstreet. All but Mainstreet show the Liberals ahead, and even that poll has the gap at one point after putting it at seven. (308)

specifics

The same Elections Canada website, after searching for my postal code, showed me all the candidates in my riding. Obviously, other ridings will have different candidates.

This complete list of confirmed candidates was issued on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 for University--Rosedale 35-110 (map, Wikipedia)

There are a few more registered parties, such as the Pirate Party, Rhinoceros, Marijuana Party, Christian Heritage, but they fielded no candidates in my riding, so I will not worry about them.

The expenses limit for this riding was set at $206,261.82. See more on  Political Financing documents at Elections Canada as well as the FAQ and ID requirement list.

The revamped riding of University-Rosedale combines parts of Trinity-Spadina and Toronto Centre, and includes neighbourhoods such as the Annex, Little Italy, Yorkville and most of Chinatown. A riding that includes both university students and some of Canada’s wealthiest families, the average income is $71,617, third in the country—but the median income is 124th highest, at $31,854 (according to the 2011 National Household Survey).

Back on September 30, a Forum Research telephone survey of 604 Toronto voters found that just fewer than four in 10 will vote for either NDP candidate Jennifer Hollett (39%) or Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland (38%). “This riding looked like an easy move for the NDP a month ago when they were riding high in the polls, but now that they may be slipping across the country, we are seeing the effect locally as well,” Dr. Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, said in a release. Support for Hollett was strongest among young and middle-aged voters (18-34: 38 per cent, 35-44: 46 per cent, and 45-54: 42 per cent) and men (38 per cent). Freeland enjoyed support among voters 55 to 64 years old, and over 65 (43 per cent and 48 per cent, respectively) and with female respondents (41 per cent). Support for Conservative candidate Karim Jivraj stands at 20 per cent, with Green candidate Nick Wright at three per cent.

At the time of this writing, commentators see the outcome too close to call (TCTC), with early polls predicting a NDP win, but with a downward trend for NDP (epo-35110). The same website has a tally of 40 CP, 17 NDP, 35 Liberal and 29 TCTC (out of 121 total).

debate

In terms of platform and who is the best candidate, Rogers TV hosted debates among the candidates for most ridings, inviting them all. As far as I can tell, the Conservative candidates generally do not bother showing up where they have little chance and the same goes for the Animal Rights people. For my riding, the debate can be watched on YouTube or, if you have Rogers Cable, on their channel (10 if I’m not mistaken; rtv-locamp).

I watched and summarized this debate as follows.

1. childcare 65000 licensed childcare – what will you do about the shortage?

  • hollett – $15/day childcare – libs promised 4x 123000 2016-7 | tommy douglas they said the same thing, it takes time
  • freeland – child benefit by cutting income splitting – 315000 kids out of poverty right away not 3-4 ys from now – no money in ndp budget; $6400/year for parents immediately – ndp dissolves 40% from provinces mulcair said 8-9years/hollet “M did not say that”
  • wright – unrealistic budget; liberals didn’t; green party within our budget – guaranteed livable income
  • waslowsi – distortionary green better; poverty traps people below a certain level 4 libs; ndp – regressive without progressive tax | freeland retorts – no poverty trap for children
  • rutchinski – (ml) – tangential, austerity agenda
  • garvie – childcare – universal, public, free – must be a public system, would increase jobs among women, gender equality
  • berlin – maternity leave should be extended, grey economy monetized, pay stay-at-home mothers

2. municipal infrastructure deficit; traffic, overtaxed utilities

  • freeland – the heart of our agenda; historic infrastructure investment / $60billion/10yrs – 420million next yr ndp / 10 billion libs, ndp harper’s balanced budge
  • wright – 6.5/billion /yr, 1% of GST; 132 bill infrastructure
  • freeland - challenge the premise of the Q- local infrastructure isn’t a federal issues| ndp had a choice went for austerity + balanced; kevin page, former parliament budget officer praised ours, swiss cheese ndp, i’m chair of economic group| only 3 billion in cuts
  • rutchinski – ttc least supported in north america, yet when striking how many billion of dollars at stake | p3 partnerships are fleecing us | enforce the time limits
  • garvie – give cities wealth taxing power 50% of gas tax to cities, reverse downloading under mike harris | rehashing P3, enhancing public sector, create union jobs
  • hollett – almost skipped | 12.9billion in infrastructure | 3 counselors knocking on doors with me; 5.9 billion liberal cuts + history of cuts; freeland given a far longer time to respond; grows over time, long term, stable while libs after 3 yrs starts to peel out; hollett: r u honest about cuts and history of cuts under martin | andrew quinn in national post it doesn’t add up
  • waslowsi: how many priorities? we: trade, immigration, property of 1st nations + life, liberty, property

3. most pressing issue in your riding

  • wright – dupont rail line, volatile chemicals shipped right next to houses; end shipping, stabilize, redivert rail,
  • waslowsi – challenge the nature of the question – competition between ridings; important issues at federal level: foreign peace
  • rutchinski – curb monopolies, end austerity, antiwar, i work at u of t, highest conc of healthcare expertise; policies support monopolies | rebut democratic renewal (freeland laughs)
  • garvie – moved from guelph, social housing, abolish student loans
  • berlin – lived for 30 yrs, ran for ndp 2000, editor of walrus; riding assoc to expand its base to bring ppl together (what we relied on churches to do), open doors to refugees at neighb level
  • hollett – hard to pick – ppl feeling squeezed out, affordable housing cut by martin, childcare, pharmacare, opportunities for young ppl, cracking down on unpaid internships
  • freeland – great riding, working adam vaughan – one quick issue, join

4. student debt, youth unemployment – what can gov do to create jobs

  • waslowsi – what can governments stop doing; economy (free market) takes scarce resources and allocates them efficiently | 0 economic growth of greens \ blanket elimination of tariffs and free movement of people: no FT agreements, but engage in FT | housing costs are too high b/c of 0% interest rates, phase out gov control of the money supply
  • rutchinski – our economy’s been wrecked; that’s the key | break monopolies, take back economy
  • garvie – free trades, part of larger narrative, up protections, companies should be fined, cannot just pick up and leave | weakening of unionized labor expand workers’ rights | ndp not against tar sands, but against a majority of tar sands; jobs through environment – tar sands employ less people than green jobs
  • berlin – recent study from gallup most ppl disengaged from their jobs; we’re moving into a different kind of economy; robots will take jobs, we need to start planning ahead
  • hollett – we can’t just rely on commodities. we need a diverse economy. rise of precarious work. strengthen ei for p/t. andrew cash | connecting economy to the environment | opposed to all pipelines we take it case by case, env assessments
  • freeland – astrophysics; fast food. won’t be cut off | youth employment urgently, lost generation 1.3billion over 3 years, 40000 summer jobs, suspending EI payments for 1st yr for employments
  • wright – neverending growth to green economy; expanding  public tuition incl skilled trades; freeze taxes for sme; green venture fund; no tpp secrecy | tar sands; [jobs here!] no to pipelines, ndp: line 9 N of Toronto, libs support keystone xl

For me, this debate was really between Hollett (NDP), Freeland (Liberal) and Wright (Green) as they are the only candidates I have really considered. In terms of style, Berlin was quite open about his low expectations, Rutchinski was often completely tangential on the subject in most of his answers but managed to mention that he works for U of T, the younger Garvie was in the same ballpark but made a more compelling effort to be relevant, despite living in Guelph, while Waslowsi would repeatedly challenge the premise of the questions addressed to him, emphasizing his trifecta: Life, Liberty, Property, even at the expense of coming across as completely disconnected from the electorate – he was there only for a fun debate and probably never knocked on any door. Wright was great on substance, and that includes his incredibly thick eyebrows (but seriously, Green policies correspond best to my views), but lacked in delivery and style; more precisely, his speaking style seemed almost demagogical. I colored him a misanthrope even before I had learned about his animal rights advocacy. Hollett maintained a positive, likeable tone even while she was cut short by the moderator, who seemed to favor Freeland, while Freeland went overtime and was cut off-guard when the moderator started to enforce time limits even for her.

For an intermezzo, watch this video on Hollett produced by Rudder.

The National Post has recently covered a Munk Debate on foreign policy without picking a winner (np-munk).

The front-runners, both award-winning journalists, were quick to tout their global credentials. Freeland, once a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and a fluent Russian speaker, is proud to be on Vladmir Putin’s list of 13 Canadian MPs and officials banned from Russia. She spoke of foreign diplomats who sought her out in Ottawa and conversations with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. He asked her about bringing Ukrainian-Canadian judges to the country to help cut down on judicial corruption.

Hollett, perhaps best-known for her stint as a MuchMusic VJ, studied public administration at Harvard and was tear-gassed in the West Bank alongside the Shministim, a group of Israelis who object to their country’s military policies. She has reported on women’s rights in Afghanistan and on Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, in addition to training journalists in Sierra Leone.

Regardless of their place-dropping, the most shots were fired not between the two leading candidates, but between each of them and Conservative candidate Karim Jivraj, a Sorbonne-educated lawyer who has 12 per cent of the decided vote.

What 28-year-old Jivraj lacked in experience, he made up for with dramatic flourish, a skill likely honed during his days as a high school debating champion, and by showing off his French to the English-speaking crowd. After likening the NDP to Orange Crush soda (“It’s fizzy for the first ten minutes and then it falls flat.”), weighing in on Trudeau (He “cannot stand up to Putin.”) and detailing the barbarities of ISIL, Jivraj concluded that none of the other leading parties have a “serious adult foreign policy agenda.”

Though he painted the Conservatives as Canada’s most courageous human rights defenders, it was Freeland and Hollett who drew the most applause from the crowd. Some of the loudest cheers came when Freeland likened the Conservatives’ policy on the niqab to opening Pandora’s box and expressed her optimism that the next prime minister representing Canada at a climate summit would not be Stephen Harper.

Hollett garnered loud claps when speaking on NDP support for the two-state solution in Israel and Palestine. “It’s about security for Israel, but it’s about justice for Palestine.” She also emphasized the NDP’s position on increasing foreign aid.

Both Freeland and Hollett reiterated party positions on Syria, refugees, the Islamic State and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in addition to calling for Canada to take on a larger role in multilateral institutions. In stark contrast to Jivraj, their tone was hopeful.

“An ambitious, optimistic Canada can be one of the key voices at the table,” said Freeland in her concluding remarks.

“We are not a country driven by fear,” emphasized Hollett.

And there’s more media coverage:

  • Toronto Life has also a quick “personality” interview of the two main candidates (tl-head2head)
  • Maclean’s has an overview of the Freeland – McQuaig competition (ml-chw)
  • Ricochet profiles the fight with a claim that the Liberals will speculate Hollett’s lack of children (ri-battle), landing that campaign in a bit of hot water (oc-gg)
  • MetroNews covered them on September 27, 28: mn-discuss, mn-issues
  • iPolitics focuses on Hollett (ip-hollett)
  • Hollett is on TEDx, HH, Wikipedia, HuffPo, YouTube, nsb, Varsity, Broadbent, Facebook and her campaign launch was somewhat unexpected (tgm-hollett)
  • Freeland is on TED, Atlantic, Wikipedia, OpenParliament, HuffPo, Reuters, YouTube, Facebook and many (cbc-crash) covered her crashing of a men’s club speech

Although the Greens better represent my aspirations, I did not like Mr Nicholas dePencier’s style and preferred Hollett’s. However, I’ll be keeping an eye on the Greens, I was definitely impressed with their platform.

Sources / More info: epo-35110, rtv-locamp, pg-2056, v2g, 308, np-munk, rabble-fed, varsity-polact, tl-head2head, ml-chw, ri-battle, mn-discuss, mn-issues, oc-gg, ip-hollett, cbc-crash, tgm-hollett

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