With the election heating up, local candidates are busy trying to prove theyre the best fit to represent constituents at Queens Park. But the races are tight and all kinds of factors could swing the outcomes. Today, we take a closer look at three compelling ridings, and what candidates are up against.
As he chats breezily with customers at a small Caribbean lunch counter, Faisal Hassan doesnt look like a guy in a fight for his political life.
Hey, how are you? Family doing well? says Hassan as a customer comes up to greet him while hes waiting in line for tea at Fahmee Bakery.
Another asks if Hassan can help a relative out, and hands him a business card.
Let me see what I can do, says Hassan.
But the relatively cheerful tone belies the fact Hassan could be facing the prospect of becoming a one-term MPP.
In a riding that was previously represented by a Liberal at Queens Park for all but a few months of its existence, Hassan is already swimming upstream as the NDP candidate in York SouthWeston. Throw in the fact that the Progressive Conservative candidate happens to be Mike Ford yes, Dougs nephew and being the incumbent suddenly doesnt seem like the automatic advantage it often can be.
Hassan insists hes not worried, and says Ford who represents a neighbouring district on Toronto city council isnt a serious threat.
If the PCs were going to win this riding, it would have been in 2018, says Hassan, referring to the previous election, when PC candidate Mark DeMontis finished a close second to Hassan, earning 32.95 per cent of the vote to Hassans 36.07. Incumbent Laura Albanese finished third, with 27.83 per cent, as voters swept Kathleen Wynnes Liberals out of office across the province. That was a wave. And waves come and go.
Besides, Hassan sniffs, Ford doesnt even live in the riding and he didnt resign his council seat to run.
Hows he going to represent our community? Whos looking after the people? Its all about somebodys career.
Ford, meanwhile, is careful to point out hes donating his council salary to charity during the provincial election campaign, and that his constituency office staff is still busily working away.
People can call the office, people can call some of the neighbouring councillors. They can call me, too, but I wont be able to get back to them as quickly as I usually do. Work is still getting done. People can still get help, says Ford.
As far as not living in the riding goes, Ford says its an area he knows well and not just because his council ward is right next door.
Its a community I know very well. Its a neighbourhood that Ive lived in and grew up here. Its a neighbourhood that I played hockey in, says Ford.
As for running in a riding that has never elected a PC candidate since it was first contested in 1999, Ford says he isnt trying to make a point. Its not, he says, like Justin Trudeau running for a House of Commons seat in the federal riding of Papineau, which had been a Bloc Qubcois stronghold.
It is not lost on me that this hasnt typically gone in the Conservatives direction, says Ford. I chose York SouthWeston because its a community I know well. I worked in the local councillors office for some time. I wouldnt put myself into a position where I would just go into a riding for the sake of going into a riding.
Ford, whose uncle Doug was swept into the premiers office on a PC wave four years ago and whose late uncle Rob was an often-controversial figure during his tenure as Torontos mayor isnt running away from his family name. Not that voters would let him, he says.
Lets put Doug and the PC party aside for a second. So many people come up to me and talk about Rob, and the work he did in our city and community connecting with people, says Ford. Rob is a big reason I got involved in politics and community service. He had a huge heart for this city.
But while acknowledging hes been inspired by his familys political history, Ford insists hes got his own way of doing things.
There are always preconceptions, theres no doubt about it. But I have a proven track record of getting the job done. Thats what Ive done at city hall for the last six years work with members of council of all stripes, says Ford, a claim backed up even by some of his most ardent opponents.
Joe Cressy, one of Toronto city councils most reliably left-wing votes, made fast friends with Mike Ford after Ford was elected to council in 2016, in his uncle Robs old ward.
I think I was elected at 30, and he was elected in his early 20s. We were the two youngest councillors. He used to jokingly refer to me as Old Man Cressy. We were the two kids on council, says Cressy, who recently resigned from council and is moving into a role with George Brown College.
Cressy and Ford would frequently tangle during council debates, but it never became bitter or personal, Cressy says.
Hes a conservative, proudly so, but hes also a very collaborative individual. And so Mike and I, we would debate against each other on the floor of council very strongly, and then wed go out for a beer afterwards together, says Cressy. Hes always been somebody whos been very clear in his politics, but very much a collaborative guy, and a decent, decent person.
But even if he offers a less combative style than his uncle Doug, Mike Ford still backs PC policies which havent been good for York SouthWeston, a riding that was hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, argue Hassan and Liberal candidate Nadia Guerrera, a veteran teacher with the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
It took us seven months to get a COVID-19 testing centre. And vaccines? They were going to other communities, says Hassan of the riding in the citys northwest corner, which early in the pandemic suffered some of the highest infection rates in the Greater Toronto Area.
That record during the pandemic will hurt Mike Fords chances on election day, says Guerrera, adding that many front-line workers at warehouses and manufacturers, as well as educators, live in the riding.
Theres a very strong anti-Ford sentiment in this riding, says Guerrera, who insists shes no long-shot, even though shes running against a big-name PC candidate and an NDP incumbent. In 2018, Guerrera finished a distant third for the Liberals in ParkdaleHigh Park, where Bhutila Karpoche cruised to victory for the NDP.
I dont think Im the underdog. The NDP incumbent hasnt delivered. Its a two-way race. And we are the progressive option.
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