Big Guns Come to Support Candidates in Etobicoke. Election Update.

Etobicoke, one of the areas with the biggest presence of Ukrainian-Canadians in the country, is becoming a major hotspot of the 2015 federal election. In the past couple of weeks, some big names from Conservative and Liberal parties have rallied through Etobicoke to provide support for their candidates.

According to the Toronto Star (“Bill Blair, Joe Oliver among candidates in tight races, polls show” by Donovan Vincent, September 24, 2015), a public opinion poll by Forum Research on the race in Etobicoke Centre showed that Conservative Ted Opitz is in a very tight race with Liberal candidate Borys Wrzesnewskyj (42% and 43% support respectively).

On Friday, September 24, former Prime Minister Paul Martin attended a rally in Borys Wrzesnewskyj’s campaign office. The rally started with Borys Wrzesnewskyj’s speech in which he stressed such points of his campaign which, he believes, describe Canada’s problems: poverty, particularly in families with children; infrastructure and transit problems in cities; growing social divisions and democratic deficit; lack of infrastructure and squalor in First Nations communities; environmental problems caused by extractive industries; the current government’s plan to spend $44 billion on F-35 attack planes which should instead be spent on infrastructure and social programmes, etc.

Mr. Wrzesnewskyj particularly criticized Mr. Harper’s government for “tearing up” such Paul Martin government’s projects as the Kelowna Accord with First Nations and the New Deal for Cities and Communities which was designed to improve infrastructure nationwide.

In his speech, The Right Honourable Paul Martin praised Borys Wrzesnewskyj for his addressing the issues of poverty and First Nations problems which, Mr. Martin believes, do not get enough coverage from the current government. Paul Martin named Borys Wrzesnewskyj’s speech “one of the great political speeches” that “came from the heart” and said that “if everybody in Etobicoke could hear that speech, this election would be won in a landslide”. The rally ended with Paul Martin’s signing an old poster from one of Borys Wrzesnewskyj’s previous campaigns when the current candidate was on “Team Martin”.

In another Etobicoke riding, Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Liberal James Maloney is leading with 41%, according to Forum Research. Conservative Bernard Trottier is in second place with 33%. On September 17, Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of National Defence and Minister for Multiculturalism, visited Bernard Trottier’s campaign office in a clear bid to boost the candidate’s position. During his speech, Jason Kenney made an announcement related to Liberal Party’s campaign spending promises and the economy. He said that Justin Trudeau would repeal the Federal Balanced Budget Act to plunge Canada into permanent $30-plus billion deficits “rather than run three $10 billion deficits”. Jason Kenney also criticized the Liberals Party’s plans “to slash TFSA contributions” and called Paul Martin’s Kelowna Accord “discredited”. Mr. Kenney promised that “Conservatives will continue to lower taxes for families, all while preserving programs Canadians count on and balancing the budget.”

Over the span of next several days, Jason Kenney made several announcements related to Ukraine. In particular, he promised that a re-elected Conservative government would establish a Digital Freedom Fund to support international groups and independent media to counter Russian propaganda in Ukraine, establish a Financial Task Force to track Russian capital flows in global markets, negotiate a Defence Cooperation Agreement with Ukraine, and open a new Export Development Canada Office in Ukraine.

Bernard Trottier’s Liberal rival, James Maloney, announced on September 25 that a Liberal government would “reform our immigration system to prioritize family reunification and create growth for the middle-class.” The Liberal Party’s in its New Plan for Canadian Immigration and Economic Opportunity says that it would double the number of new applications allowed each year, for parents and grandparents, from 5,000 to 10,000. The Party also promises to “repeal the unfair elements of Bill C-24 (the amendments to the Citizenship Act) that create second-class citizens and the elements that make it more difficult for hard-working immigrants to become Canadian citizens.”

The Conservative Party on September 28 issued a press-release with Justin Trudeau’s soundtrack related to Bill C-24. On the recording, made in Winnipeg Town Hall on July 4, 2015, Justin Trudeau said: “C-24, it’s the bill that for me exemplifies the Conservative’s approach to politics. Because what they get to say, with the Liberal Party’s staunch opposition to C-24 – because we absolutely and thoroughly oppose it – is that, and I’ll give you the quote, so you guys can jot it down and put it in an attack ad somewhere: ‘the Liberal Party believes that terrorists should get to keep their Canadian citizenship.’ Because I do. And I’m willing to take on anyone who disagrees with that. Because the question is, as soon as you make citizenship for some Canadians conditional on good behaviour, you devalue citizenship for everyone. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian…That principle that says that the government could decide that what you did means you no longer get to be Canadian is a very, very scary one. And, by the way, there are penalties for anyone convicted of terrorism or an act of war offence against Canada. They end up locked up in jail for the rest of their lives. And what we might give them instead? A plane ticket to Syria? It just doesn’t quite fit that idea of cracking down on terrorism.”

The Conservative Party’s release said: “Conservatives believe that if you violently renounce your citizenship through an act of terrorism or treason or you declare war on Canada, you have made it clear you no longer want your Canadian citizenship. The Liberals firmly believe that terrorists should keep their Canadian citizenship.” The Conservatives also referred to the NRG Research Group’s poll which said that 67% of those born in Canada strongly agreed that “Canadian citizens who are found guilty of committing acts of terrorism against Canadians should be stripped on their citizenship”, while 15% somewhat agreed. According to the poll, among the respondents which were not born in Canada, 70% strongly agreed with the statement and 13% somewhat agreed.

Conservative candidate Ted Opitz of Etobicoke Centre riding issued a press-release on September 23 saying that he “shares Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s deep concern about new liberal payroll taxes”. According to Mr. Opitz’s release, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce quoted Justin Trudeau’s statement made in Ottawa on May 27, 2015, that “We’re looking at … a mandatory expansion of the CPP, of the type that Kathleen Wynne put forward in Ontario.” Mr. Opitz’s release goes on “I share the concerns of so many job creators and employees in RIDING about this risky Liberal plan to hike taxes…For someone earning $60,000 per year, Justin’s tax-hike would cut their take-home pay by more than $1,000 per year… What’s more, employers would also have to pay these increased taxes.” According to CBC News, during an Appreciation Day at the Royal York Plaza on September 26, Mr. Opitz promised that the Conservatives would drop the small business tax rate.

In turn, the Liberal Party’s plan related to the middle class includes measures to “put more money in the pockets of the families who need it most, provide high-quality, affordable, accessible, inclusive child care, and offer greater flexibility for working parents.” In particular, the Liberals plan to “create one bigger, fair, tax-free, automatic monthly child benefit”, and create “a new National Early Learning and Child Care Framework”.

As an update to the September 24 story about the tight race between Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Ted Opitz in Etobicoke Centre, CBC News on September 27 said that NDP candidate Tanya De Mello is trying to convince voters it’s not just a two-way race. “At a rally on Saturday, she won the endorsement of former United Nations ambassador Stephen Lewis, who is considered one of the NDP’s best-known figures.”
Phil Trotter’s (Etobicoke Lakeshore) campaign has informed, with the reference to the Toronto Star article, that the NDP has tabled its plan to address climate change. At a rally in Toronto to announce the party’s plan to create a national cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the NDP leader Thomas Mulcair promised that an NDP government would ensure that Canada becomes “the global leader in the fight against climate change.”