VOTE2019: All-candidates meeting commentary

Recently, candidates from five Canadian federal parties met at the Pickering Public Library town hall meeting. Here is our summary of our observations and conclusions.

Cyma Musarat

Musarat parroted the party platform and policies repeatedly. She seemed unable to expand on issues beyond the very basics. For example, on a local issue, she favours the Pickering airport but other than saying it was a “gold mine” relative to jobs and the economy, she said no more.

She had no comment about Quebec’s Bill 21 though her party leader, Andrew Scheer has. He will support whatever the Court decides. Also, she refused to comment on the China-Hong Kong issue, a question submitted by one of the attendees.

Too often, Musarat answers reverted to the party line of “you will have more money in your pocket.”

NOTE: Musarat could not be reached. All attempts at contacting her failed: phone, email, campaign office messages. Even going to the campaign office 3 times at various times of the day failed as the office was closed each visit. As a potential MP, this does not bode well.

Not a very attractive candidate.


Peter Forint

Forint was finally reached via the Green Party’s central office. He got back to us and approved use of his photo and information.

Forint spoke clearly, precisely and succinctly throughout the meeting, responding to every issue, filling in information as best he could. His personal views seemed in line with those of the Party. A trained economist, his statements relating to economic matters were excellent, his responses relating to other issues made as a family man and a third-generation immigrant were also very good.

Forint seemed to reflect the characteristics and views of the average Pickering resident, caring about the issues that deal with family life and daily expenses. Additionally, he reflected the party’s position on the environment where something constructive and positive must be done by whoever forms the government. All his responses were expanded appropriately and where he could not expand, he said, “Send me to Ottawa and I will find out.”

A very attractive candidate deserving of serious attention


Jennifer O’Connell

O’Connell did her homework and knew her stuff. Her statements reflected the party’s and Trudeau’s stated positions and were clearly reiterated throughout her many responses.

O’Connell’s advantage over the other candidates is that she has shown herself to be a visible and successful MP, available to her constituents via her office here in Pickering. She has also shown herself to be an energetic and strong campaigner. As in every campaign she has knocked on our door where she spent notable time discussing the issues of the day and the concerns of a typical Pickering resident.

O’Connell seems to be very active in Ottawa serving on financial committees and being as visible as a new MP can hope to be. She has demonstrated a presence there which should please her constituents.

As a panel member at the all-candidates meeting, she clearly emphasized her position as the incumbent and as a Pickering resident. Her stand on local issues such as the airport, crime and immigration reflect the position of many Pickering residents. Additionally, when errors were made by other panel members, O’Connell corrected them with facts based on authoritative data.

O’Connell should get serious consideration for being returned to Ottawa: she has a proven track record, a solid reputation for being a positive and involved MP, and reflects the kind of values which are typical of most Pickering residents. O’Connell’s challenge is that her leader has currently developed an image where voters question his authenticity, his ethics and his values. Perhaps his sunny days are no more and based on how he dealt with Philpott and Raybould-Wilson, his support of women in office may be questioned.


Eileen Higdon

Higdon presented herself as being more polished and better prepared than in any of her past campaign attempts. She has campaigned for a variety of offices including mayor of Pickering. Her past campaign efforts were less than illustrious, occasionally coming across as strident and stretched. However, at this all-candidates meeting, the ‘old Higdon’ had been replaced by a much more serious and sophisticated candidate. Her replies, often in line with the national party, were well stated and easily appealing to many typical Pickering residents. She continually made her comments relative to her grandchildren and the world they would be inheriting. She was strongest on environmental concerns and well prepared in her responses to other issues, particularly immigration and the indigenous.

This was the best Higdon we have seen over a number of campaigns. She was polished, prepared, and had done her homework and it showed, though there were occasional lapses to days of old, thankfully very few and very brief.

From how she presented herself and her positions, Higdon showed herself as being a candidate worthy of serious consideration. Her difficulty is that she represents a third party which is struggling to maintain its national position.


Corneliu Chisu

Corneliu Chisu is a veteran of past elections, having been successful as a Conservative Party candidate, eventually defeated by O’Connell. He is a retired engineer who immigrated to Canada from central Europe.

Chisu reflected his party’s policies well throughout the meeting, even when vocally opposed by the audience. His position on climate change and global warming was met with outright opposition but he continued along the party’s line which questions global warming as it is often addressed today.

Chisu’s pragmatic and down-to-earth positions reflected his engineering background and likely his central European background. He was strong on gun control, better law enforcement and more egalitarian democracy. Those positions are the kind that conservative residents of Pickering support and which might make Chisu appealing.

For the PPC party to win many votes in Pickering-Uxbridge will be a very big challenge as it will nationally. At the all candidates meeting, the audience showed its opposition to Chisu’s position on the separation of church and state as many view Quebec’s Bill 21 as an infringement of human rights. However, though Chisu may have found Quebec’s position as ‘language police’ questionable, he clearly supported Quebec’s right to invoke the ‘notwithstanding’ clause of the Canadian constitution.

Support for Chisu may be questionable for a variety of reasons: his positions are often ‘hard line,’ some people view the party leader as being an extremist or autocratic with environmental views that differ significantly from the majority of the population. However, the PPC has moved beyond being a fringe party, fielding 315 candidates in over 90% of the ridings across the country.

Of the five candidates on the panel, the strongest, clearest and best policy-presenters were O’Connell and Forint. Both showed extensive preparation for the meeting or they had learned much from previous all-candidates’ meetings.

Forint and the Green Party are very appealing because of environmental policies. Green leader, May, is a seasoned veteran whose eloquence and presence have made her party much more appealing than ever before. The Greens could displace the NDP in parliament which would be a tremendous setback for the party that had such great success under Jack Layton. This setback will likely come in Quebec where NDP candidates are seriously threatened by the Bloc Quebecois.

As much as she has positive and deserved personal appeal and attraction, O’Connell faces the challenge of her leader losing his appeal across Canada. Trudeau’s values on race, gender, environment and ethics are being questioned by many Canadians. It is inevitable that this will impact on O’Connell, presenting Canadians with the Canadian political system conundrum, vote for the candidate, elect the leader by default. This could prove to be a voting challenge for O’Connell.

Forint, has a challenge also. He is an attractive candidate but representing a party of questionable strength. The Greens have never been a formidable force in Canadian politics. They are making in-roads now, in BC and elsewhere, with candidates like Forint. Perhaps May will make a significant difference this election. Locally, Forint should.

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On another note, the Pickering Public Library, deserves high praise for organization of this all-candidates meeting. Emcee, Jessica Trinier, moderated the panel excellently handling the occasionally restless crowd with much success. Acting CEO Kathy Williams and her staff deserve kudos for how well they managed the unexpected and ever-growing number of attendees.

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