By Mike Anderson
Walter Alvarez-Bardales, the Liberal candidate in York-Simcoe, says his signs have been repeatedly vandalized during the 28-day campaign.
“It was not just one isolated incident; it’s been happening again and again, where some signs had to be put back up three times,” said Alvarez-Bardales, a former civil servant who’s running for the first time in the riding.
“It’s a little bit disheartening, but I don’t think it’s representative of the good people of York-Simcoe.”
“When someone destroys my signs, it’s really not against me. It’s against democracy and the civil discussion of ideas.”
Alvarez-Bardales also says he and his campaign manager, Joyce Judge, were verbally abused when putting up signs in East Gwillimbury a few weeks ago.
“Three males in a vehicle pulled up and yelled profanities at us. It was not racial, but it was pure hatred against the Liberals,” he said.
“I don’t care about me, but I felt bad for my campaign manager because she doesn’t deserve that.”
Despite the apparent animosity towards the Liberals, Alvarez-Bardales is not shying away from knocking on doors and presenting his party’s platform to voters, including relief for daily commuters by offering GO riders $1 fares and not completely ruling out the Bradford Bypass.
“It’s not discouraging me from politics,” he said.
“It’s one of the reasons I’m running. I want us to go back to the table of brotherhood and sisterhood. I want the Liberals and Conservatives to put their flags aside and work together toward a greater good. I believe that people are aching to return to that civility.”
While Alvarez-Bardales says he’s running to win, he acknowledges it’s an uphill battle in a riding that’s been Tory blue since 2007.
But he’s hopeful that he can better the Liberal’s third-place finish, 6,186 votes (13.5% of the total vote) in the last election, which saw support for the Ontario Liberals, under the leadership of Kathleen Wynne, collapse, with the party winning just seven seats provincially.
“We are already way ahead of where we were in 2018,” he said.
“I’m not part of that 2018 team. I just joined politics recently. I’m looking towards the future, and the numbers, through canvassing, are increasing day by day. We’re definitely back.”
Despite an early summer heatwave, which saw temperatures hit plus 30 C on Tuesday, the other York-Simcoe candidates, like Brent Fellman, who’s running for the New Blue Party of Ontario, were also busy knocking on doors in a last-ditch effort to get the vote out for June 2.
Fellman and his team, including his wife and two sons, were canvasing in Keswick, near WJ Watson P.S., trying to convince conservative-minded voters to abandon the PC party and vote for New Blue.
It was a hard sell at times, especially if the home sported a Mulroney sign out front.
Still, Fellman seemed undeterred, with several residents receptive to his pitch, which includes ending vaccine mandates and lockdowns, providing tax relief – a 3 per cent cut to the HST, axing the carbon tax, and boosting health care by hiring more workers and rehiring those who lost their jobs because they refused to get vaccinated.
“We’re definitely hearing the cost of living is becoming unaffordable,” he said. “We would push Trudeau to get rid of the carbon tax. And, with gas prices so high, we would lower the provincial gas tax until prices come down.”
“Health care is also a big issue; many people are concerned about the level of service. We want to increase staffing in hospitals and LTC homes.”
Front-runner Caroline Mulroney, the PC incumbent, who has avoided all-candidates events and media interviews during the campaign, including one with Barrie CTV on Tuesday, was also hitting the pavement in Bradford Tuesday night.
She’s pushing the PC platform, “Let’s Get It Done,” which promises to cut the gas tax, build more highways and infrastructure, like the Bradford Bypass, construct more homes and make more significant investments in health care.
Mulroney won York-Simcoe comfortably in 2018, with 26,050 votes (57%).
While one political prognosticator, 338Canada.com, predicts Mulroney will retake the riding with 51 per cent of the vote, that percentage could drop if the conservative alternatives, like the New Blue Party and Ontario Party, gain traction and Liberal support in the riding returns.
The Ontario Party, whose candidate is Alana Hollander, advocates balanced budgets and immigration controls and opposes reforms to sex-ed and all COVID-19 mandates.
While the Ontario NDP won 10,655 votes in 2018 (23.4%), good for second place, that result was partly due to Dave Szollosy, a former local councillor in Georgina, running for the party.
This time around, the NDP candidate is Spencer Yang Ki, a former activist and fundraiser, who lives in Toronto and hasn’t been able to canvas due to a family illness.
Ki is hoping the NDP’s qualified opposition to the Bradford Bypass – it wants an new EA completed – will solidify support for his party. But he also says its pledge to promote sustainable growth vs. urban sprawl, and plan to end for-profit long-term care should resonate with voters in the riding.
“Right now, I feel that Queens Park under Doug Ford is really running rough shot over the voices of smaller communities,” Ki said.
“He’s really taking a very top down approach and just ignoring the input of the people directly in the communities he is affecting, for example the Bradford Bypass, many of the sewage operations going on, and expanding residential zoning. He’s touting these solutions to problems, but these solutions have come about without consulting the people in these ridings.”
“The NDP is the strongest advocate for smaller communities. It wants to hear all the voices, and under Doug Ford those voices are not being heard.”
The Green candidate is Julie Stewart, an elementary school teacher from East Gwillimbury, who is firmly opposed to expanding highways and urban sprawl.
“I’m concerned that the present government is not looking long term. I’m worried they’re looking more at what will win them the next election,” Stewart said.
“The Bradford Bypass has been pushed forward without the correct environmental assessment. They are plowing through a protected area, destroying habitat and generating a lot more pollution.”
“We have suggested that the current government look into widening the existing route, which would accomplish the same thing.”
Still, Stewart has declined to canvas, preferring to participate in all-candidates debates and media interviews. So it’s not clear that she will be able to build on the 2,195 votes (4.8%) the Greens got in the last election.
Two other candidates are on the ballot, Franco Colavecchia, Ontario Moderate Party, and Zachary Tisdale, Ontario Libertarian Party.
For information on voting locations in York-Simcoe, visit www.elections.on.ca.
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