Two high-profile candidates are making the BramptonCentre race too close to call

·7 min read

In an effort to provide voters with the information they need to know about incumbents and new candidates this election, The Pointer will be looking at Peel’s 12 ridings and how candidates in Ontario’s four big parties plan to help their future constituents.

A total of 89 votes made the difference between whether the riding, after it was created as part of a redrawn electoral map, would land in the NDP or PC aisle.

Despite the close result, only half of the eligible voters living in the district made it to the polls in 2018, when only 33,949 ballots were cast by 67,432 registered voters.

There were 150 unmarked ballots– enough to change the outcome altogether.

For the 2022 election, there are some new candidates vying for the seat held by incumbent NDP heavyweight Sara Singh, with City Councillor Charmaine Williams the biggest name among the challengers, representing the PCs. Safdar Hussein makes a return for the Liberals, and Karitsa Tye is representing the Greens.

Describing herself as an “art, social justice and coffee lover”, Singh was the first woman NDP candidate elected in the 905 area code, grabbing local headlines in 2018. She began serving as the opposition critic for long term care, after serving as the opposition critic for the attorney general, and was eventually named deputy leader of the official opposition party.

As the opposition critic for Long Term Care she has advocated for improvements to Brampton’s underfunded healthcare system, which currently only has one full-service hospital, and criticized the provincial government for the drop in funding for local public health units—Peel Public Health, which is responsible for Brampton, and the local LHIN are among the lowest funded in the province.

While she has had no hesitancy in calling out members of the opposition, she has done the same with her own party, leveling harassment allegations against the former NDP riding association president, Bruce Marshall, in 2019.

Singh was outspoken throughout the term on the issue of Brampton’s healthcare crisis, routinely speaking in Queen’s Park about the need for another full-service hospital while criticizing the PC’s handling of the pandemic in Brampton, which was one of the hardest hit cities in the whole country.

Like Singh, Williams made a name for herself in Brampton.

She was elected as Brampton’s first Black council woman in 2018, following 19 years working in children’s mental health, behavioral therapy and multisystemic therapy.

In the municipal election she ran on a platform focused on public safety, and her biggest concern was the availability of guns within her ward—she advocated for annual gun buybacks.

Her 2022 provincial focus promises that if elected, she will build on her efforts to make streets safer, ensuring that families have access to social and recreational services, and advocating for an integrated transportation plan in the region.

As a City Councillor, in 2019 Williams broke ranks with some of her colleagues who called for a review of the City’s policies regarding group homes to align with updated provincial guidelines following complaints about a five-bed raised bungalow group home application.

Others cited provincial legislation, where group homes must have 10 seniors and a full-time staff.

A motion passed 7-3, but Williams expressed concern that it would have unintended consequences on future retirement beds.

She framed the issue with the larger healthcare crisis in Brampton, which lacked enough long-term care beds to accept many seniors.

“Aligning the minimum number of beds with the provincial regulations may have the effect of closing retirement seniors homes. That’s why I can’t support this motion,” Williams said in council.

She also was a strong advocate for healthcare in the city, voting for a motion that declared a healthcare emergency in Brampton, and demanded, along with her council colleagues, that a new full-service hospital with 850 beds be built by the provincial government.

Another issue raised during her term was unregulated police checks or “carding.”

As chair of Brampton’s community safety advisory committee in 2019, she used her position to raise Justice Michael Tulloch’s report on carding to City Hall.

Released on the final day of 2018, the report called for a ban on the practice, which involves randomly stopping individuals on the street to gather identifying information to be entered into a police database.

Both Singh and Williams advocated for removing carding as a police practice (which has targeted Black residents) as a way of breaking down barriers between communities and the police.

In Brampton and Mississauga, Black residents were just nine per cent of the population, but data from a five-year period showed that almost 25 per cent of those carded were Black. Between 2009 and 2014, Black people were more than three times as likely than white people to be stopped by Peel police in carding encounters.

Williams called it an “excellent” and “comprehensive report” in an earlier interview with The Pointer, extending an invitation to Justice Tulloch to present the recommendations to Brampton council in-person.

“We would all benefit from hearing his recommendations,” Williams said. “Then we have something to really focus our intentions on community safety and police, especially the relations between the Black community, the Indigenous and South Asian community in Peel.”

Interestingly, this differs from Doug Ford’s stance, who in 2018 within Queen’s Park stated the PCs would “give the police all the tools needed to get the job done” when the issue of carding was brought up.

While in legislation, Singh repeatedly called out the practice, calling for an end altogether.

“While some may feel safer with the police around, it is important to acknowledge that many do feel targeted,” Singh said in Queen’s Bench in 2018. “I myself have experienced interactions with the police because of the people I was with. I was not engaging in any behaviour, neither were the people I was with. However, they were still stopped and carded and entered into a database.”

If the votes from the 2018 election were any indication the Liberals and Greens will have a difficult time winning the seat.

After receiving 5,825 votes in 2018, a total of 17.34 per cent, Safdar Hussein is again running for the Ontario Liberal Party.

Hussein runs a real estate business, and assists his spouse, Rukhsana Kousar, in managing her law firm Lone Law Professional Corporation.

An elected Liberal government promises to hire 100,000 new nurses, doctors and other health care workers, clear the surgical backlog and set maximum wait times, ensure everyone has access to a family doctor, ensure more mental health help availability, cut transit fares to $1 a ride everywhere in Ontario, cut Ontario’s carbon pollution in half by 2030, expand the Greenbelt creating five provincial parks and deliver rent control.

A new face for the Green Party of Ontario in the region, Karitsa Tye will represent the Party, following in the footsteps of Laila Zarrabi Yan, who received 1,053 votes in 2018, 3.13 per cent of the total.

The Green Party’s platform promises to freeze urban boundaries, build 1.5 million homes and 182,000 affordable community rental homes,increase mental health spending to 10 percent of the health budget to include mental health care under Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), reduce wait times for children’s mental health care to less than 30 days, establish an annual carbon budget to reach net zero by 2045, electrify transportation, buildings and industry to crush pollution and lower energy costs, and provide up to $25,000 for homeowners for energy retrofits.

They are also promising to repeal Bill 124 which limited pay increases and has been condemned by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), increase pay for Personal Support Workers, nurses and Early Child Educators and hire 33,000 additional nurses.

To find out whether you are registered to vote, and where your nearest voting location is, visit Elections Ontario.

Email: jessica.durling@thepointer.com

Twitter: @JessicaRDurling

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Jessica Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer

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