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On the Campaign Trail: Newmarket pundits analyze federal election campaign kickoff

NewmarketToday will have local political pundits comment on the election throughout the campaign

NewmarketToday asked several Newmarket-Aurora residents of various political affiliations who are actively engaged in the local political scene to share their thoughts and observations about the campaign, issues and candidates prior to the Sept. 20, 2021 vote that will to elect the members of the House of Commons to the 44th Canadian Parliament. We'll check in regularly with them for On the Campaign Trail updates as the race unfolds.

The Candidates: incumbent Liberal Tony Van Bynen, Conservative Harold Kim, New Democrat Yvonne Kelly, Green Party Tim Flemming, PPC Lana Morgan.

'Political junkie' Darryl Wolk, Conservative

Longtime Conservative and Newmarket resident Daryl Wolk said it was a great first week of the campaign for his party.

Wolk said polling seems to be indicating the gap is tightening between Liberals and Conservatives, with neither looking to be in majority territory.

A sour public mood around the pandemic could be playing a factor, he said.

“A lot of Canadians expected they would be vaccinated and things would return to normal in the fall. That doesn’t appear to be happening,” Wolk said. 

A strong campaign from the NDP is also helping the Conservative fortunes, and could result in Kim winning the race, he predicts.

“Erin O’Toole is an unknown quantity, but the more Canadians get to know him, they can be impressed with his resume and temperament,” Wolk said. 

On the Issues

The country is at a “crossroads,” Wolk said, with Canadians eager to see a vision of post-pandemic economic recovery.

Affordable housing will also be a key issue, he said, especially among younger voters.

“The housing market is also causing higher rents, and I know rent within Newmarket-Aurora is unaffordable,” Wolk said.

Climate change and Indigenous issues are also issues of concern, he added. So, too, is the country’s financial situation.

“At some point, the parties are going to have to talk about deficits, the national debt, and our fiscal situation,” he said.

On local candidates

The Newmarket-Aurora Conservative put forward their first new federal candidate in more than a decade, with Aurora Deputy Mayor Harold Kim beating out former MP Lois Brown.

“The Conservatives will be interesting coming out with a new face,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how the riding receives a new offering from the Conservatives.”

Meanwhile, the NDP and the Liberal parties both opted for more experienced candidates. The NDP’s Kelly is running in her third election, while incumbent  Van Bynen is seeking re-election.

“Yvonne Kelly, she is well respected,” Wolk said. “Former (Newmarket) Mayor Tony Van Bynen is a well-known quantity in town.” 

On the pandemic 

With the Liberals running on their record, Wolk said the pandemic trends may be tied to their election performance. 

“The better the case numbers, ICU capacity, and deaths from COVID look, that would help the Liberals,” he said. “If the pandemic is going well, I think Canadians will see his response in a positive way.”

But if numbers keep going south, so, too, could Liberal votes.

“Canadians are going to get a frustration point, and this time rebel and ask for change,” he said.

Who is Daryl Wolk?

A resident of Newmarket since 1985, Darryl Wolk has an MBA and undergraduate degrees in commerce and political science. 

He has worked in government relations, policy development, and as a legislative assistant to former Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees. 

Wolk also ran for Ward 5 councillor and deputy mayor in Newmarket municipal elections. 

Riding association president Matt Gunning, Liberal

Newmarket-Aurora Liberal Riding Association president Matt Gunning said he is still hopeful a majority government is in reach for his party.

He said the party is largely running on its record for over the past six years and must continue to reinforce what it has accomplished.

“The way the election counts is all about having an efficient vote,” he said. “Our message will resonate strongly across Quebec, B.C. and Ontario, and we need to find some places to break through.”

He said the party must speak to suburban, middle-class families about what is important to them.

“We’re a very urban and suburban-strength party, and that is the majority of the policies we put out,” Gunning said. 

On the Issues

Gunning said a foremost issue is how people view the Liberal Party’s handling of the pandemic, including the associated economic actions.

“A lot of the election will be viewed from the lens of the pandemic. That’s a critical one,” Gunning said. 

Gunning said the social policy will also be an important piece for his party's campaign. 

“Economic programs like poverty reduction, daycare programs, those kinds of ideas,” he said. “That’s the way the Liberal Party is trying to frame this election. The social infrastructure of the country is in need of further investment. “

On the local candidates

Gunning said Van Bynen is a strong candidate with the experience to draw on.

“He’s a well-known name. He's a long-established community politician,” Gunning said.

He said he is not too familiar with Kim personally, but added “everything we know about him, certainly well-intentioned and a gentleman."

Gunning said he welcomed the return of NDP Yvonne Kelly to the race and that she is a capable advocate.

Regardless, Gunning said there is some expectation for local candidates to fall in line with their parties.

“Some of this stuff, it’s really about championing the federal campaign,” Gunning said. 

On the pandemic

Gunning said candidates will be limited by the pandemic, with fewer packed events and smaller crowds only permitted.

“It’s going to make it more difficult for leaders to hold those kinds of photo-op moments with big rallies. I can remember Justin Trudeau being on a crowded Main Street in Aurora,” Gunning said. 

He said those are good for optics, but that should not tip the scales. He said he expects parties will take a sensible approach.

“I don’t know that it really hurts any particular party more than another to have more of these events outside, more spaced,” Gunning said.

Who is Matt Gunning?

Matt Gunning has headed the Newmarket-Aurora Liberal riding association for three years and served as a board member for four years before that. 

He was also a vice-president of the executive of the provincial Liberal Party for a year and a half, starting in 2014. 

Former candidate Walter Bauer, Green Party

Former Newmarket-Aurora Green Party candidate Walter Bauer said he does not expect the party to make much new headway in this election.

The federal party captured 6.5 per cent of the vote in 2019, a figure Bauer said he expected to hold.

“The people that voted Green before are concerned about the environment, and they’re more concerned now than they’ve ever been,” Bauer said. “I believe they’re going to vote the same way.”

On the Issues

Bauer said top issues depend on what segment of the population you are in, but jobs are a concern.

“If you are a person without a job because of COVID, you’re going to want to get a job, and you’re probably not going to be thinking of anything else,” he said. “If you struggle with health issues or access to hospitals, that’s going to be top of mind for you, and they’re both legitimate.”

He said his foremost issue is climate change, though he said the pandemic could be factoring into how people think about it. 

“The climate crisis is going to be worse than the pandemic. It’s going to cause huge social issues, huge health issues,” he said. “A lot of people may not be aware of it because they’re in crisis mode. It really needs to be prioritized.”

On the candidates

Bauer said Green candidate Flemming is like-minded to him when it comes to the environment.

“Tim Flemming for the Green Party is really as concerned as I am with climate change, and is very annoyed that the Liberals haven’t done much more than they have,” Bauer said.

He said he does not know Conservative candidate Kim well, but he questions Van Bynen’s record.

“He’s a nice guy,” Bauer said. “He’s not a mover and a shaker, so he’s not going to change the Liberal viewpoint on anything.”

He speaks positively of NDP candidate Yvonne Kelly.

“She’s very dedicated. She’s a hard worker,” Bauer said. 

On the pandemic

Bauer said although some originally forecasted a depression, few expected a “K” style recovery for the pandemic, with some people faring very well but others faring poorly.

“There’s a real split,” Bauer said. “The topside of the K will probably vote as they've always voted. The people on the bottom side of the K are going to be voting on those issues they are in crisis over.”

He added he expects voter turnout will also suffer due to the pandemic, as people may not plan for mail-in voting.

“They’re going to be lots of people that don’t think that far in advance, and they may get scared off by whatever the numbers, COVID numbers, happen to be,” Bauer said.

Who is Walter Bauer?

Walter Bauer is an engineer and longtime Aurora resident who ran in the 2018 provincial and 2019 federal elections for the Green Party. 

He graduated from the University of Waterloo and worked for 20 years in construction before starting his own construction company in 2001.

Longtime labour activist, Ed Chudak, NDP

Chudak said he expects his party to make gains in this year’s election.

He said there is an increased acceptance of Jagmeet Singh as a leader, and local campaigns tend to depend on what is happening at a higher level.

“I’m looking for the party to increase seats. I don’t think we’re at the point where we can form a government, but I think we can be in a very influential position,” Singh said. “Mr. Trudeau has miscalculated, and I don’t think he’ll be getting a majority.” 

Chudak said the NDP being strong in a minority government could bode well for their progressive causes. He said that has happened historically.

“A lot of those progressive measures were the result of, not only minority parliaments, but people popularizing positions first advanced by the New Democrats,” Chudak said. 

On the Issues

The pandemic exposed problems that must be addressed, Chudak said. He added it has people thinking differently about global supply.

“What happened over the last year has certainly exposed some weaknesses in our systems, and reliance on foreign manufacturing, from not only the vaccine but for PPE,” Chudak said. “What I’m hearing from friends and people on the street is 'man, we should be producing this stuff domestically.'”

The economy and climate change will also be key, Chudak said.

But he added Indigenous issues and reconciliation are top of mind with recent news about uncovering gravesites at residential schools.

“Most people want to reconcile that in a just and fair way,” Chudak said. “

On the candidates

Chudak spoke positively of NDP candidate Yvonne Kelly.

“Yvonne is a very, committed and progressive candidate. I think she’s a good candidate,” he said.

He said Van Bynen does not necessarily stand out on the Hill. He said he took issue with the Liberals not pushing more progressive policies the NDP would have backed during the term, such as 10 days of paid sick pay for federal employees.

“Van Bynen is a backbencher in a Liberal government that was supported by the New Democrats and the Green Party on a progressive agenda,” he said. 

On the pandemic

Chudak said he is optimistic about voter turnout, with most adults being doubly vaccinated.

He said Elections Canada will be making provisions for vote-by-mail as well.

“I’m sure if those options exist, the voter turnout will be pretty good,” Chudak said. “I think a lot of people are eager to make their voice known."

Who is Ed Chudak?

Chudak is retired but has spent time as a liaison with the Canadian Labour Congress and labour community.

He has been a member of the New Democratic Party for more than 50 years, running for them federally in Newmarket-Aurora in 2004 and 2006.

He spent his career as the head of collective bargaining and arbitration with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, which bestowed him an honorary lifetime membership. He also spent two terms on the Ontario Labour Relations Board.