Torontoist is officially in election mode. In the run-up to the big day, we’ll be profiling some of the most closely contested ridings in the GTA, looking for the bellwethers and offering snapshots of electoral districts in transition.
Photo by bill barber.
Streetsville is the heart of old-town Mississauga. The riding is primarily residential; its inhabitants enjoy higher-than-average incomes and rates of home ownership. This election, more than most, will turn on whether voters respond primarily to party platforms or primarily to the profiles of individual candidates and that of one candidate in particular: Wajid Khan.
Khan, currently representing the riding as a Conservative, was elected in 2004 and 2006 as a Liberal and crossed the floor in January 2007 to join Harper’s government. That move angered many of his constituents, and the degree to which that anger persists will likely determine the outcome of the election here. Mississauga-Streetsville was created in the riding redistribution of 2004; the areas that make it up have trended Liberal since 1993. Khan won both his previous elections as a Liberal with comfortable margins—the question now is whether he can retain that support running as a Conservative.
The controversy surrounding Khan began in late 2006, when he became a Middle East advisor to Stephen Harper while sitting as a Liberal. Khan had consulted the Liberal leadership before accepting the post, however, and argued that his advisory role was non-partisan. He was sent on a fact-finding mission to the Middle East, with an unbiased report on his findings promised after his return. In January 2007 Khan crossed the floor; shortly thereafter Stephen Harper said that no report on Khan’s mission would be made public. Sharp criticism followed for both: Khan was attacked for switching parties and Harper denounced for suppressing the report. Khan defended his move on the grounds that the access he gained to Harper enabled him to accomplish more than he had been able to as a Liberal. Several months later, further controversy ensued when Elections Canada charged Khan with exceeding campaign spending limits. He withdrew from the Conservative caucus and sat in Parliament as an independent MP until the matter was resolved. Now back in the Tory fold, Khan has been keeping a relatively low profile during this election: his website features Harper far more prominently than it does Khan himself, and lawn signs are as likely to sport Harper’s name as Khan’s.
Bonnie Crombie is the Liberal challenger and has been campaigning both on her party’s platform and the matter of personal integrity—she has been coming down hard on Khan for betraying his electorate. Crombie’s professional background is in marketing and government relations; her campaign materials also highlight a track record of community involvement. She served as vice-chair of Mayor Hazel McCallion’s Task Force on the Arts and was a major fundraiser for the Credit Valley Hospital. Though still a bit of an unknown quantity, Crombie is attracting a great deal of local support and mounting a solid challenge to Khan. In a test of personal loyalty versus policy commitments and party affiliations, Crombie seems to be giving Khan a serious run for his money.
Bottom photo of Wajid Khan with Minister Rona Ambrose courtesy of Wajid Khan.