The Toronto-Danforth by-election to replace Jack Layton happens on March 19. Here, Torontoist aims to tell you who’s running, and why.
If the NDP, the Liberals, or the Tories win the by-election in Toronto-Danforth, Parliament will get another back bencher and the balance of power won’t shift one iota. But if the Greens win, they’ll immediately double their presence on the Hill.
The odds aren’t great. It was only last year that a careful riding choice and a skillful concentration of scarce party resources helped leader Elizabeth May become the first Green elected to Parliament. Toronto-Danforth isn’t likely to be the site of the party’s next success: it being the riding of the late NDP icon Jack Layton, it has been an NDP stronghold since 2004.
Nevertheless, Green candidate Adrian Mugnatto-Hamu is confident about her chances. “I’m stunned by the response I’ve been getting. People want Greens to have more of a voice,” she says.
Mugnatto-Hamu thinks voters might be more inclined to support her in a by-election than they would be during a general election. “This by-election won’t really change the composition of Parliament” she says, which should encourage people to follow their consciences at the ballot box.
A resident of Riverdale since 2002, Mugnatto-Hamu got involved with the Green Party in 2005 as a result of her growing concern about the state of the environment. Since then, she’s been active in the party as both a candidate and an organizer. She’s also involved in numerous other environmental and social justice organizations, including the Toronto Climate Campaign, Post Carbon Toronto, and Amnesty International.
Mugnatto-Hamu thinks voters are concerned about long-term problems—particularly environmental ones—that will have a profound impact on future generations. “We need new voices in Parliament for our children, demanding action on climate change,” she says. “We need a plan to combat climate change that reflects science.” It’s a message she says has been getting almost universal approval from the people she’s been meeting during the campaign.
At a local level, Mugnatto-Hamu sees many of the key issues facing the riding as being environmental at their core. “We’ve got the Port Lands down here, which was a big industrial area so there are concerns about contamination. There’s also pollution from the Don Valley Parkway, which contributes to a high incidence of asthma.”
Other issues she’d like to address from a Parliamentary bench include helping the poor—especially seniors and youth—and developing a strategy to combat high youth unemployment.
In spite of her professed optimism, Mugnatto-Hamu is a realist. Apart from combatting the formidable legacy of Jack Layton, there’s the simple matter of resources. “The challenge is the bigger parties have more money. They can out-canvass us, they can outspend us on advertising space,” she says.
But stranger things have happened in politics, and Mugnatto-Hamu believes the Green philosophy will resonate with the Toronto-Danforth electorate. “Voters can send a message, because I can actually speak my mind.”