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Running for the right

July 31st, 2015 · No Comments

Local CPC candidates hope to rehabilitate political brand

By Annemarie Brissenden

The local Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) candidates are hoping to convince Annex residents that their political brand is not at odds with downtown in the upcoming federal election.

“There’s a widespread misconception that conservatives can’t live here,” says Karim Jivraj, the CPC candidate for the new riding of University-Rosedale, who has lived at Bloor and Bathurst streets since January. A self-described “free-thinker who happens to think my values are more aligned with the CPC”, he decided to run after becoming “increasingly concerned about the direction of the country”.

Sabrina Zuniga, who is the CPC candidate for Spadina-Fort York, agrees.

“I live here. This is where I have always lived,” says Zuniga. “I really enjoy the vibrancy, energy, and lifestyle that is found in the downtown core.”

She got into politics because “I love to help people. I had gotten involved in schools, community organizations, and I want to continue to help people, in a very local way. That’s why I got into politics.”

It’s driven her to mount her second campaign in as many years. The former biology and chemistry high school teacher ran for Toronto School Board Trustee in the last municipal election, losing to Ausma Malik. But if anything, that experience has buoyed her outlook for her federal campaign.

“It’s always a difficult route when you decide to put yourself forward; everyone I know wanted to help out with the mayor’s race,” she explains. “But I was energized by the engagement I got from knocking on doors. It energized me to say I can do this.”

Zuniga may have a tough road ahead of her. She’s running against Adam Vaughan, who is currently the member of Parliament for Trinity-Spadina, and rumours abound that Olivia Chow is considering a run on behalf of the New Democratic Party.

The CPC candidate, however, maintains she’s not letting that sway her, saying, “I focus on my race. I don’t focus on the competition.”

Jivraj, on the other hand, is facing a very different landscape in University-Rosedale. At 28 years old, he is a newcomer to politics having been involved previously only on the very local level, even though he’s “always wanted to run. Politics has always been at the back of my mind.”

While he acknowledges the competition is stiff – “we have three strong candidates” – he points out that “the race is wide open. You don’t have an established candidate with name recognition.”

Jivraj has been pleasantly surprised with what he’s encountered while knocking on doors, particularly at small businesses, in the area. “I’m surprised by the number of people who are apolitical, but very receptive to things that have been introduced” by the Harper government, he says, pointing to pro-business initiatives like a reduced tax burden.

Both Jivraj and Zuniga are aware of the unique infrastructure challenges faced by a city like Toronto, and are keen to get to work on fixing those.

“Let’s stop giving up on Toronto,” says Jivraj. “I care about the TTC, because I was taking the bus when I was 10 years old.”

Zuniga points out that since “all the condos went up, streetcars on Queen and King [streets] are bursting”, and says that the Harper government’s mid-June $2.6-billion commitment for SmartTrack funding will go a long way towards allaying some of the city’s transit woes.

She says a major part of her platform is championing research and innovation, which is “near and dear to me because of my background in science” and also a major economic driver in the area.

Jivraj also addresses another major issue in University-Rosedale riding: safe railways.

“I think there is a very real concern about this issue,” he says. “Lac-Mégantic is on our minds. But what actually seems to have occurred is that people broke the rules.”

He highlighted the steps he says the Harper government has taken since the Lac-Mégantic tragedy to increase rail safety across Canada: increasing rail inspectors by 10 per cent, increasing dangerous goods inspectors by 85 per cent, and increasing fines for companies in breach of the Rail Safety Act from $200,000 to $1 million.

For her part, dodging commenting on her stance on the island airport – “people generally have their minds made up” – Zuniga says she loves the lake, and goes down there as often as she can.

“Representing this riding gives me a great excuse to spend all summer by the lake, and I just love that.”

Subsequent to the completion of this article, Olivia Chow announced she will accept the NDP Nomination for Spadina-Fort York. We will follow up in a future issue.

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