Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2021/ Raj Saini Is Out (Sort of)

Raj Saini Is Out (Sort Of)

In my last election entry I unkindly said that I disliked Raj Saini and wanted him to lose his seat. Sure enough, the monkey's paw curled and he has stepped down as the Liberal candidate after allegations resurfaced that he sexually harassed staff members. In so doing, he has not only deprived the Liberals of Kitchener Centre, but I feel he may have cost Trudeau the election.

The story goes that there were reports dating back to Saini's 2015 election victory party of him being "handsy". There was a (possibly unrelated) complaint from a senior staffer that prompted an investigation into his office. Saini was cleared of that investigation even though the woman who initiated the complaint did not participate in the investigation. Then this year that woman contacted the party whip Mark Holland and Bardish Chagger (!), and nothing was done. Now, mysteriously, the matter has come up again.

Here is where things get ugly for Trudeau: he backed Saini, saying that there was a rigorous process undertaken to clear Saini's name, despite four reports of misconduct from multiple people. Then -- surprise! -- he flip-flopped when the optics turned sour, claiming that new information had come out. Once again, Trudeau comes off as two-faced: on the one hand mouthing nice words about being a feminist government, and on the other defending his candidate who should not have been defended. I do not know what happened, but I suspect there was no new revelation of evidence. I think the Liberals took a look at the optics and decided it would be less damaging to throw Saini under the bus than to continue sticking by him. Of course, there is still damage, because this is a pattern with Trudeau, from his brownface scandal to the WE scandal to being caught red-handed selling military vehicles to the Saudis to who knows what else. If this story has legs it makes the Liberals look pretty bad.

I do wonder whether these allegations (that have been around since 2015!) are part of the reason Saini never came close to a cabinet position.

Interestingly, this is the same thing that drove my anger about Kathleen Wynne -- she seems like a thoughtful and upfront person when she is interviewed, but she is a politician and does politician things, and that makes me feel betrayed. I have much less sympathy for Trudeau than I do for Wynne (I have long spoken of his leadership as a "coronation") but I think some of the same forces are at play.

Unfortunately, I think the consequences will be similarly disastrous. I think there is an excellent chance Erin O'Toole will win this election, and -- just like Doug Ford -- the first thing he is going to do is scrap the carbon tax. The second thing he is going to do is weaken Canada's emissions targets. He will do this despite claiming that the Conservatives care about climate change. This makes me furious -- after the year we have had how can we afford this kind of policy lurch? -- but I think this is what we are stuck with.

Of course, there is not much I can do about it, because I live in Raj Saini's riding. As I have said before, the conceit of First Past the Post is that I am voting for a local candidate, but in practice almost nobody votes for a local candidate; people make decisions based upon party leaders and party affiliation. Now Kitchener Centre is in the weird position where people who support the Liberal Party have nobody to vote for, and now have to choose another party or candidate behind which they can throw their support.

This means all of the remaining parties smell blood. The NDP is going to pour money into this riding just like they poured money into the Waterloo riding to get Catherine Fife elected the first time. The Greens are probably cackling because Mike Morrice was the runner-up in the last election, but I hope they don't get too smug. And the Conservatives no doubt think they have this riding sewn up. The real questions in my mind are: where will those disenfranchised Liberal voters go? Will they be conservative enough that they vote against the NDP and Greens? Will those who are on the conservative side of the Liberal party support Mike Morrice instead? Will most Liberals be polarized against the Conservatives and Erin O'Toole that they strategically vote NDP?

I do not have a clear sense for what will happen, but I expect that Morrice and Zubi will be in a vicious fight from here on in, and that they will split the vote nicely so that Mary Henein Thorn becomes our next MP. That is going to suck, but neither Zubi nor Morrice is going to back down now that the Liberal threat is gone.

The other possibility is that Saini wins the riding. He will stay on the ballot and will continue to be listed as a Liberal. I am sure there will be signs at the polling stations telling us that he is no longer a Liberal, but many people might not care. Furthermore a bunch of people will be voting by mail, and so may not be informed at all. I do not think that Saini winning is all that likely, but it is much more likely than the People's Party candidate taking the riding.

I still dislike Chagger and would like to see her lose her seat as well, but that is not likely to happen. It looks like this scandal (just like the WE charity one) is going to roll right off her back, despite the fact that she clearly knew of the accusations against Saini, and might well have had grapevine information about him well before the official complaints were lodged.

I guess that we will not see any "Only Raj Saini can stop Erin O'Toole" literature now, so that is a blessing. It also feels like a blessing that I do not have to worry about voting Liberal at all. I wish I could vote in some way to avoid splitting the vote, but I don't think that is going to happen.

Also: I despise the strategic voting sites. The latest abomination is something called (no, I won't link to it). It says that I should vote NDP because they have 25% support as compared to the Green 18% support... and the Liberal 24% support. For one thing, why is this site still listing Liberal support? For another, why should I trust these numbers? They are based on some modelling, but I have no reason to believe that model reflects actual conditions on the ground. A pox on the strategic voting sites.