Brampton, Mississauga voters appear unaffected by controversy surrounding local candidates
Photos by Andre Forget/Conservative Party of Canada/Daniel Calabretta/Graphics from 338Canada

Brampton, Mississauga voters appear unaffected by controversy surrounding local candidates

The news spread quickly across the region last week when it was revealed that Conservative candidate for Brampton North, Arpan Khanna, had made offensive homophobic remarks on social media years ago. 

The post, shared by Khanna’s main opponent in the Brampton North race, Liberal incumbent Ruby Sahota, landed with quite a bit of noise among a flurry of similar controversies surrounding federal candidates. 

In August, scandal bubbled up surrounding the Conservative candidate for Mississauga-Streetsville, Ghada Melek, who was reportedly banned previously from running by the provincial PCs (which she denies) over a history of publicly expressed views on LGBTQ issues and Islam. She was in hot water over an apparently retweeted post blaming Detroit’s “economic hell” on Islamist extremism in 2013, according to the National Post. In an August Vice article, Melek was accused of supporting a proponent of LGBTQ2 conversion therapy.


Brampton North Conservative candidate Arpan Khanna with Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer during a campaign rally in Brampton last week.


However, for voters, all seems forgotten, as both candidates have seen little change in support in the polls.

While Khanna continues to lag behind Sahota, who seems to have strong support in the riding, the controversy appears to have done little to affect his roughly 32 percent share of polls during September. 

Starting Sept. 7, Khanna was enjoying a minor uptick in his support numbers on poll aggregator 338Canada, growing from 31.3 on that date to to 32.5 on Sept. 10 and 11. 

Following the controversy, which broke on Sept. 14, polling data showed Khanna dropping to 31.3 percent as of Sept. 16, a difference statistically so slight pollsters would argue it means nothing. 

However, it’s clear that Khanna will need to make up some serious ground ahead of the Oct. 21 vote to catch Sahota, who is polling at 42.1 percent and riding the crest of Liberal popularity in Ontario.

NDP candidate Melissa Edwards is currently polling at 15.5 percent and Green candidate Norbert D’Costa currently at 7.8 percent. 

While the fact the controversy appears to have had little impact on voter choice might be good news for Khanna, the unchanged poll numbers might worry the Conservatives, as the local  appearance of Leader Andrew Scheer doesn’t seem to have drummed up much support in a region considered crucial to winning the race overall.


Conservative candidate for Mississauga-Streetsville, Ghada Melek


A Conservative event at Heart Lake Town Centre  on Sept. 14 unfolded as calls were growing for Khanna to step out of the race because of his online remarks. 

Scheer’s campaign had long planned the visit to the riding, which has been targeted as a possible steal for the Conservatives after the Liberals took it from them in 2015 — the first time it was contested after parts of three former ridings, all won by the Conservatives in 2011, were folded into the new one. 

Khanna had issued an apology for the offensive post before the event began, tweeting: “I deeply regret the offensive language I used when I was a teenager,” and adding: “I have come to understand that creating safer and more inclusive spaces LGBTQ+ people in Canada happens in our homes, workplaces, on social media, and in the conversations we have every day. I apologize unequivocally.”

Neither Khanna nor Scheer referenced the Brampton North candidate's offensive 2010 post in their remarks to the crowd, and neither took questions from the media. 

Khanna is not the only Peel Region candidate to land himself in the centre of a campaign controversy. 

Similar to Khanna, Melek’s support seems little changed. 

On Aug. 25, Melek was enjoying a 39.5 percent share of the polls, slightly ahead of her main opponent, Liberal incumbent Gagan Sikand. As of Sept. 16, Melek had 38.1 percent, only slightly behind Sikand’s 40.9 percent. 

The ridings are no doubt being constantly monitored by the Conservatives, who have their eyes on many of the 32 seats across the 905 area as a particular prize. 

It’s expected that Scheer will be a fixture in the GTA over the next five weeks.

So far, the election period has been riddled with candidates either fielding controversies or resigning outright because of them. Two NDP candidates have dropped out, one following allegations of domestic abuse, and only a week before the writ dropped, a Liberal candidate in Quebec resigned over allegations of anti-Semitism. 

In Manitoba, Conservative Cameron Ogilvie was forced to drop out after the revelation of offensive posts, including one in which he said he was “proud to be white”; in Ontario, Erik Schomann ended his bid to become a Green MP after an old social media post was found that showed him roasting a pig with a caption that said its leftovers should be sent to Denmark in support of critics of Islam.

Another Green candidate, Mark Vercouteren, running in the Ontario riding of Chatham–Kent–Leamington, was being “re-vetted,” according to  Leader Elizabeth May, regarding previous statements on abortion. Vercouteren clarified his views on Monday, saying he agrees with the party’s pro-choice stance, and while he believes “in the sanctity of all life, …  this does not override a woman's right to choose."


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Twitter: @JoeljWittnebel 

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