Ontario’s tight race plays out in Brampton-Springdale – The Globe and Mail

Vandana Pawar smiled politely outside her home as the Progressive Conservative candidate in her Brampton-Springdale riding pitched her party platform to secure the family’s votes just two days before the provincial election.

After her husband promised their support for Pam Hundal, Ms. Pawar waited for the candidate to leave before expressing her disagreement with party leader Tim Hudak’s platform, saying: “I’m not going to vote PC.”

Globe and Mail Update Jun. 09 2014, 12:21 PM EDT

Their household isn’t the only place in Ontario where the Liberals and PCs are in a dead heat.

Brampton-Springdale, Liberal since 2003, is a microcosm of the race playing out across the province: In this riding, support for the Liberals is in jeopardy, with the Progressive Conservatives missing their chance to take the seat by 3,000 votes in 2011. The New Democrats received only about 15 per cent of the votes that year.

Candidates from each of the three major parties are working nearly 12-hour days, targeting homes and businesses to gather as much support as possible.

“We’re going to knock on every door on election day that we’ve IDed as our supporter and we’re going to make sure they get out and vote,” Ms. Hundal said.

NDP candidate Gurpreet Dhillon feels this time will be different for his party.

“We feel like we have a lot of momentum going on,” he said. “People are sick of corruption and the failures of the Liberals.”

The tall business analyst and father of two, sporting a pink turban and running shoes, jogged from house to house in a quiet neighbourhood as volunteers knocked on doors, checking who’s home to speak to the candidate.

Mrs. Pawar said it’s worth giving the NDP a chance at improving auto insurance rates and dropping emergency-room waiting times in Brampton.

“I was not really happy with the Liberals, with what they did with the gas plants,” she said. “NDP, I have heard good and bad things, but they haven’t [won] in our area so we don’t know how good it will do. I’m willing to try it out.”

But the union representing Canadian health-care workers is urging members to vote for the Liberals. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare opposes Mr. Hudak’s platform to downsize government, fearing job cuts and decreased wages affecting its members.

The union has endorsed candidates in each riding who are most likely to beat PC candidates, based on polls of its own members.

In Brampton-Springdale, where SEIU says it has a lot of members, about half a dozen joined Liberal candidate Harinder Malhi as she went door to door collecting support.

“Gurpreet is a great ally as well,” union president Sharleen Stewart said, “but it’s about stopping a big attack and a big threat.”

Ms. Stewart said she’s concerned NDP supporters will pull votes away from the Liberals, handing the riding to the PCs, something Ms. Malhi refused to address.

“We have been focused on our own campaign the whole time,” she said. “We’re going to continue to rally our supporters. We have the support in this riding.”

About 19 per cent of Brampton-Sprindale’s population is made up of Indian immigrants, and candidates for each of the three major parties are of South Asian descent, switching effortlessly from English to Punjabi to sell themselves to voters at the door.

But the riding had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the province in 2011, 41 per cent, making it a challenge to translate support at the door into action come election day.

Ms. Hundal, for her part, chatted for a long time in Punjabi with Amarjit Bola, trying to persuade the Brampton resident to cast her vote.

Ms. Bola said she wasn’t keeping up with the election but seriously considered voting for Ms. Hundal simply because the candidate had shown up at her door, and she would feel comfortable approaching her again for help once she was in office.

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Brampton blaze raises building code questions – CTV News

As investigators attempt to determine why a deadly fire spread so quickly through a Brampton townhouse development, they are looking into the possibility it was not constructed according to building code standards.

The fire broke out early Saturday morning, then quickly spread in the complex of homes on Ardglen Drive, near Kennedy Road South and Clarence Avenue. By the time it was doused, the fire had claimed the life of one child and left up to 100 people without homes.

Acting Division Chief Gary Jarrett told reporters that the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office has taken over the investigation.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Jarrett said on Monday. “I can tell you that the roof is under examination. Why did the fire spread the way it did through this facility and… displace the entire building?”

The row of townhomes was originally built with a flat roof, before a peaked roof was installed on top later. That left an attic space, the original roof, and then a second roof. According to fire officials, the hollow area between the flat and peaked roofs made it difficult for firefighters to control the blaze from above.

Current building code dictates that firewalls must be built in to roofs to slow the spread of fires, but officials are unsure whether there were any firewalls in the hollow area between the roofs.

“The townhomes today, under building code, are required to have fire separations every so many units to stop this very thing from happening,” Jerrett said.

However, he was not sure how old the homes were. If they were built before the building code was updated, they would fall under previous legislation and would not be expected to uphold today’s structural standards.

The owners of the townhouse complex told reporters that the building was up to code when it was build, but weren’t sure if it met current standards.

Money raised for victims of the fire

Officials believe the fire broke out in the kitchen of a unit where 10-year-old Nicolas Gabriel was sleeping over with a friend and the friend’s dad.

When the fire started at about 3:15 a.m., a neighbour kicked down the unit’s door and found a man asleep on the couch. The neighbour was able to rescue the man and his son, but didn’t know Gabriel was asleep. The boy’s body was found five hours later.

Since the fire, more than $10,000 has been raised through a trust fund to pay for the boy’s funeral. The funeral is estimated to cost between $10,000 and $15,000, and any additional money raised will go towards helping residents of the damaged townhouses rebuild their lives.

Two other trust funds have been set up to support the residents affected by the fire. Donations can be made to Giving to Ardglen or Nicolas Gabriel/Ardglen Trust Fund.

Officials say of the 18 families who were displaced as a result of the fire, seven are still staying at city shelters. Members of Peel Regional Police will be helping them find more permanent lodgings.

Community in mourning

Gabriel’s mother, Kelly Gabriel, visited a makeshift memorial for her son on Tuesday. Flowers and stuffed animals have been left by members of the community on the front lawn of the townhouse where the young boy died. Kelly was joined by her surviving son and daughter, her husband, and the children’s grandmother.

Down the street, at Sir Winston Churchill Public School, where Gabriel was a Grade 4 student, another memorial has been created to remember the young boy. The school’s Canadian flag also flew at half-mast on Tuesday.

With a report from CTV Toronto’s Austin Delaney

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