The sweltering and humid heatwave that blanketed southern Ontario did not deter Iqwinder Gaheer’s supporters during his campaign launch party in late August.
Instead of trapped moisture, excitement was felt in the air for the young Liberal candidate hoping to represent the riding of Mississauga — Malton. From rowdy kids to high school students and those of older generations, they came together for what felt more like a backyard barbecue than a campaign launch.
Gaheer floated around the parking lot of his campaign headquarters in his constituency, speaking with voters and listening to their concerns. Overhead, low-flying planes landing and taking off at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport momentarily interrupted conversations before the chatter resumed.
Among the many concerns of residents ahead of the September 20 election, affordable housing was by far the most mentioned during Gaheer’s event. The rising cost of food, gas and shelter across the country has left many residents concerned about their future and that of their children.
In Peel, any form of housing is expensive; rent and ownership are currently out of reach for about 80 percent of area residents, according to a recent report from Region of Peel, leaving many in dire straits. The 2020 regional report on the Peel 10-Year Housing and Homelessness Plan (2018-2028) found that rapidly rising rental prices in Mississauga and Brampton are unaffordable for many residents most in need of housing stable, as children and other family members face the ripple effects of precarious living situations.
The region’s centralized waiting list exploded in 2020 to 22,445 households awaiting subsidies for adequate housing. It was a huge jump from the 14,997 households on the list at the end of 2019, illustrating how damaging the pandemic has been to the economic reality of thousands of families.
Instead of the street, many people also turn to insecure basement apartments or other forms of illegal housing to keep a roof over their heads. Estimates of the number of illegal basement units in Mississauga put it at around 33,000. They provide the bare essentials for people looking to run their tight budgets, but often put tenants at risk, with a plethora of losses. fire codes and other building requirements ignored by homeowners who break the rules.
Being a young millennial, Gaheer knows he has to tackle the housing crisis.
“I’m getting to the age where my friends get married and move out. And they are looking to buy their house, and they either have to move very far, or they have to take money from their parents, or they have to take out these big loans, ”he said.
Gaheer spoke candidly about the promises of the federal Liberals and the plan to build more affordable housing. When pushed further on how he would represent his constituents in Ottawa, if elected, he said, “The issues that are close to me are the issues that I will stand up for, whether they be. housing, childcare or climate change. These are the issues that I will defend in my first 100 days. “
Punjabi food was provided at Gaheer’s launch party and helped create an intimate atmosphere for the guests.
(Natasha O’Neill / The Pointer)
Spending his nights door-to-door, Gaheer knows that child care and climate change are pressing concerns for many of his fellow Mississaugans. His riding had a median age of 36.9, according to the 2016 census, and the 28-year-old says many of the same concerns among young residents resonate with him.
“There are a lot of children, a lot of young families, we meet them as we go knocking on the door. The Liberal policy is therefore to reduce child care to $ 10 a day within five years, ”said Gaheer.
When asked how he was qualified to represent his constituency in Ottawa, as an MP, Gaheer said he knew the community and its needs intimately.
Like many residents of the North Mississauga riding, Gaheer is an immigrant whose parents sought to move to Canada for a better life. His father emigrated to Canada in 1992 from a small village in Punjab, the northwest Indian state that is home to a large Sikh population, the faith practiced by Gaheer.
“If I am very clear, we are actually from a very poor family.”
Speaking about his education, he explained that his father never had the chance to pursue higher education and was denied good job opportunities in India. Hoping to make a fresh start, his father left for Canada, just months before Gaheer’s birth.
“I first met him at Pearson Airport when I was six,” Gaheer told The Pointer. “I still remember this incident very well, the elevator doors opened for the first time, and this stranger came running towards me. And he gave me a hug, and I kind of started to cry a little bit, because I don’t know who that person was.
The reason Gaheer entered the political fray, seeking his constituency nomination, was that he could give back to the community, he said. Without the opportunities offered by Canada to his father, Gaheer said he would not be where he is today. He was never planned to become a liberal candidate, but now he wants to show his passion.
When Navdeep Bains, longtime Liberal MP for Mississauga — Malton, decided not to run, Gaheer threw his name in the ring, and it is widely believed that Bains helped him secure the nomination.
“We have always had this deep passion for this country, a deep loyalty. And the idea that has always been in our heads: if there ever is a chance that we can give back to the community, where we can contribute to Canadian society in any way, in any form. , then we’re going to grab it and we’re going to jump, ”he said.
The Mississauga — Malton boy hopes the lifelong bonds he has made will be of great help in the race.
Gaheer attended Bramalea High School and received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the Schulich School of Business at York University. He then graduated from Harvard Law School where he obtained his Doctor of Laws degree in 2019.
In recent years, Gaheer has practiced as a lawyer at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and as a summer student at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP in Toronto.
Since the redistribution of ridings in 2012, Mississauga — Malton has been owned by the Liberals under Bains. In 2015 and 2019, the former cabinet minister won the seat with 59% and 57.5% of the vote respectively.
If Gaheer wins, it will represent one of the most immigrant-rich ridings in Canada, as Malton has experienced massive demographic changes over the past 30 years, with a huge influx of immigrants and many challenges, such as a large number residents working in essential jobs without adequate labor protection in Ontario, such as lack of paid sick leave.
Malton is cut off from the rest of Mississauga due to its location just north of Pearson Airport, leading to complaints of increasing violent crime due to a lack of police presence. Other concerns, such as poor access to public transportation, were also raised by residents.
“I know this constituency, I know the schools, I know the neighborhoods, I know the people,” Gaheer said. “And because I know people, I feel like I can represent them and be their voice.”
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