Sue Ann Levy really doesn’t like the Liberals’ proposed Harmonized Sales Tax.
Her vehement disdain of the tax and of Dr. Eric Hoskin’s full-throated endorsement of it was on full display at the all-candidates meeting hosted by the Town Crier last night.
Nine of the ten candidates showed up at First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto to sell themselves as viable representatives for the region of St. Paul’s at Queen’s Park, where a by-election has been set for September 17 to replace Michael Bryant. (Bryant stepped down to head Invest Toronto but is now currently is facing criminal charges for the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard.)
It was a heated albeit confusing debate, with a rambunctious crowd of close to three hundred residents eager to hear how the candidates will look out for them on the issues close to their hearts. There were three independents, as well as candidates running for the Libertarian Party of Ontario and Freedom Party of Ontario, but the majority of questions were posed to the four major candidates—Dr. Eric Hoskins of the Liberal Party of Ontario, Sue Ann Levy of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, Julian Heller of the New Democratic Party of Ontario, and Chris Chopik of the Green Party of Ontario.
And the issue on everyone’s minds was the HST. Battle lines were quickly drawn:
“It’s a massive tax grab,” charged Levy.
“It’s the wrong tax at the wrong time,” accused Heller.
“It’s a major gouge,” pushed Paul McKeever of the Freedom Party.
“It’s not a new tax, it’s a blending of existing taxes,” explained Hoskins.
Hoskins also countered that the HST has the support of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Daily Bread Food Bank. However, his defense of the tax and of the McGuinty government’s record was not convincing the other candidates, who called on Hoskins to defend his party’s involvement in the e-health and OLG scandals.
“I grew up here, and I’m looking for fiscal accountability and fairness in politics,” pushed Raj Rama, an independent candidate.
“I’m not a Liberal insider, and have not been parachuted into the region,” hit Marius Frederick, another independent candidate who grew up in the riding.
For John Kittredge, the Libertarian Candidate who is vying for the St. Paul’s slot for the third time, his candidacy is primarily to raise awareness of the value of less government. “Who’s going to pay for it?” He asked.
John C. Turmel (standing).
While all of the candidates tried to win over the audience during the debate, the man who stole the show was John C. Turmel.
Turmel has a unique place in Canadian history: he holds the Guinness World Record for having run and lost in the most elections (sixty-eight to be exact). He fled the stage and heckled the crowd in protest of a moderator’s rule which forced residents to direct their questions at specific candidates, thus effectively limiting his opportunity to speak. The crowd heckled back, the police were called, and, at one point, the debate had to pause as a group of gentlemen attempted a citizen’s arrest.
The whole debacle made for great political theatre, but there was a great problem with the night: why the candidates were invited if they weren’t able to key in on major issues. Substance on the issues affecting St. Paul’s was lacking, and it was evident that Hoskins and Levy in particular knew little about them.
When asked about Metrolinx‘s proposal for an electrified rail line running nearby, for instance, Levy stated she was aware that this is a “hot topic” in the riding, but could not stake a firm position on the issue. Hoskin’s reply also fell flat, as he stumbled through his position while championing the Ontario Green Energy Act, although questions on climate change and the environment came up repeatedly.
And where Chris Chopik labeled himself as a “pragmatic idealist” open to working on ideas in order to make the riding better, the other three candidates were playing partisan politics, with Hoskins on the defense.
While renewable energy, the environment, improving health care, and education funding were other major topics of discussion during the debate, the testiest exchange outside the HST was in response to a question on homelessness, where Levy and Hoskins faced off.
Sue Ann Levy (left), Eric Hoskins (centre), and Jullian Heller (right).
“There is no shortage of money being spent on the problem; it’s not being spent wisely,” she charged.
Hoskins then whipped out a direct quote from the former Toronto Sun columnist in which the PC candidate stated that “the homeless have it pretty good in Toronto.”
Levy stood by her record on homelessness and suggested everyone read all of the articles she wrote during her eleven-year tenure at the newspaper.
All in all, the debate was a square off between the PC and Liberal candidate, one a humanitarian and respected doctor, the other a well-known columnist, both who seem to know the least about the riding they are competing for. For Levy, she’s clearly counting on this election being a referendum on Dalton McGuinty, Liberal scandals, and the HST. For Hoskins, he’s selling his reputation as a prominent physician.
Unfortunately for the residents of St. Paul’s, the debate and the partisan antics was politics as usual.
All photos by Ayngelina Brogan/Torontoist.
Raj Rama as “Ray Rama.” Our apologies to Mr. Rama.This article originally incorrectly identified independant candidate