One of several barber shops on the Mount Dennis stretch of Weston Road; the area is one of thirteen priority neighbourhoods. Photo by Nick Kozak/Torontoist.
Selected candidates for the mayoralty of Toronto are having a debate tonight—live at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, and streaming now on 680News. The debate is co-organized by People Plan Toronto and Toronto Debates 2010; Steve Kupferman is watching for Torontoist, because you probably aren’t.
7:00 PM: Welcome to the mayoral debate on planning, community, and sustainability, everyone. Our moderator is John Stall of 680News. We should be underway shortly.
7:01 PM: Correction, our moderator is John Honderich, chair of the board of Torstar. Sorry.
7:03 PM: Stall is totally on the panel that’s going to be directing questions to the candidates, though, along with two other journalists. We were confused.
7:05 PM: Candidates start laying out elevator-pitch versions of their policies, with respect to the topic of the night. Rossi: “One of the fundamental problems of the City is that we don’t actually plan enough.”
7:09 PM: First mention of the gravy train from Ford. The man has his talking points.
7:14 PM: Stall: “I chose to call Mel Lastman today.” Oh boy.
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7:15 PM: Mel said to Stall that the most important thing for a mayor to do is “protect the people of Toronto.” The question is how would the candidates do that.
7:17 PM: Rossi would leverage citizens for ideas, take politicians off the board of the TTC.
7:19 PM: Ford would protect Toronto by “knowing” his fellow councillors just like he “knows” the employees at his family’s label company. And, by the way, he’d cut spending and taxes.
7:21 PM: Pantalone would institute an “inflationary tax increase” to insulate Toronto from cuts, but would try to ease the tax burden on seniors somehow.
7:23 PM: Smitherman cites his “Tonya Harding Award,” from the Gay Hockey Association, as evidence of his ability to protect people from things. So he’d kneecap Toronto’s rivals? Cool.
7:24 PM: Smitherman would be a leader, he says. “I’m a centrist. I think that’s very advantageous.”
7:27 PM: Question from Vanessa Lu: Miller promised millions for priority neighbourhoods. Would Ford commit to funding for those priority neighbourhoods?
Ford: “I haven’t seen the results from these investments.” Won’t commit until he can see the benefits.
7:28 PM: Pants would extend and expand funding for priority neighbourhoods. The project “has been very successful,” he says.
7:30 PM: Smitherman wants more stable funding for priority neighbourhoods.
7:32 PM: Rossi is “absolutely appalled” by Ford’s comment. Huge applause, cheering. “The programs are working and need to be expanded. I’m the only one up here not calling for immediate tax cuts and tax freezes.”
7:34 PM: Lu: What would Smitherman do, given the fact that the thirteen “priority neighbourhoods” are about to be sunsetted?
Smitherman would “sustain those funds,” but would do more as well. And somehow his answer becomes about cutting staff at the City, to “push resources to the front line.”
7:42 PM: Question from Francis D’Souza on development appeals.
Smitherman name-checks Adam Vaughan for his stellar record at avoiding referrals to the OMB on development projects.
7:44 PM: Rossi would intensify planning to avoid disputes by being “up front.”
7:49 PM: D’Souza: “Should the mayor be a deal closer?” Knowing nods to Hazel McCallion elicit laughter from the crowd.
Rossi: “I don’t think that’s something that you want to have on a regular basis.”
7:50 PM: Oh god, a video question. This is like Jeopardy.
7:51 PM: The question is about protecting beauty in Toronto.
7:52 PM: Smitherman would do more work on the waterfront. “We need to encourage them to come right into the water.” Right into it. During a Smitherman mayoralty, we would all be wetter, and happier for it.
7:53 PM: Rossi would protect the ravine system.
7:56 PM: Ford: “Queen’s Park is, I think, the most beautiful building Toronto has.” Is this ambition talking?
Ford would “spruce up” the city with flower beds.
“Right now all you see is graffiti.”
“When I’m mayor, it’s gonna be spotless.”
7:58 PM: Pants comes out in favour of a cricket stadium for Toronto.
7:58 PM: Question from panel, to Ford: “Who’s going to water the flowers and how much are they going to be paid?”
Ford: “We’ll have to water the plants, that’s for sure.” A nice dodge.
7:59 PM: Pants has another engagement, apparently!? He leaves.
8:00 PM: Another video question: how would you ensure neighbourhood vision is included in the planning process?
8:02 PM: Rossi lashes out at the harmonized zoning bylaw restrictions on patios and driveway parking.
8:04 PM: Ford says the zoning bylaw was five thousand pages. It was too much to read in one week. We’ll make an amendment, “if I’m fortunate enough to be mayor.”
“You will be able to speak to all forty-four councillors” on whatever they happen to be discussing during a council meeting, Ford says. He doesn’t delve into details of how that might actually work, perhaps wisely.
8:05 PM: Someone in the audience heckles Ford, inaudibly, and is shut down by Honderich.
8:07 PM: Lu to Rossi: How would you go about implementing NYC-style neighbourhood planning ideas?
8:08 PM: Rossi: “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.” He’d take inspiration from other cities, communities.
8:10 PM: Closing statements.
8:11 PM: Ford: “Who do you trust?” A long, boilerplate declamation on spending follows. We’ll cut taxes, privatize garbage collection, run the City “like a business.”
There’s a little bit of laughter from the crowd.
8:12 PM: Rossi: “Sometimes when you watch all the pennies, all you end up with at the end of the day are a lot of pennies.” Nice. Wonder if he wrote that himself.
“I want Toronto to flex the muscle that it has, because we’re world-class in so many areas, except in city government.”
8:14 PM: Smitherman says Toronto’s best days are “yet ahead.” He’ll balance the books, he says.
8:16 PM: And that’s it! The debate’s over. Now whatever are we going to do with the rest of the night?