Weekly Campaign Update, 26 September 2014: To Debate or Not to Debate?

While Doug Ford got down to the business of campaigning for the mayoralty this week, Olivia Chow and John Tory have been ramping up the rhetoric they direct at one another, including a running debate over debates (specifically, attendance at mayoral candidates' debates). Tory continues to lead the race, but the size of this lead is open to question, and Chow claims to have "momentum."

Transit

Transportation and gridlock score as the top issue for Torontonians in a recent Nanos poll; 56% of respondents named this issue, unprompted. Doug Ford introduced a transit plan that would use revenue from Build Toronto to fund the construction of subways, though this agency ran at a deficit last year. Meanwhile, John Tory traded criticism with Olivia Chow regarding the time it would take to complete the SmartTrack and downtown relief line projects, respectively; Tory has relied on a slogan based on Chow's mistaken comment that the relief line would take seventeen years to complete (it would not) as compared to seven for SmartTrack (depending on the GO line electrification timetable). Chow, in turn, blamed the Scarborough subway project, which both Tory and Ford support, for depleting funds that would have been used for upgrading accessibility at TTC stations, but the TTC offered clarification that its capital budget is separate from that of the Scarborough subway extension. Chow also criticised Tory's plan for failing to consider recent residential developments on lands and rights-of-way it treats as empty; she insists that existing homes will have to be demolished to allow the plan to proceed.

Policing

Spacing's John Lorinc points out that with the Pan Am Games and their adaptive-sport counterpart, the Parapan American Games, set for next year, Toronto will have to confront the issue of policing during major events, and that the massive security budget for the Games is an issue voters should think about when choosing "the de facto host of the event" in this fall's mayoral election. Meanwhile, a one-year pilot project will see 100 Toronto police officers wearing miniature body cameras, an initiative supported by both Olivia Chow and John Tory.

Pride

Both Olivia Chow and John Tory criticised Doug Ford for failing to give a clear answer on whether, as mayor, he would march in the annual Pride Parade, as his brother has consistently refused to do (claiming a conflict with an annual family event). Last week, Tory surprised onlookers by stating, at a debate hosted by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies, that he would vote to remove funding from Pride if controversial group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid were permitted to march in the annual parade; that night, the issue would resurface at the proudTOvote debate.

Debates and Other Exchanges

Doug Ford would attend his first debate as a mayoral candidate on Tuesday, which quickly became raucous, featuring racist comments by attendees, one of whom heckled Olivia Chow to "go back to China." After the heckler responsible for the comment was identified as a Ford supporter, Ford would quickly condemn the language used and state that people who spoke in such a manner were "not part of this campaign." Ford subsequently skipped both of Wednesday's mayoral debates, continuing a trend that John Tory claims has prompted him to absent himself from debates as well, to Chow's irritation (Tory would roundly criticise Ford at the debates that Ford skipped but Tory did not). Chow would also claim that Tory has taken stances that would hurt the city when campaigning for other positions. For his part, Ford, in calling Tory inexperienced, sarcastically proposed a "Take John Tory to Work Day" and was called a "bully boy" by Tory in return.

Campaign Grab Bag