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Toronto Toronto’s mayoral candidates get heated in debate on housing, transit and development

Toronto’s mayoral candidates discussed the future of the city, especially in three key areas - transit, housing and business development – in a Tuesday-night election debate moderated by The Globe and Mail’s deputy national editor Nicole MacIntyre. The event, hosted by the Toronto Region Board of Trade, included mayoral candidates Sarah Climenhaga, Saron Gebresellassi, Jennifer Keesmaat and John Tory. Here’s what you missed.

  • The debate, which spanned just over 90 minutes, looked at four main components: leadership, housing, transportation and business development. 
  • Mr. Tory was asked why he does not want to debate Ms. Keesmaat one-on-one before a protestor interrupted the queston. Mr. Tory said he would rather more candidates, regardless of their currently polling situation, be involved because he was a low-polling candidate when he first ran in 2003. 
  • Ms. Keesmaat said Mr. Tory “choked” when Ontario Premier Doug Ford cut the amount of city councillors and did not do everything he could. Ms. Gebresellassi said it was community lawyers who challenged Bill 5 at court, not city lawyers. She said Mr. Tory and the city jumped on the bandwagon afterward.
  • When discussing housing and the budget, Ms. Climenhaga said it is important to look at raising property taxes in order to avoid a crisis in revenue. “We can’t live in a fairy tale world without raising taxes,” she said.
  • Ms. Gebresellassi wants an accurate definition of “affordable housing” as it is not reflective of the current state as the candidates debate the housing crisis in Toronto.
Mayoral candidate Sarah Climenhaga suggests zoning laws should be changed, Jennifer Keesmaat blames John Tory for not accessing public land to increase housing supply and Tory blames Keesmaat for putting up "roadblocks" to the creation of new housing when she was chief planner.
  • Regarding transportation, Ms. Keesmaat was asked about the city’s network plan. She wants a 30-year network plan that looks at continuously building. Regarding the relief line, Mr. Tory says “we have a plan” and secured $9-billion, and “now we have to build." Ms. Keesmaat rebuttled, saying builders were pulled off to help with six additional GO stations. Ms. Climenhaga said the subway is one part of the system, but the city “needs to improve surface transit" as well.
  • Candidates debated the state of the Gardiner Expressway. Mr. Tory believes it is essential, while Ms. Climenhaga, Ms. Gebresellassi and Ms. Keesmaat said the investment in “old infrastructure” is not a good use of Toronto’s money. 
At the Toronto mayoral debate hosted by The Globe and the Toronto Region Board of Trade, John Tory and Jennifer Keesmaat had a lively exchange about Toronto's transit system, and Tory's SmartTrack plan to extend transit service.
  • Looking at small businesses, Ms. Gebresellassi wants to hire locally and in risk neighbourhoods. Mr. Tory reinforced low tax rates for business properties. “Local businesses are already going out of business,” Ms. Climenhaga rebutted.  
  • When candidates were allowed to ask another candidate a question, Ms. Climenhaga, Ms. Gebresellassi and Ms. Keesmaat all asked Mr. Tory their respective questions. Ms. Climenhaga asked Mr. Tory if he will cut services in order to raise revenue; Ms. Gebresellassi asked him about the amount of housing units created during his time; Ms. Keesmaat asked about the unfulfilled promise about Smart Track. Mr. Tory asked Ms. Keesmaat what else beside property taxes citizens should expect with so many big capital expenditures. 
  • Stay tuned for a full debate recap from The Globe. The election is set for October 22. Read The Globe’s guide to the 2018 Toronto election here. You can re-watch the debate below.
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