Wit and barbs between candidates brightens up debate
(Written for the Town Crier Sept. 16)
A few dozen people attended a somewhat lackluster mayoral debate focused on development issues.
Understandably debate’s organizers, the Building Owners and Managers Association, tailored their questions to issues about development charges, commercial property taxes and over-regulation of the industry.
But what made the Sept. 16 debate more lively was the banter, digs and comments between Joe Pantalone, Sarah Thomson, Rob Ford, Rocco Rossi, George Smitherman, considered to be the frontrunners in the race for mayor.
When candidates were asked what they would do in the first 100 days in office to address spending, Ford was inadvertently passed by.
“You missed me. It’s hard to miss 300 pounds of fun,” Ford joked.
He proceeded to talk about how in the first 100 days in office he’d abolish the land transfer and vehicle registration taxes, reduce councillors’ office budgets from $50,000 to $30,000 and cut the mayor’s office budget by $500,000.
Pantalone responded, “I’m here to build the city not start tearing it down.” Then Pantalone repeated one of his favourite lines that his opponents are all mini-versions of former Ontario Premier Mike Harris and calling Thomson “Michelle Harris”.
Rossi quipped, “Pantalone is fond of calling us mini-Mike Harrises. He is Miller Light.”
Former Liberal MPP Smitherman attacked Rossi’s plan to extend the Allen Expressway with an underground tunnel from Eglinton West down to the waterfront.
But Rossi defended his idea.
“All I have called for is a study. Like others, I am fed up with gridlock and traffic and the impact it has on the economy and productivity.”
Ford, who heads up his family’s business Deco Labels & Tags, spoke fondly about the fact he’s has business experience.
“I’m a proud businessman. To some profit is a dirty word — not to me,” said Ford.
Pantalone pointed out the city froze development charges for two years and there are 100 construction cranes in the Toronto proving something must be working.
One of the most interesting questions of the debate was about choosing an opponent who they would be willing to work with. The example used was when Barack Obama became president of the U.S. in 2008, he choose Hilary Clinton as his secretary of state. This is despite the fact Obama and Clinton ran against each other as democrat presidential nominees.
So who is your Hilary?
Pantalone pointed out it was a moot point as a mayor can’t appoint a non-elected council member to their executive team. But in theory he’d pick Smitherman.
Smitherman would pick Pantalone because of his experience of three decades at city hall.
Thomson would choose Rossi because he’s not afraid to put new ideas out there.
Rossi choose Thomson saying that, “Sarah brings an incredible energy and like me comes from the outside. For 100 years we haven’t elected a mayor who wasn’t from (city) council.”
Ford also named Thomson saying while she lacked political experience, she did have business experience that impressed him.
So in the end, Thomson remarked “I think I won”.
Smitherman piped up, “It’s kind of a booby prize, so if you think you won that says a lot about your expectations.”
“That was mean,” Thomson retorted.