Pantalone only mayoral hopeful who shows up
A hundred people listen to him talk about why he should be mayor
(Written for Town Crier Oct. 20)
Is it still a debate if only one mayoral candidate shows up?
The YMCA and Toronto Community Foundation hosted a mayoral debate this morning with George Smitherman, Rob Ford and Joe Pantalone all confirming attendance. But within an hour of the scheduled event, Ford’s campaign pulled out of the debate and then Smitherman followed suit leaving Pantalone as the only one on stage.
Veteran councillor Pantalone had the audience of 100 to himself as he outlined his vision for the city and was asked for commitments on arts, sports and poverty reduction.
A number of audience members who posed questions praised Pantalone’s attendance and called it disrespectful for the other candidates to be no shows when people took the time to attend the debate.
After talking about his commitment to Transit City’s light rail transit plan he spoke about expanding funding to priority neighbourhoods.
But the big focus was on sports and fitness.
“I will bring a cricket stadium to Toronto,” he said.
One question centered on making healthy food a priority in Toronto areas called food deserts where there is not a grocery store within a 1 km radius.
“I have released a food policy that calls for doubling the number of community gardens from 100 to 200 and doubling the allotment gardens to 9,000 and adopting (more) farmers’ markets,” said Pantalone, who is polling in third place among the leading contenders.
Pantalone was asked by Karen Pitre, chair of the Toronto Sports Council, who has been working with former mayor David Crombie chair of the Toronto Lands Corp to save school pools about his plan so there are more places to for kids to play outside.
He said he will look for efficiencies especially within the TTC without resorting to layoffs in order to free up money for investment.
“I’ve committed to working with the school board so every kid learns how to swim,” said Pantalone. “I don’t swim by the way, so when I go away I tend to stay close to land.”
At the end of the one-man debate, the YMCA offered him a membership and a YMCA swim instructor Katie Lowe offered to teach Pantalone how to swim, which garnered applause.
Pantalone highlighted his role in landing Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment partnership to open the BMO soccer stadium at Exhibition Place.