Is change in the air? Incumbents see no advantage at regional council debate

8 Oct


Regional council hopefuls duke it at a debate Thursday

Regional council hopefuls duke it at a debate Thursday


(Note: Post updated Oct 12 — see below)

By Josh Freeman

The so-called incumbents’ advantage was nowhere to be seen last night as regional and local councillors Joyce Frustaglio, Gino Rosati and Mario Ferri found themselves vulnerable to attack in a debate with nine rivals jockeying for their jobs.

About 150 people packed Vellore Village Community Centre in Woodbridge to check out 12 of the 13 candidates in a three-hour debate hosted by the Vaughan Citizen and The Vaughan Social Action Council.

Although the first hour of the debate was fairly tame, with candidates sounding off on questions about improving services for kids with mental health issues and increasing affordable housing in the city, it began to pick up when a question was posed about transit services for seniors.

Frustaglio and Rosati both pointed to Metrolinx and the region as the arbiter of such problems, with Rosati adding he supports full free access to transit services for seniors and students. Their comments, however, were fodder for Deb Schulte, who followed.

“It’s nice to hear our incumbents actually saying they’re going to make a difference. It’s too bad very little has been done up to now,” Schulte said. “Why can’t our seniors ride around for free outside of rush hour now? Our buses are riding around almost empty anyhow. It shouldn’t be an issue,” she quipped to applause from the audience.

Things continued to get rocky for the incumbents. Asked about traffic problems in the city, Frustaglio lamented gridlock as an issue that exists everywhere and will never be solved. Richard Lorello seized on the comments:

“Well, you heard your answer from at least a couple of your members of council right now … They have no solutions. The problem is everywhere, so we’ve got to live with it too,” he said.

However, the most heated comments were reserved for a question about what candidates would do to stop the political theatrics that have dogged the city for the past four years.

Citizens embarrassed

To applause, Schulte said the past four years have been a disgrace that has left citizens embarrassed to say they’re from Vaughan.

Rosati, who spoke next, said he did his best under difficult circumstances and that the troubles of the last few years had actually brought council closer together.

“Some of the issues people have been referring to have been beyond the control of some of us. Hopefully all of that should be behind us and will be resolved.”

Frustaglio more bluntly blamed Mayor Linda Jackson.

“When you have a good leader, you create good followers. It is unfortunate we did not have a good leader the past four years,” she said to an immediate round of boos and heckles from the audience. “I’m going to continue to be the very best representative this city has ever had.”

To boot, her comments earned her a chastisement from the moderator, who reminded her of the ground rules forbidding speakers from maligning others.

Ferri said the city needed to have more of a team approach, but stopped short of making any apologies for the last four years.

Other challengers echoed Schulte’s sentiments.

“Whoever is voted in is in your team and you support that team,” said John Ross Harvey. Domenic Del Luca added there should be a recall mechanism for councillors.

Note: The original version of this post incorrectly attributed comments by John Ross Harvey to Robert Craig. The mistake was corrected within hours, but for the record, Craig responded to the same question with the following:

A lot of the problems that we’ve had with this previous council is that last election they ran on a  slate if nine. Everyone got on except for one person. Now for these eight people to come forward and ask the new mayor to resign and think that their opinion outweighs the 26,800 people that voted last election is absurd… council should have respected what the citizens of Vaughan voted for and got.

Joanna Cacciola-Lionti said, “that day (when council asked Jackson to resign) was truly a day when Vaughan was disgraced… If you think she’s unfit, why aren’t you running for mayor?”

No clear winner, but incumbents didn’t impress

Although there was no clear winner, random audience members said afterwards they were variously impressed with Schulte, all challengers, and none of the incumbents.

The debate was at times stymied by its format, which had candidates passing a microphone from one to another to answer questions in 30-60 second allotments. Because of the sheer number of candidates to get through, each one generally stuck to his/her points without addressing one another’s comments, making it feel at times more like a class presentation than a debate. Speakers also had their microphones cut off when they had reached time, ruling out the possibility of off-the-cuff discussions.

The audience was allowed to contribute questions by writing them down and dropping them in a box at the back of the room by 8pm. Although there was a full box of questions, time only allowed for three or four to be asked. The result was a furious outburst by mayoral candidate, Savino Quatela, who jumped from his seat near the end of the debate and repeatedly screamed “scandal.” He had to be verbally subdued by the firm voice of moderator Daniele Zanotti, CEO of the United Way of York Region.


7 Responses to “Is change in the air? Incumbents see no advantage at regional council debate”

  1. Carl October 8, 2010 at 5:04 PM #

    Given the number of candidates, time and budget constraints, I thought the debate was well organized and executed.

    Had the event Sponsors chosen to adopt the same approach (i.e. select Candidate invitees) as the recent Chamber of Commerce’s Mayoral debate, there would have well been enough time for more combative and antagonistic debate.

    In doing so however, the greater drama would have come at the expense of undermining a fair and democratic process.

    • vaughanelection October 8, 2010 at 8:40 PM #

      Thanks for your comment, Carl.
      Organizing a debate with this many candidates is definitely a challenge. Either the dialogue is shorter or people are left out.
      Imagine in Toronto if they invited all the mayoral candidates!
      At least 12 is manageable. (when ruled with an iron fist!)

  2. Richard Leong October 8, 2010 at 8:48 PM #

    Re: Strategy in voting for Local / Regional Councillors

    In the City of Vaughan, the voters are entitled to cast up to three votes for the Local and Regional Councillor candidates. The three candidates receiving the most votes are declared elected, so giving each voter three votes makes some sense.

    However, voters need to be aware that when they vote for three candidates, while they do give those three candidates an advantage over all of the other candidates, but they do not give the individual candidates any advantage over the other two.

    If a voter favours one candidate over all others, then they do their favourite no favour by voting for their competition.

    The best thing for them to do for their favourite candidate is to vote for only one candidate.

    This is a perfectly acceptable ballot. Voters MAY vote for up to three candidates, but that does not mean that they MUST vote for three! A vote for a single candidate or for two candidates are just as valid as a vote for three candidates.

    A voter’s vote is a valuable commodity that all candidates are fighting for. Voters should not give their votes to candidates that they do not consider worthy and should never give their votes simply on the basis of name recognition!

    • vaughanelection October 8, 2010 at 8:52 PM #

      Thank you for your comment.
      I think many voters have questions about regional council, what they do, and how to vote.
      Sounds like an idea for a blog post for next week!

  3. Teresa October 9, 2010 at 2:24 AM #

    I feel like I wasted my time at this debate. The whole evening was orchestrated to promote Deb Schulte. She brought her supporters to fill the room and applaud for her. Now the media is covered with Schulte stories and quotes; how convenient. There were 11 other candidates there who brought up a lot of good points, but I see little of that quoted in the papers. Again, the media continues to try influence the public.
    Another thing, It seem to me the rules only applied to some. It was quite alright for Mr. Lorello to have maligned Joyce Frustaglio; no one stopped him or cut off his mike?
    I think the question period was handled poorly, they should have selected questions randomly, not have the Vaughan Citizen vet them beforehand. Let the people ask the questions they want answered. I had a question for Mr. Lorello that was never asked and since I didn’t get to ask my question yesterday, I will ask it here and hope the Mr. Lorello will reply.
    Q. Mr. Lorello, The accusations you made against Mr.Meffe only further brought scandal to Vaughan; you brought these accusations forward without having sufficient evidence to prove it in court. Was this to get name in the paper? Because from where I sit, it sure looks that way! Why should we the residents of Vaughan vote for you?

  4. Robert Craig October 12, 2010 at 4:03 PM #

    Robert Craig
    Candidate for Regional Council
    City of Vaughan

  5. Roland Spears October 13, 2010 at 5:58 AM #

    The worst performance of the evening was given by John Ross Harvey, who didnt seem to understand the issues at hand at all. The other candidates were much better and are all worthy of being elected.

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