In the ring: Mayoral candidates square off

19 Oct

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By Joshua Freeman

Health infrastructure, traffic and development were the issues dominating an even-tempered Vaughan mayoral debate last night at which no candidate emerged a clear winner.

About 200 people crowded into a banquet hall at Beth Avraham Yosef Congregation of Toronto in Thornhill to hear all eight mayoral candidates speak in a debate co-sponsored by the synagogue and the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC).

Former Vaughan MP Maurizio Bevilacqua opened the debate by telling the audience he “came back from Ottawa because the community told him there was a need for change.”

Paul Donofrio followed, emphasizing accountability and imploring the audience to “choose in your heart the mayor who has the utmost integrity.”

Mayor Linda Jackson went next with an impassioned statement about having had to work with a council that has been against her since the 2006 election.

“In the past four years as mayor I’ve stood alone. They have maligned me, they have ridiculed me, they’ve made comments about my looks,” said Jackson, rising in her place. “I did not give up and I will not give up. I have a job to finish at city hall and I plan to do just that.”

Some jabs traded

Although the debate was mainly civil, there were a few shots traded back and forth. Former councillor and MPP Mario Racco attacked Jackson and Vaughan council for having voted to develop hundreds of acres of formerly protected lands by voting for a three per cent expansion of the urban boundary. Jackson shot back that Racco’s wife, councillor Sandra Yeung-Racco, had voted for the expansion as well.

Racco also criticized Bevilacqua for not resigning his federal post sooner if he was so eager to run for mayor. Bevilacqua rebutted it takes 37 days to elect a prime minister and more time isn’t needed for a mayor.

Candidates brings out laughs

The debate was also punctuated with lively comments by second-time mayoral candidate Savino Quatela. Speaking about the need for weekly garbage collection in the summer, Quatela told the audience he ‘eats a lot of fish in the summer’ and has many grandchildren who produce ‘a lot of caca.’

Of particular interest to the Thornhill audience was a question about a new by-law forbidding private homes from being used as places of worship. The issue strikes a chord in Thornhill, where daily Jewish prayers require a quorum of at least 10 men, and neighbours traditionally gather at one another’s homes for prayer.

Jackson emphasized the need to tread carefully when passing laws around religious practice, noting such rules could affect gatherings as diverse as mourning houses and weddings. She said she would assemble an interfaith committee to carefully examine the issue and prioritize worshipper safety.  Most other candidates agreed, except Tony Lombardi, who said government should have nothing to do with limiting religious practice in any way.

As with other debates held in Vaughan so far, some candidates complained discussion was stifled by a format that didn’t allow audience participation except in the form of written questions submitted to the moderator. But afterwards citizens generally described the event as useful in helping them decide whom to vote for.

“I came out because I was undecided about the mayor and this helped me decide,” said one woman who was impressed with both David Natale and Lorini and described herself as a 30-year resident of Vaughan. “They brought up a very good issue—transportation for the disabled. I needed services for at least five years with Wheel Trans and I had to take taxis because there was no way to get into Toronto.”

One gentleman who helped organize the debate said he was impressed with all the thoughtful responses from candidates.

“I think by and large we got a good hearing,” said Morris Maron. “A lot of the candidates made good cases for themselves. I would say I was probably more impressed with one candidate just because I hadn’t seen him or known him and I think he presented himself very well. But I think they all did a great job.”

The event was one of a handful of mayoral debates taking place ahead of next Monday’s municipal election.

Click here to see a replay of Vaughan Today’s live blog from the debate.


2 Responses to “In the ring: Mayoral candidates square off”

  1. Frank Melville October 20, 2010 at 1:50 PM #

    Jackson’s bit is getting tiring. Nobody ever made fun of her looks. She is just making things up.

    Plus, she is up on a ton of Election Act charges that residents brought forward. Council did everything they could to try and stop them.


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