High turnout for debate to help choose McGuinty successor

About 300 people packed into a south Ottawa community centre, leaking into the hallway and even the kitchen, at the all-candidates debate for one of five byelections across Ontario this summer.

Ottawa South byelection to decide replacement for former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty

Liberal candidate John Fraser, left, was the aide to former premier Dalton McGuinty. His competition includes the PC's Matt Young and the NDP's Bronwyn Funiciello, seen here at right. (CBC)

For those thinking the turnout would be low for the five Ontario byelections, Wednesday's all-candidates debate in Ottawa South provided a quite different outlook.

Nine candidates and 300 interested voters packed into a south Ottawa community centre for a debate that will help iron out who will take the seat of Ontario's former premier, Dalton McGuinty.

There was standing room only at a hall in the Canterbury Community Centre, where citizens and supporters of the candidates leaked into the adjoining kitchen and the hallway.

This came after organizers only set up 125 chairs for the event, which was likely a reasonable number considering many prognosticators projected there would be few interested voters during a mid-summer byelection.

That included the opposition parties who have criticized the premier, Kathleen Wynne, of calling the byelections when few voters are paying attention.

There were nine candidates who squared off in the Ottawa South byelection debate Wednesday night. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

During Wednesday's debate, opposition parties focused on the scandals that have dogged the ruling party.

Liberal candidate John Fraser,a former McGuinty aide, stuck to the legacies of former Progressive Conservative premiers Ernie Eves and Mike Harris.

The most vocal crowd came on the side of PC candidate, 34-year-old Matt Young. He told the crowd the Liberals "can't be trusted" to run Ontario's energy file.

Dalton McGuinty and his father, Dalton Sr., held the riding seat for 26 straight years until McGuinty's resignation last month. Before that, PCs held the seat for 61 consecutive years.

Advance polls close Friday in Ottawa South and the votes will be cast on Aug. 1.