While Toronto's high-profile mayoral candidates threw barbs at each other during Tuesday night's raucous debate, Ari Goldkind switched off his TV after only 30 minutes.
The debate, Doug Ford's first since his last-minute entry into the race as a replacement for his ailing brother, was a gloves-off affair. Ford attacked John Tory as a privileged member of the "elite" with no council experience. Tory tried to paint Ford as a carbon copy of his brother. Olivia Chow struggled to get a word in edgewise.
The meeting was punctuated by outbursts and shouting from the gallery. A few people were led out by police.
The spectacle was more than Goldkind, a fringe mayoral candidate not invited to the debate, could stomach.
"I watched it for about half an hour, then I found it so distasteful and so shameful I had to turn it off," he said this week in an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "This brought down our civic discourse. This did nothing for the voters … it was just theatre. It was like the WWE was in town. My view is that Toronto deserves better and I'm here to offer that."
Goldkind, a 40-year-old criminal defence lawyer whose client list includes pedophile Gordon Stuckless, likes to portray himself as a candidate more willing than his opponents to speak the truth, particularly when it comes to Toronto's revenue needs.
"I deal in facts and evidence," he told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway this week. "You can't walk into a courtroom and just say these grandiose slogans and show contempt to a judge. You'd be laughed out of the room."
Criminal lawyers don't always rank high in the court of public opinion. Goldkind addresses this in a section on his campaign website headlined "The Lawyer Thing." He defends his work as important to ensure the integrity of the legal system and ends the section with a zinger aimed at Rob Ford: "I would rather see a lawyer running for mayor than a mayor running for his lawyer."
'I don't think tax is a four-letter word'
His detailed platform is published here. He's in favour of light rail in Scarborough, not a subway. He's against allowing jets to operate at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and wants lapel cameras made mandatory for front-line police officers.
Goldkind says the police budget is a "sacred cow" among civic politicians and wants it pared back to 2010 levels.
'I'd rather see a lawyer running for mayor than a mayor running for his lawyer' - Defence lawyer and mayoral candidate Ari Goldkind
He also wants a dedicated fund to expand transit but he's against talking about how to pay for it with code words and euphemisms like "revenue tools."
"I don't use the term 'revenue tool' I don't think tax is a four-letter word," he told host Matt Galloway. "Taxes build the city that we dream of."
In a press release announcing his entry into the mayor's race, Goldkind is even more candid.
"We need new dedicated funding to build transit, maintain the infrastructure we already have, and fund the services and programs that make this city a great place to live. The rest of the field knows this is the truth, but not one of them is willing to say it."
His campaign website makes specific mention of road tolls, hotel charges and a congestion tax.
But for all his straight talk, Goldkind is currently running a very distant fourth behind Tory, Olivia Chow and Doug Ford. Goldkind has no political experience, no war chest to speak of and does not have a crew of campaign staffers. The polls peg his support levels in the single digits.
Other candidates with little support in the polls — namely Karen Stintz and David Soknacki — have already dropped out. Both have council experience and name recognition that Goldkind can't match.
So is he just running to make a point? When Galloway suggested this during their interview, Goldkind the lawyer raised an immediate objection.
"This is about becoming the mayor of a city I love and making an impact. I am not doing this to raise the discussion," he said. "People are realizing that I'm worth taking a look at. I am going to surprise this city."