The three leading candidates in Toronto's mayoral race debated economic and immigration issues Tuesday evening during the second debate of the day.
John Tory, Olivia Chow and Doug Ford attended the two-hour debate at The Peoples Church on Sheppard Avenue East.
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They faced questions about how they will work to improve the immigrant and refugee experience for new Canadians settling in Toronto.
The three candidates focused their answers on employment, especially encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit of many new Torontonians, as well as housing, child care and English-language services.
"I think there is no area more important than to help people get a good job," said Tory, who focused many of his answers around the "fundamental" role of better employment for the un- and underemployed in alleviating poverty.
Tory received cheers for his suggestion that Canada ought to support new immigrants’ English or French-language learning before they arrive in Canada. He said English-language skills are crucial for new Canadians not only to find employment, but also to attend parent-teacher conferences, go to the doctor and feel truly included in their new city.
Chow said mental health services top her list of the most important services a city ought to provide new immigrants because the immigrant experience is difficult. Without mental health services, she said, "some of the families, they will slip through the crack."
Chow also said she would work to create 3,000 new affordable child care spaces if elected as Toronto’s next mayor.
Ford said it is important to ensure Toronto has vibrant communities not only in the city’s downtown core, but also in Etobicoke, Scarborough and other suburbs. This way, new Torontonians can be confident opening a small business no matter where they live.
He also said he has "a soft spot" for single mothers, who sometimes spend more than half of their take-home pay on child care, and said he supports creating more affordable child care spots.
Candidates find room for personal attacks
Some of the candidates found the opportunity for personal jabs at their opponents despite the panel discussion-style of the debate.
'If you don’t tell the people where the money is coming from, then it won’t happen.' - Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow
Chow attacked Ford and Tory, saying neither candidate has provided voters with anything more than a wish-list because they have not offered a detailed analysis of how they will accomplish or pay for their goals.
"If you don’t tell the people where the money is coming from, then it won’t happen," she said.
Soon after, Ford attacked Tory for apparently belonging to an exclusive golf club since his mid-teens.
"You come from a totally different world than the rest of us," he said.
Tory did not respond to the attack.
The debate was hosted by an umbrella group consisting of more than 30 organizations.
Chow and Tory met in a one-on-one debate at a downtown hotel earlier Tuesday, during which Chow repeatedly attacked a perceived lack of details in Tory's plans to fund his platform. Ford did not attend.
Tuesday marked the first day of advance voting in each of the city's 44 wards. CBC News uncovered a potential breach of municipal voting rules in Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina on Tuesday when elderly voters — many of whom did not speak fluent English — arrived at an advance voting station with sample ballots with the name and number of Ward 20 city council candidate Tonny Louie already marked off.
The Oct. 27 election is now less than two weeks away. Chow, Ford and Tory are among dozens of candidates seeking to be elected as the city's next mayor.