Toronto mayoral candidates release duelling attack videos as campaign heats up

Jennifer Keesmaat and John Tory both released campaign videos attacking each other Tuesday, as the war of words between the two campaigns heats up.​

Keesmaat's video focuses on transit, Tory's on opponent's secession comments

John Tory's mayoral campaign released a video attacking mayoral challenger Jennifer Keesmaat's suggestion that Toronto should secede from Ontario. (Canadian Press/CBC)

Jennifer Keesmaat and John Tory both released campaign videos attacking each other Tuesday, as the war of words between the two campaigns heats up.​

Keesmaat's campaign posted a video on social media criticizing the centrepiece of Tory's 2014 campaign: the SmartTrack transit strategy.

She points out that the original plan — which called for building 53 km of new rail tracks and 22 new transit stations — was much more ambitious than the plan city council eventually passed in April of this year.  The final plan called for six new stations to be built on existing GO Transit corridors in the city.

​"Four years ago, John Tory promised SmartTrack and that's turned out to be nothing more than a mirage," Keesmaat said in the video, shot outside Union Station.

"We need to take the politics out of transit planning," Keesmaat continued. "We need a mayor with a plan."  

How is Keesmaat's plan different? Tory campaign asks

Keerthana Kamalavasan​, a spokesperson for Tory, said the incumbent mayor is building transit including the Downtown Relief Line and SmartTrack. 

Kamalavasan questioned how Keesmaat's plan is "...suddenly different from the City's current transit plan that she was proud to champion as Chief Planner?"

Tory campaign attacks Keesmaat 'secession' comment

Later in the day, Tory's re-election campaign released a video Tuesday night attacking Keesmaat's suggestion that Toronto should secede from Ontario.

In the video, posted to Tory's campaign Twitter and YouTube accounts, a campaign staffer speaks to a number of people on the streets of Toronto asking them if they think it is a "good idea" for Toronto to separate from Ontario.

The people being interviewed invariably called the idea "silly," "stupid," "ludicrous," and "a bad idea."

The video concludes with "We don't think that's a very good idea. Neither does anyone else."

'Not an official policy'

The video references a series of tweets Keesmaat sent out in late July when news broke that Ontario Premier Doug Ford wanted to cut the size of Toronto city council almost in half.

"Secession," Keesmaat tweeted on July 26, just hours after the Toronto Star first reported the premier's plans.

Keesmaat doubled down the next day: "Now I have had a chance to sleep on it. Secession. Why should a city of 2.8 million not have self governance?"

She engaged in a back-and-forth debate with various Twitter users over the next few days before walking back her comments.

Keesmaat told CP24 in an interview on July 31 the tweets were representative of the "frustration" many Torontonians felt over being blindsided by the Ford government's plans and were "not a policy statement."

A spokesperson for the Keesmaat campaign told CBC Toronto Tuesday that the candidate has "clarified her tweets around secession as an expression of frustration around Bill 5."

"It's almost as if Mr Tory doesn't have a record of his own to run on."

Keesmaat, Toronto's chief planner from 2012 to 2017, has emerged as Tory's main challenger in the mayoral election to take place on Oct. 21.

She joined the race for mayor just hours before registration closed, in what she called an "impromptu decision" after learning of the provincial government's plans.

"We need to stand up for our city," Keesmaat told reporters at the time. "I am running for mayor because I believe we need bold ideas in this city."

The two campaigns have continuously traded barbs, with Keesmaat's campaign attacking Tory's leadership as "weak" and with him labelling her as "the NDP candidate" with the support of "the most radical members of city council's left wing."


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