North York mayoral debate marred by disarray, confusion
Awkward standoff as little-known candidate crashes stage
The disarray that marked the run up to the latest Toronto mayoral debate continued Friday night as candidates and organizers alike struggled with questions, answers and a gate-crasher.
The debate between John Tory, Ari Goldkind and Olivia Chow got off to a rocky start when lesser-known and uninvited candidate Dionne Renée (who spells her name D!onne Renée) crashed the stage.
Renée refused to leave, complaining loudly that the other candidates were not representative of the minorities in the north Toronto neighbourhood. She took the seat left vacant for Doug Ford, who earlier told organizers he would not attend the debate if it included Goldkind.
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"Shame on you if you're kicking out a black female … our voice should be reflected on this table," she said while organizers, struggling to control the situation, looked to police officers in the room for help.
A tense and awkward standoff ended after about 20 minutes when moderator and community organizer Antonius Clarke gave Renée three minutes to address the crowd.
The debate, arranged by the community group Inner City Union, eventually got underway — dwelling on issues including poverty, policing and housing. But tension soon returned to the theatre of the York Woods library as Tory and Goldkind appeared to grow frustrated with Clarke.
Both complained Clarke's questions were often vague, while Goldkind criticized his frequent insistence on yes or no answers.
"I don't think you can answer these serious questions with yes or no," he said at one point, addressing a question about a police report from many years ago. "Are you asking would I read a report and think about it? Yes."
Olivia Chow seemed to have an easier time with both Clarke and the crowd, drawing applause as she repeated her calls for increased child care, services for immigrants and improved bus service.