Toronto mayoral candidates spar over financing, civility at CBC debate

CBC News hosts a town hall candidates' debate at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre with the three leading Toronto mayoral candidates.

Matt Galloway moderates debate at the Canadian Broadcasting Centre

Debate packs CBC Atrium

7 years ago
Duration 2:58
It was standing room only at the CBC Broadcasting Centre as mayoral candidates squared off Thursday 2:58

Olivia Chow, Doug Ford and John Tory zeroed in on financing their campaign pledges early on in CBC's town hall mayoral debate. But the debate soon turned nasty as Ford and Tory repeatedly attacked each other's character.

Tory's SmartTrack rail system became a target early on when an audience member asked what his backup plan would be if tax increment financing or TIF - a budgeting plan to pay for current projects with future tax revenue - did not generate enough money.

Tory said he's "confident" it will, saying history proves him right.

Doug Ford, John Tory and Olivia Chow appear at CBC's town hall debate. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)
"Really, John? Seriously?" asked Chow, rhetorically. She said the tax base will not necessarily be concentrated in areas Tory is counting on for tax revenue.

"TIF doesn't work," added Ford.

Tory, who polls suggest is leading at this point in the campaign, took more hits on his planning abilities. Both Chow and Ford have said there are shortfalls in Tory's capital budgeting and those will result in higher taxes and service cuts.

Ford said Tory has "flip-flopped" on taxes and tolls. Tory will "institute every single tax he can think of," says Ford.

"When a politician says 'revenue tools', you'd better hold onto your wallets," said Ford, referencing Tory's suggestion of such tools when he was at Civic Action, a city-building organization.

How to pay for campaign promises has become a frequent theme over the recent weeks of the mayoral campaign. 

Chow repeated her claim that neither Tory and Ford have full, costed-out platforms.

"Those are empty promises until you put actual dollars to your scheme," said Chow, accusing Tory of providing false hope to Toronto.

Bickering on stage, in council

The debate got animated when the subject of the issues facing the lower-income Jane Street and Finch Avenue neighbourhood came up. Ford accused Tory of never having been there, and referenced Tory's membership in exclusive golf clubs.

"You're just out of touch with the people of Jane and Finch," shouted Ford.

Tory responded that he had just been at that intersection, and accused Ford of trying to use the neighbourhood as a wedge.

"That's why you'll never be mayor. You're Doug the divider," exclaimed Tory.

"Doug Ford has called himself 'the enforcer' and 'the hammer' down [at city hall]," said Tory. "I just want to go down there and be a leader."

Tory brought up several votes in which Ford and his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, were the only dissenting votes.

A wide view of the debate stage, with the candidates sitting on the left. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)
Ford characterized those votes as standing up to other councillors.

"They just do not care," said Ford of some councillors. "They'd rather stick together like a pack of wolves."

Tory said the division at city hall cannot continue. He said Ford demeans other councillors.

Ford said that was hypocrisy from Tory, and proceeded to list pejorative names Tory has called him during the campaign.

On a break in the Tory-Ford back-and-forth, Chow interjected that it was only she who was not name-calling.

"If we want four more years of bickering, be my guest, these two are your candidates," Chow said.

Political mistakes

Each candidate was asked to highlight some of their past political mistakes.

Ford was specifically asked about his dispute with Toronto police chief Bill Blair.

"We had a very good relationship with Chief Blair," said Ford.

The question was referencing a threat of a defamation lawsuit against him by Blair, in which Ford was forced to apologize.

Ford said he still thought the chief should concern himself with policing, not politics. But he acknowledged he apologized several times, in public and in private, for his statements about the chief. He said the media blew the dispute out of proportion.

Tory referenced his "matter of principle" during the provincial election in 2007, when he said faith-based schools should get taxpayer funding, just as public and Catholic schools do.

Chow said she wishes she could have been stronger against the racism she's faced.

Candidates focus on differentiation

The most lively exchange of the latter half of the debate came when Ford brought up Tory's membership in an exclusive Rosedale golf course.

Ford pointed at host Galloway and several other people on stage and said they would not be allowed in that specific club prior to 1996.

"No one in this room would be allowed in the Rosedale golf course," said Ford.

Matt Galloway, host of CBC's Metro Morning and moderator of the debate, sits by while candidates debate with special guest Rahul Bhardwaj, the CEO of the Toronto Foundation. The Toronto Foundation produced a report, Vital Signs, which was the basis of many of Galloway's questions. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)
Tory said he and his father were leaders in the club to end the exclusion of minorities. Ford pointed out Tory had been a member since he was a teenager.

But for the most part, the last third of the debate consisted of the candidates trying to draw distinctions among their campaigns.

"You don't know where John Tory stands, and he won't answer the questions about his transit plan," said Ford.

Tory repeatedly stuck to the questions asked by the audience and the moderator, rather than answering Ford or Chow.

Tory said in order to find cost savings, he would be a powerful advocate for the city with other levels of government, increase taxes only at or below the rate of inflation, and would bring better management to the city.

"If you run this place better, you will have all kinds of money to help the children," he said, referencing Chow's platform of after-school programs and daycare spots.

"How much money are you going to be able to find, John?" responded Chow.

Tory eventually turned his ire to Ford, in one instance dismissing one of Ford's past ideas for the waterfront.

"You were going to put a Ferris wheel and megamall down there. That's what you were going to do," said Tory.

Who would you vote for?

Matt Galloway, host of CBC's Metro Morning and the debate moderator, ended the debate with a question he said all the candidates must answer: "If not you, then who would you vote for in this election?"

An audience member repeatedly yelled out "Beyoncé!", but neither Chow nor Tory would answer the question. Ford said he would vote for his brother Rob, who has "done a great job for the past four years."

Chow, Ford and Tory are the three leading mayoral candidates in a campaign that will send Toronto voters to the polls on Oct. 27.