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Ontario party leaders face off in black community debate - without Ford

Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath faced off at a black community debate Wednesday, Doug Ford didn't show. He was at his own rally in Sudbury.

Andrea Horwath and Mike Schreiner pledged to end carding, Wynne said her party continues to find a balance

An audience member asks a question during Wednesday's black community debate in North York. The debate was attended by premier Kathleen Wynne, NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner. PC leader Doug Ford declined the invite, instead hosting a rally in Sudbury. (CBC)

Premier Kathleen Wynne, NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner faced off at a black community debate Wednesday, but Doug Ford didn't show.

The Ontario PC leader declined an invitation to the debate. He was busy hosting his own rally at Cambrian College in Sudbury, part of his brief tour of northern Ontario.

The crowd didn't hide their feelings — they booed when Ford's name was announced as a no-show. 

Despite his absence, the debate ensued, kicking off with pledges from the leaders to address issues facing the black community.

"I've always known systemic racism exists," Wynne said. "You all know that." 

Schreiner and Horwath also acknowledged anti-black racism.

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner speaks during Wednesday's black community debate. Schreiner addressed carding as one of the community's most pressing struggles. (CBC)

In her opening statement, Horwath touched on the impact the welfare system has on black children, and the criminal justice system on black men.  

"You've worked so hard for so long. It's time for a new premier to work just as hard," she said. 

Schreiner addressed carding as one of the community's most pressing struggles. 

'It's about fixing the imbalance'

Wynne said random street checks aren't acceptable — adding that a cultural shift needs to happen — and said her party is continuing to work to find a balance. 

"Balance is not what it's about. It's about fixing the imbalance," replied Horwath.

Both Horwath and Schreiner said their parties would eliminate carding, gaining positive reaction from the crowd. 

 

But Wynne switched her focus back to Ford, noting his absence and record on carding. The PC leader said he supports the idea of bringing back TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy), which was disbanded over carding concerns.

'I know it's not enough.'

When the leaders were asked what they would do about health equity, Wynne said, "I know it's not enough. I know we're not there yet." 

"It's been 15 years and we haven't seen the kind of change that we need," replied Horwath.

 

Schreiner said the province should be matching the B.C. health care budget, with which both Horwath and Wynne agreed. 

The high number of black students expelled or suspended in schools was also discussed.

Schreiner and Wynne said the solution lies with mandated training for educators. Horwath thinks part of the problem is school closures in lower income communities. 

'I love them. They love me'

Ford defended skipping the debate last week: "I have massive support in the black community. I love them. They love me," he said.

"There's no other politician in this country, no other politician outside of Rob Ford, that has supported the black community more than I have."

CBC reporters were at the North York debate and at Ford's rally in Sudbury. Recap with our live blog below.


With files from Haydn Watters and Julia Knope