Candidates get questioned at local debates

Candidates (from left) Michael Prue, Helen Burstyn, and Chris Menary strike a thoughtful pose at the Sept. 29 all-candidates debate at St. John’s Norway Church sponsored by Beach Metro News and Community Centre 55.

It’s only a few days before the provincial election, and candidates from Beaches/East York have been out in full force trying to get your vote. You have probably had a visit on your doorstep, been inundated with campaign literature in your mail box and received a phone call during dinner. It’s all about getting out the message.

Voters in this riding are lucky to have had a number of opportunities to question the candidates in person. Over the last two weeks, there have been three all-candidate meetings.

The first, on Sept. 20, was part of TDSB’s Education Day. In every ward in the city, and in fact, all over the province, candidates were invited to all-candidate meetings which focused on education issues. The one in Ward 16 was sponsored by Trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher at Secord Community Centre.

NDP candidate Michael Prue, Liberal Helen Burstyn and Green party candidate Shawn Ali faced a standing room only crowd. The wide ranging questions covered everything from  problems getting a French high school in the ward to all day kindergarten, adult education, the funding formula, home schooling and year-round classes.

The next debate on Sept. 22 was sponsored by Neighbourhood Link Support Services and Beach United Church. While about 50 people gave up an evening to attend the debate, only Prue and Burstyn showed up.

Moderator Jason Balgopal asked audience-submitted questions on a wide range of issues from export policies to wind farms. Both candidates were knowledgeable and engaging. And the audience in turn was appreciative, applauding both candidates.

The last all-candidates’ meeting was sponsored by Beach Metro Community News and Community Centre 55, and was held at St. John’s Norway Church on Sept. 29.

Unlike the other two debates PC candidate Chris Menary did attend, although Ali did not.

By 7:30 the church was largely filled as the audience waited to hear what the candidates had to say. Moderator Chris Blizzard (Toronto Sun columnist and Beach Metro board member) asked the candidates four preset questions: the first about support for public transit in Toronto, the second focusing on increased access to a family doctor, the third on increasing affordable day care places and finally solutions to a worsening global economy.

Since, with the exception of Menary, this was the candidates’ fourth debate the answers were practised and the deliveries were smooth. Not surprisingly, Prue spoke about how the NDP would improve services by restoring provincial funding to the TTC, encouraging doctors to move to underserviced areas and making sure that parents had access to affordable day care. Burstyn, often using   the pronoun ‘we’ (referring to the Liberal government), defended McGinty’s record and promised more of the same (only better). Menary often referred to his own experience as a businessman and used the word ‘change’ at just about every opportunity.

Things did not really get heated until the questions focused on local issues. A question involving the role of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), made all three candidates use their rebuttal cards.

Citing the current case before the OMB (the development of the Glen Davis ravine) Prue said that the OMB no longer served its purpose and should be abolished. Burstyn didn’t agree that the board needed to be disbanded but supported a major overhaul. Menary, too, referred to the issue of the Glen Davis ravine.

Throughout the evening questions came fast and furious on a wide ranging variety of topics from the environment to South Asian seniors to First Nation’s schools.

At one point, Prue was challenged about a statement he made at the TDSB debate. The person asking the question said that Prue had advocated for eliminating the Catholic School Board. Prue replied that the person “should not tell a lie, especially in church.” Prue said that, in reference to getting a building for a French high school, that it would be much easier if there was only a single board.

In their summaries, Prue talked about  the faith voters have placed in him over the years, Burstyn spoke about cuts at the federal and Municipal level and the need for something difference, Menary referred to the need for change.

The candidates have done their jobs, now it’s up to you. Make sure you vote on Oct. 6.


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