Above, from left: John Nunziata, David Miller, Barbara Hall, Tom Jakobek and John Tory
Although they differed on other issues, all five candidates for mayor who spoke at Osgoode Hall Law School Wednesday recognized the need to extend the Yonge-Spadina subway to York University.
Better public transit is at the top of the University’s election wish list. “I hope you all came up here today by TTC,” said York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden (right) in her welcome remarks before a capacity crowd of students and members of the York community at Osgoode Hall Law School’s Moot Court.
“It’s important that the candidates understand that the long-over due extension is a priority for York and its more than 50,000 students, faculty and staff on our campus,” Marsden added.
Three of the candidates are Osgoode grads, and all five – Barbara Hall (left, Osgoode ’78), Tom Jakobek, David Miller, John Nunziata (Osgoode ’80) and John Tory (Osgoode ’78) – touched on the transit issue. Hall told the crowd she and her campaign team took the TTC to York for the debate. The former mayor also pledged to improve existing service, expand the transit system and extend it north beyond York.
Miller (right), who is a TTC commissioner and is running on a platform for clean air and clean streets, said, “There is a real need to get people on public transit in this city.” He reminded listeners he voted for the subway at pre-amalgamation Metro Council when it was last proposed – a decision which lost by only four votes. Nunziata and Tory also support the extension – paid for by the private sector – and have made it part of their campaign platforms.
Jakobek (left), the city’s former budget chief, said the subway should be a priority but only after council deals with its $2 billion budget deficit, which he said would take about two years.
As many as 34,000 cars and 1,000 buses visit York’s Keele Campus daily at peak periods. The Toronto Transit Commission has identified the need for an extension of the Yonge-Spadina line to a regional gateway with 3,000 commuter parking spaces north of Steeles Avenue in Vaughan. York is currently negotiating with the TTC for dedicated bus lanes from Downsview Station as an interim measure to reduce traffic congestion.
The debate, moderated by Patrick Monahan (right), dean of Osgoode Law School, was organized by Osgoode Hall Law School with the assistance of the Osgoode Student Caucus.
Toronto’s four major dailies and some radio stations covered the two-hour debate (see York in the Media), one of many that is scheduled before voters go to the polls Nov. 10. One reporter called it “scrappy” and most focused on how Hall took a beating from her four closest rivals and on Miller’s surprise attack on Nunziata.
Jakobek is taking Hall to court over allegations she violated election rules by starting her campaign earlier than allowed. Nunziata said “Barbara Hall cheated” to get a head start. Miller accused Hall of looking for loopholes in the election rules. “It taints us all.” Leaders, he said, “should uphold the law.”
Hall denied she contravened the law. “At every step of the way, I was totally open and I was totally in compliance with the letter and spirit of the law,” she said, adding “I’m happy to put my integrity up against his [Jakobek’s] integrity.”
All candidates vowed to make city hall more accessible and accountable and to end backroom lobbying, in the wake of the MFP computer-leasing scandal and the recent departure of the Freedom of Information commissioner.
Nunziata (right) said “lobbyists were just as active when Barbara Hall was mayor” and blamed her for condo developments on the waterfront. (She said they were built as a result of an Ontario Municipal Board decision.)
Tory (left) said city staff need a “clear code of conduct” and suggested appointing an integrity commissioner. “That has never been done and was not done in Barbara Hall’s time,” said Tory, who later accused her of “strangling the city” with debt and missing opportunities “on her watch.” Nunziata also said Hall “is not prepared to make top decisions because she’s afraid of the unions.”
The biggest sparks flew when Nunziata said it’s wrong to allow people to sleep in the gutter in freezing weather and the first step to helping the homeless should be to “bring them indoors.” Miller suddenly turned to Nunziata and yelled, “John, arresting people because they are poor is extreme.” He waved a private bill tabled by Nunziata in 1989 when he was an MP (but never enacted) that proposed sending women and doctors to jail for five years if they participated in an abortion. “You always want to put people in jail!” shouted Miller. Monahan quickly doused the fire, and the candidates reverted to politely taking turns in speaking.
The proceedings were broadcast live via video-streaming on the University’s network. For an archived version, point your browser to http://www.yorku.ca/special/mayoral_debate/.