5 Toronto mayoral candidates clash over transit, housing plans at 2nd major debate
Oct. 18, 2022
Toronto's five mayoral candidates sparred over transit and housing at the second of two major debates of the campaign on Monday.
The 90-minute debate was hosted by the Toronto Region Board of Trade and moderated by TVO journalist Steven Paikin, who was forced to shut down hecklers and manage a debate that touched on a wide-range of topics and frequently saw rival candidates take shots at John Tory.
The debate is the second of just two debates Tory agreed to participate in ahead of the Oct. 24 election.
Gil Penalosa opened the debate by trumpeting his "Fastlane" plan to create bus rapid transit lines, while also vowing to improve the commutes of streetcar riders by giving those vehicles signal priority. He also said he'd work on improving conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.
Penalosa is set to speak with CBC Radio's Metro Morning tomorrow morning at 7:10 a.m., which you'll be able to watch live online. Tory is set to speak with Metro Morning on Wednesday.
This morning's show spoke with environmentalist Sarah Climenhaga about her mayoral run.
Tory, for his part, said he's focused on getting the transit projects that are planned built. "We have to get people back on transit and build more," he said, adding ridership will increase hand-in-hand with people getting back to the office.
"We have to get people back to their place of work," he said.
Chloe Brown, once again emerging as a sharp critic of Tory on the debate stage, chided the mayor for failing to get his SmartTrack program built, despite campaigning on it en route to his 2014 election win. "It's time to take politics out of transit planning," she said.
Sarah Climenhaga called for improvements that could be made "right now," including dropping fares for many riders. Stephen Punwasi, meanwhile, called for some TTC land to be sold off to raise money to improve the system.
Gentle densification or a 'renovation revolution'?
On housing, Tory defended his record, noting 19,000 affordable housing units are in development and that 3,800 supportive housing units have been built that people are living in now.
Tory outlines plan for 'more types of housing in more neighbourhoods' as 1st election promise
Tory said the key going forward will be to change the rules to allow more types of housing in more neighbourhoods -- think: allowing more triplexes in neighbourhoods currently zoned only for single family homes.
Tory said that style of housing was once popular in the city, then "all of a sudden they became a bad thing."
He said he's seeking a mandate to change that.
Punwasi, sarcastically, replied "John, that sounds like a great plan. You should have done it."
A juxtaposition of old and new apartment buildings in Toronto’s Kensington Market are pictured on Jun. 13, 2022.
Tory reiterated his plan to add more dense forms of housing in more areas of the city. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
Penalosa, meanwhile, pitched his plan of a "renovation revolution," which would see the city provide serious help to seniors hoping to age in place. Those seniors, who presumably own large homes, will be helped to divide their home -- as a right -- to include multiple units.
Penalosa said he believes thousands of people will take advantage of this plan.
Brown, for her part, slammed the city for operating an antiquated permit system. "I really feel for developers," she said.
Tory turns down idea of defunding police
Ahead of the debate, about 20 activists staged a demonstration calling on mayoral candidates to defund the police if elected.
At the debate itself, Penalosa criticized some police spending, including what the service allots to its mounted unit.
Tory said he will aim to continue police reforms and hold its $1 billion-plus budget -- by far the largest line item for city spending -- where it is. Defunding the police, he said, is "something I will not do."
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Brown, speaking after Tory, said it's not about defunding the police, but rather reallocating the money to mental health supports.
Penalosa then clarified his position, saying: "I'm not talking about defunding the police, I'm talking about evaluating every cost."
Only 6 mayoral candidates get debate exposure
Paikin earned his pay at least twice as he dealt with hecklers who interrupted the debate, including Reginald Tull, who is also running for mayor, who crashed the stage yelling "Where's my podium?"
Only six mayoral candidates have appeared on major debate stages during the campaign.
Candidate Jack Yan appeared in the first but was not on stage for the second.
Last week, Tory, Penalosa, Brown and Climenhaga were were also on hand for an event hosted by the seniors' group CARP. You can read more about that debate here.
Monday's contest comes just days after the advance voting period ended. Despite this year's period being longer than previous elections, results show that turnout fell by almost seven per cent from 2018, and almost 30 per cent from 2014's record.
On election day, Monday, Oct. 24, voters can head to 1,460 polling locations across the city from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m to cast their ballot. For more information, you can check out the city's voting website.
John Tory touts his record while his rivals paint a picture of a city that's struggling
In total, there are 31 people running for mayor -- comprising by far the longest list on your ballot. They are: