Local Toronto election campaigns get nasty

TORONTO – The fight to become a councillor for some Toronto wards has become more than just a game of political will.

Accusations of lying and legal battles are now a part of the community election campaigns as well.

Councillor Cesar Palacio served opponent Alejandra Bravo a libel notice Friday, accusing a canvasser acting on behalf of the Ward 17 candidate of distributing a flyer that he called “false and defamatory.”

The document is a couple of pages printed from a website that alleges Palacio voted to cut 10 per cent of the Toronto Public Library budget in 2012.

“It’s important that the record be set straight during an election because it’s an issue that’s important to people,” Palacio’s lawyer, Michael Fenrick said.

Bravo denies having anyone associated with her campaign distribute the material.

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“He is using a legal bullying tactic to go after our campaign (and) try to silence us,” Bravo said. “I think it’s a lack of understanding of the way democracy works.”

Flyers being handed out by Bravo’s volunteers do question the incumbent’s voting record but with branding associated with her campaign.

Palacio chose to refer questions to his lawyer but did release a statement.

“I have always taken the high road and turned the other cheek when untrue or unfair things have been said about me, but some things are so untrue and hurtful that they cannot simply be ignored,” Palacio said.

Meanwhile, in Ward 9, hopeful Anthony Fernando is trying to wade into the ongoing debate surrounding the future of Downsview Park.

Fernando is accusing councillor Maria Augimeri of masking the truth about development on the land and who has what jurisdiction with her Set Downsview Free campaign.

“It’s fear mongering,” Fernando said. “It’s suggesting very clearly that we can stop the Downsview plan by shaming the federal government. That’s not realistic and baseless.”

Development has already started at the Stanley Greene portion of the park, while the old military quarters at the William Baker neighbourhood are being demolished.

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“We’re going to try and stop the further sale of Downsview Park,” Augimeri said. “We’re saying we can’t handle it.”

She also dismisses her opponent as a nobody while touting her record as a councillor in the area for nearly 30 years.

“We don’t even know who he is,” Augimeri said. “He’s a newcomer in this community.”

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