The city’s first mayoral debate got off to a rocky start after a controversial candidate crashed the stage and demanded to be included.
Former Rebel Media personality turned mayoral candidate — who has been described as far-right with alleged ties to white nationalists — Faith Goldy showed up while the debate was taking place and attempted to present a petition to the moderator that she said held signatures of those who wanted her to participate.
She was led off the stage by uniformed Toronto police officers to a chorus of boos and also chants of “let her speak.”
An organizer told Global News on Monday that all candidates were asked to fill out a survey and show they had a policy on the arts. The organizer said if a candidate did not then they would not be invited and Goldy did not have a policy.
Rebel Media fired Goldy last year after she travelled to Charlottesville, Virginia to cover the Unite The Right rally, and appeared on The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website.
WATCH: Faith Goldy storms the stage at Toronto mayoral debate, gets escorted off by police
Mayor John Tory, former chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat, Saron Gebresellassi, Gautam Nath and Sarah Climenhaga participated in the debate at the TIFF Bell lightbox.
The debate was put on by Artsvote Toronto and focused on the topic of arts and culture and their role in the city.
However, throughout the debate the topic shifted toward transit issues and affordable housing in the city, with Keesmaat taking multiple shots at Tory.
“An essential part of the arts is about inclusion, it’s about equity and we know that one of the ways we deliver this in this city is through transit and I would like Mr. Tory to be held to account for his Smart Track plan, which is dead, buried and we know that this conservative government is going to put a daisy on it,” she said.
“And we need to understand why he is not delivering exactly what we need to deliver a city where people can get from everywhere to everywhere,” she said before referencing her transit plan.
WATCH: Premier Ford refuses to denounce controversial mayoral candidate when asked by NDP MPP
Tory fired back and accused Keesmaat of flip-flopping on her support of his smart-track plan, claiming she supported the idea until she decided to run for mayor.
“You supported Smart Track until you were running for mayor and all of a sudden you didn’t — it’s on the record — but now back to our regular scheduled programming on the arts,” he said.
The event was moderated by TIFF’s vice-president of advancement, Maxine Bailey.
On Tuesday, four candidates – Climenhaga, Gebresellassi, Keesmaat and Tory – will square off again in a live debate hosted by Global News.
The debate takes place at 4 p.m.
The program will air live on Global News Radio 640 Toronto and will also be streamed live on Globalnews.ca.
Toronto election moving forward with 25 wards
The debate came after weeks of uncertainty and discord between Queen’s Park and Toronto City Hall with the introduction of Premier Doug Ford’s plan to slash city council by almost half.
On Sept. 19, a court ruling cleared the way for the election to go ahead based on a 25-seat Toronto council, down from 47.
The Ontario Court of Appeal sided with the provincial government in granting a stay of a lower court’s ruling against Bill 5. The legislation passed last month would see the size of Toronto council slashed by 22 seats.
Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba struck down that bill on constitutional grounds on Sept. 10, but the government appealed, and drew up a new bill, invoking the rarely used notwithstanding clause of the Charter, in order to override the ruling.
Following Wednesday’s decision, however, the government has indicated that there’s no need for that legislation to proceed.
—With files from Kerri Breen