Four people vying to become Toronto’s next mayor faced off in a live debate hosted by Global News on Tuesday afternoon.
Candidates Sarah Climenhaga, Saron Gebresellassi, Jennifer Keesmaat and John Tory tackled questions on three topics — traffic, transit and safety, crime, and affordability — in an hour-long discussion at Corus Entertainment headquarters.
The debate was moderated by Global Toronto anchor Farah Nasser and Global News radio host John Oakley.
In addition to putting forth their own ideas, the candidates challenged the incumbent, Tory, on his progress on some of the city’s most pressing issues in four years as mayor.
When Keesmaat said Tory’s SmartTrack transit plan was “dead in the water,” Tory produced a prop — a piece of paper he said was authorization for six transit stations signed that day by the province.
“They’re only being built because we initiated that, and because we reached an agreement with them,” he said. “Which you, you would be in a perpetual state of war with them on all fronts.”
WATCH: Highlights from the Global News mayoral debate
Gebresellassi proposed making transit free for all — as is the case in Estonia — though none of the other candidates would commit to it. Keesmaat called it “a dream.”
Climenhaga proposed free transit for seniors as a “middle ground” but said she believed in the idea of free transit.
“We need to talk about it because transit is an investment for our city,” Climenhaga said. “It’s not a cost.”
Tory offered that there’s no such thing as free transit but pointed to his elimination of TTC fares for children and the introduction of a low-income transit pass as ways the city has helped address the cost.
On the topic of housing, Tory later said Keesmaat’s plan to build 100,000 rental housing units was unrealistic, and that he’s build 40,000 affordable units.
He also committed to keeping taxes at or below the rate of inflation for the next four years.
Gebresellassi, a human rights lawyer, came out swinging against Tory and Keesmaat, saying that two “status quo, career politicians” would not understand the struggles of working class people.
“I haven’t really heard you say much about Toronto community housing and ensuring that we have conditions that are befitting for human habitation in TCHC,” she said. “So, I need to hear a recognition that housing is a fundamental right.”
Keesmaat has never held public office, but most recently served as the city’s chief planner.
On solving crime, Gebresellassi said that addressing poverty is key to the solution, and criticized Toronto’s billion-dollar police budget and the force’s relationship with racialized communities.
WATCH: Candidates provide interviews following the Global News debate
Meanwhile, outside of the building, former Rebel Media personality-turned-mayoral candidate Faith Goldy staged a protest with a couple dozen of her supporters. Goldy, who has been described as far-right with alleged ties to white nationalists, was protesting because she wasn’t invited to participate.
“Since announcing my bid to become mayor of Toronto I, Faith Goldy, have been polling in the top-three consistently, every single time. As a matter of fact, according to the last poll numbers, my numbers are higher than all 32 candidates behind me combined …,” Goldy told Global News Tuesday afternoon.
WATCH: Faith Goldy presents petition outside mayoral debate at Corus Quay
In a poll released Sept. 18 by Mainstreet Research, 46 per cent of voters were leaning toward John Tory for mayor while Goldy received over four per cent of support and over a quarter of people were undecided.
Goldy said she came to the debate to deliver a petition she said was signed by over 7,000 people to let her participate.
“People who signed it might not have even agreed with me but they love our freedom, they love our democracy and they want to see the fullest of our rights as Canadian citizens, as Torontonians exercised,” she said.
Goldy crashed the first mayoral debate, put on by Artsvote Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, on Monday. She said organizers lied about the reason behind her not being allowed to participate.
An organizer told Global News 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.
Goldy said she had an arts platform but never received an invite.