It was bad enough that the St. Lawrence Centre Forum decided against hosting a mayoral debate. But it was downright pathetic when the replacement event scheduled for Wednesday, November 1 -- a chat session with Mayor Mel Lastman and federal GTA minister David Collenette, among others -- also bit the dust when those politicians bailed.
Lastman's campaign manager, James Villeneuve, says the debate-shy mayor had already committed to councillor Case Ootes's fundraising event that evening.
And Collenette handler Cameron Summers says the election call got in the way.
But that's not how the Forum's disappointed director, Teresa Bellefontaine, explains it. She says Lastman was told months ago that they were scheduling a mayoral debate for that evening. And in Collenette's case, the invite and media release specifically stated that "this discussion will be held only in the event of a federal election call."
Says Bellefontaine, "It's not strictly because there was an election that he felt it was inappropriate to participate."
The mayor's sudden debate phobia has caused him to be extremely picky about when and where he will appear. U of T student council rep Anjali Misra tells NOW's Kris Menon that Mel has declined an invite to a mayors' debate Monday (November 6). The mayor's camp apparently told her that while they won't rule out a debate, they would want to pick the date, time, place and moderator of any student-sponsored forum. SCOTT ANDERSON
Candidate battles age factor in tight race
The campaign trail has never been an easy haul for young aspiring politicians.
After pounding the pavement and knocking on doors in Ward 42 (Scarborough-Rouge River), city council hopeful Horace Dockery has hit upon this hard truth.
While his young face may win him admiring glances and the occasional pinch on the cheek, it will by no means win him the election. Truth be told, it's a bit of a liability.
When the doors of this working-class neighbourhood are cracked and the 25-year-old hospital administrator and former York Student Federation president, the only black in the race, outlines his campaign centred on improved community services and youth employment initiatives, the first question out of homeowners' mouths is "How old are you?"
They like the message. And they like the messenger's credentials -- Dockery is the only candidate who lives in the riding.
No, it's only the messenger's age that goes down the wrong way.
In this 80,000-plus riding where the number of blacks is about the same as that of South Asians, the other dominant group, the vote will likely split along the same lines -- some to Dockery, some to his Indo-Canadian opponent, Eden Gajraj.
Incumbent Raymond Cho's lacklustre performance at City Hall and failure to attract investment to this community struggling with high unemployment, plus a municipal restructuring that has shifted out almost all the ward's 30,000 East Asians, are making his re-election far from a cakewalk.
"This is a race that's going to be decided on the basis of race," says Dockery, the only independent candidate on otherwise Grit turf. "The guy who can get the largest number of people who look like him to the polls will win. I detest that that is the case. I want the issues to be the decision-maker."
Still, Dockery may get his wish. In a ward chock full of landed immigrants -- who by law are prohibited from marking municipal ballots -- no candidate can be sure how many who "look like him" are in fact eligible to vote. Which means Dockery and the three other candidates can afford to overlook no one -- black, brown or, in a very few cases, white.
Tooker treating in Count Mel's 'hood
With just over a week to spare, Tooker Gomberg, the self-proclaimed Robin Hood, is upping the intensity of his mayoral campaign.
After sleeping out in Allan Gardens to raise homelessness awareness, he was out demonstrating with Greenpeace at a Loblaws branch against genetically modified foods.
The campaign is being captured on video, and Gomberg plans to employ homeless people to sell 500 copies on the streets.
Look out for the Gomberg team at 8 am Friday (November 3) on College between Spadina and Huron, where they'll be constructing a giant bike lane to replace the standard one that already exists.
"With a little bit of paint and money we could dramatically increase the number of people who get out on their bikes."
The Tooker Train, a 1940s streetcar, will be running up and down Spadina between 11 am and 2 pm Sunday (November 5), collecting passengers for a free ride. Gomberg is also set to unveil his megacity "Green Book" on this day.
Gomberg admits that the time and energy spent on "political performances" overshadow his abilities as a serious politician.
"I end up looking, well, not respectful," says Gomberg. "But it's the only choice I have."