I tried to get my 16 year old to come with me to the Toronto Danforth riding all candidates meeting at St. Barnabas Church on Tuesday. He wisely declined the invite. This was a snore fest, the kind that makes you think everything is just peachy in Ontari-ari-ario.
In Toronto Danforth there are huge local issues: air quality—about the worst in the city, the proposed East Toronto Transmission Line and the Portlands Energy Centre to name a few. But if the 100, mostly older, mostly white people in attendance were hoping to hear something new, interesting or even absurd from the four candidates sitting behind a table on the church’s alter, this was not to be their night—ok a couple absurd things were said.
There was some polite jousting. A resident deeply opposed to the Portlands Energy Centre wanted to get into a dust up with Liberal candidate Joyce Rowlands because she didn’t declare her Liberal ties when she joined the PEC citizens advisory committee. She proved as slick as the power suit she was wearing in not engaging although she was dressed down by NDP incumbent Peter Tabuns when she claimed that it was due to her and her riding association’s intervention with the Energy Minister that Dwight Duncan got up in the Legislature to say that there were no plans to run a transmission line down Pape Ave. Tabuns reminded her that it is still on the books as part of the Ontario Power Authority’s plans.
Other than that there was little of substance, just a few bizarre moments: A question from the audience asking the candidates if they would vote for a troop pull-out from Afghanistan was one since no provincial pol will ever be called on to cast such a vote in the Legislature. Nevertheless they all answered. (For the record: Tory candidate Robert Bisbicis and Rowlands both said no. Tabuns and Green Party candidate Patrick Kraemer said they would and 20 year old Shona Bracken, representing the Communist Party first pointed out that this is a federal issue but “since peace affects us all” said she too would vote for a troop pull out.)
Bisbicis quoted famed (and ignored by his own party) Red Tory Hugh Segal who supports a guaranteed annual income to duck a question on poverty and then overlooked the fact that Segal has endorsed Mixed Member Proportional representation when he said there are other options out there and he hasn’t decided which one he supports. It was an odd answer which gave the impression that the referendum on the matter offers several choices which it doesn’t. Its either MMP or the status quo. A side note— an MMP worker at the meeting complained to me about how difficult it has been for his group to get the word out. Indeed, for something as important as this decision, it seems that the parties and the media are just hoping it goes away. Too bad.
Bracken was the only one to bring up the student debt issue which should have Ontario students on the streets. But hey we've got a stand in for Mr. Rogers as Premier and in his neighbourhood you just don't hit the streets in protest--atleast not without the proper permit.
When I got home my 16 year old asked me how the meeting went. I’d like him to be more engaged in the political process. I told him I was glad he chose not to come.