Layton’s last-minute stand-in sent packing from Toronto-Danforth debate

Peter Tabuns showed up this evening to pinch hit for Jack Layton at the Toronto-Danforth all-candidates debate, but he didn’t stay for long.

Federal NDP leader Layton, the incumbent for the riding, could not attend the event at Riverdale Collegiate Institute, so he sent Toronto-based MPP Tabuns, who is considered a potential successor to outgoing Ontario party leader Howard Hampton, to fill his shoes.

Organizers of the debate were unaware of this last minute change, so they put the vote to the crowd to decide if Tabuns could stay and represent the NDP at the table.

After a show of hands, a narrow majority of the audience voted to reject the last minute switch. Tabuns left the debate after the vote and slammed the rules made up by the organizers.

“They made a substantial error when they didn’t include the NDP tonight,” Tabuns said, noting he did not think the sentiments of voters this evening represented those of the entire Toronto-Danforth riding.

An organizer of the debate said that Layton had confirmed his attendance and then pulled out of the event yesterday morning. No word was sent to them about a replacement, so they were surprised when Tabuns showed up tonight.

Tabuns explained Layton’s absence, saying, “Jack is in B.C. organizing to make sure we do our best to defeat Stephen Harper.”

Sue Hynds, an NDP supporter walked out of the debate after the vote.

“It’s not democracy,” Hynds said. “I came to see an all-candidate leader meeting. This is not an all-candidates’ meeting.”