Mayoral combatants offer ways to preserve city’s beauty

Toronto’s candidates let their hair down during last night’s mayoral debate, according to a Toronto resident who’s witnessed more than her share of debates.

All four remaining mayoral candidates participated in the last installment of Toronto Debates, hosted at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts. Rob Ford, George Smitherman, Rocco Rossi and Joe Pantalone commented on issues regarding planning and the community. Torontonian Alison Barrie, 27, has attended over 20 debates in the last few months; she was struck by their candor.

“(They) stepped off of their platforms long enough to give us an idea of their personal views of Toronto,” she said.

At one point in the evening, the four were asked what they thought was the most beautiful thing about Toronto. Ford offered a personal perspective.

“Just like we do on University Avenue in the summer, we plant these flowers; it’s absolutely gorgeous. Why can’t we do that throughout the whole city?” he said. “It’s a good way to clean up our image.”

Ford suggested without maintaining the trees and flowers around the city, it looked as if citizens and politicians didn’t care about their city. Panelist John Stall thought Ford’s flower plan was the perfect way to test what he preaches.

“Mr. Ford I’m sure this is on everyone’s mind – who’s going to water the flowers and how much is that going to cost?” he said.

Rossi was the only candidate to mention the beauty of Toronto’s natural environment, a topic that was supposed to be discussed in conjunction with city planning, but never made it to the panel. He believed that Toronto’s ravines were the most beautiful characteristic of the city.

“When people come to visit … from around the world … they’re absolutely blown away, to have a modern dynamic city that in the heart of it has such a tree canopy and has such a ravine system,” he said. “No other city of our size has the ravine system that we have and we need to work much harder to protect it.”

Smitherman thought the condo building called the Spire at Church and Adelaide was easy on the eyes. He followed up by praising Coun. Pam McConnell for moving its original site along side St. James Cathedral to help keep the integrity of the area, something about which he felt strongly.

Pantalone credited his hand in the sidewalk patio movement for providing the most beautiful part of urban life in the city back in the 1980s. He said he wanted to expand urban living by building a first class cricket stadium because it’s the fastest growing sport in southern Ontario.