Joe Pantalone says he’s in mayor’s race until the finish

Mayoral hopeful Joe Pantalone says he listens to the people of Toronto.

But there’s one thing he doesn’t want to hear: that he should leave the race for Toronto’s next mayor.

With the Oct. 25 election date rapidly approaching, the question of whether or not Pantalone would drop out of the race like Sarah Thomson and Rocco Rossi kept popping up at a debate at Oakwood Collegiate Institute Friday night.

Despite a significant gap between his supporters and those of Rob Ford or George Smitherman, Pantalone vows to fight until the very end.

Questioned afterward about his reaction to people’s opinions that he should leave the race and endorse one of the two remaining candidates, Pantalone appeared appalled.

“I’m staying until the end,” he insisted. “I’m pleased to (stay in the race) because there’s so much at stake. This is not a game of chess.

“This candidacy, this election, has narrowed down to three candidates and two visions…And now when people are saying ‘get out’, I say ‘what are you talking about? I’m the only one who has got a vision that makes sense!’”

Pantalone said that more mayoral candidates would allow Toronto more viable options to improve the city. It would save people from having to settle on a second or third choice, when they could vote for their first.

“I believe in (the) democratic principle of providing alternatives,” he said. “I will never drop out. If Ford offered me a billion dollars, I would not drop out. To me, it’s about principles, values and what kind of city we want.”

During the debate, candidates fielded questions from panelists and concerned citizens. Canadians Advocating Political Participation (CAPP) appeared as one of two panelists.

Katie Skinner is the lead coordinator for CAPP, a non-partisan grassroots organization that formed as a direct reaction to the December 2009 prorogation of parliament. It promotes the idea of candidate variety and addressing voter anxiety.

Prior to the start of the debate, Skinner shared what she hoped the people would gain from the CAPP questions.

“We’re curious to know where the mayoral candidates sit on how, as Toronto mayor, they can get citizens in Toronto more involved in the political process (and) how they will make City Hall more accessible for the average citizen,” she said. “We (always) look forward to representing you, the voter.”

As a result of the panel questions, candidates felt as much public support as they did the people’s wrath, something Skinner welcomes as part of the process of democracy.

“Generally, we are hoping to address the issues of democratic and civic engagement,” she said.