In Toronto Danforth, all candidates come in all stripes

Even though 11 candidates are wooing the voters of the Toronto-Danforth riding, only one is willing to do it with a song.

“It’s now or never, vote Progressive Canadian,” said Dorian Baxter, known for his Elvis impersonations.

Baxter, 62, was one of nine candidates at Thursday night’s all-candidates debate at Don Mills United Church,126 O’Connor Ave.

Although independent candidate Brian Jeden of the United Party of Canada was absent, it was the Conservative’s Andrew Keyes ‘no-show’ that drew the most attention; it was the fourth all-candidates debate missed by Keyes.

His absence set the tone for the evening, with the remaining candidates appearing more relaxed and in good spirits. They spoke on topics varying from nuclear energy, economic growth to the government and individual privacy.

It was clear that federal New Democratic Party candidate Craig Scott, 50, a law professor, faces a strong challenge from Liberal, Grant Gordon, a 48-year-old advertising executive.

But it was the new and independent candidates who got the loud applause from the approximately 200 people in attendance.

New Independent candidate Bahman Yazdanfar, 53, drew healthy and sustained applause from the hall: “I am a frustrated citizen here,” he said.

“I know there is no chance in hell I get elected but I am running because when I go in front of the mirror I say I did what I could.”

Independent candidate John Turmel, 61, who is on the Guiness Book of World Record’s horizon for the most elections contested and lost, fired up the hall with a policy to legalize marijuana.

Turmel argued that cannabis aids in the fight against cancers and Alzheimer’s disease, “which explains why I’m so sharp and they’re so dull,” he said, referring to the head table of candidates

Baxter however earned the loudest applause by declaring that his PC party was different from the better known Progressive Conservative Party of Brian Mulroney and Sir John A. Madonald fame. Baxter pledged that if elected to fill Jack Layton’s shoes in the riding, he would give back half of his salary to the constituency.

“Elvis has not left the building, he’s going into the Parliament building and he is going to get them all shook up. Thank you, thank very much.” Baxter said.

The evening ended with the singing of the national anthem but not before each candidate asked an unscripted question of a randomly chosen opponent, much to the delight of the audience.

Toronto-Danforth voters go to the poles on Monday, March 19.