Olivia Chow poses with a member of the audience after a mayoral debate on issues affecting people with disabilities at the Ryerson Student Centre Monday.

Chow, Tory: Toronto needs to be more accessible

Two candidates discussed disability issues in debate at Ryerson

Mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and John Tory gave their opinions on a number of issues affecting people with disabilities in Toronto.

The candidates talked to an audience in a debate about problems affecting Torontonians with disabilities on Monday afternoon at the Ryerson Student Centre.

The debate, which evolved into a full Q&A with the audience, stayed civil for the most part. Both candidates, however, did disagree on a few key issues.

Chow said $225 million that Tory and other mayoral candidate Doug Ford are planning to spend on the Scarborough subway extension could be used to make the TTC fully accessible.

“They’re eating all of the TTC budget,” she said. “We have to use some of those funds to (solve) other priorities.”

Tory dismissed that comment and instead focused on promoting his transit plan. He said 22 new SmartTrack stations would be built to be disability-friendly from the beginning and that accessibility was one of his main priorities.

“The advantage to building almost all of the stations on SmartTrack… from scratch is that all of the stations on the SmartTrack line will be, from day one, fully accesible.” Tory said.

The candidates also discussed affordable housing for people with disabilities. Chow said her mayoral plan includes talking to developers so that they make 20 per cent of the units in all buildings affordable. She said this will create 15,000 units of affordable housing.

Tory said that he plans to focus a part of the city’s money on repairing old public housing. He said the repairment work will probably include making some of the buildings accesible.

“There is no reason whatsoever when we are repairing extensive numbers of buildings that have fallen into poor repair that we can’t make sure a clear targeted percentage of those units are made more accessible,” Tory said.

Early Exit

The debate was scheduled to end at 3:30 p.m. but Tory had to leave at 2:30 p.m. because of other obligations. Chow stayed for another half an hour to talk to people in the audience and answer other questions, but she also left early.

Some of the members of the audience were disappointed Tory didn’t stay longer. Susan Gapka, a community advocate who’s worked on the mental health field, disapproved of Tory’s early exit.

“What was not impressive was John Tory leaving before it finished,” she said. “Last week he didn’t even bother to show up for the transit debate.”

Doug Ford was not present at Monday’s debate. He’s expected to appear in his first mayoral debate on Tuesday.