Transit proves to be the top issue again at second-last mayoral debate

Olivia Chow, John Tory and Doug Ford weighed in on their transit plans at University of Toronto's Scarborough Campus

The atmosphere was tense and charged at the final Scarborough-based mayoral debate last night. Hosted at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus, the room was pack with emotional community members, eager to have their voices heard.

The topic of the night was how candidates planned to strengthen Scarborough’s communities. In attendance were campaign frontrunners Olivia Chow, John Tory and Doug Ford. Global TV anchor, Leslie Roberts moderated the debate.

Roberts started the night by asking supporters to cheer for the candidates. Based on sound alone, Ford appeared to have the edge in the room.

After a few moments of preamble, the debate began. Candidates talked about issues concerning economic development, urban planning, social problems, and of course, transit.

The night predictably heated up when traffic and transit was brought up.

As always, Ford pushed for extending subways lines, Chow expressed the need for more busses and Tory held firm to his SmartTrack initiative.

“People cannot wait another four years (for transit),” said Chow, slamming Ford for cutting Scarborough bus routes. “What people need is for buses to be restored right now.”

Ford then dug into Tory about the cost of the SmartTrack plan, using his famous, “What’s the story, Mr. Tory?” line.

Tory responded by saying Ford thinks that if he repeats something enough times, it will become true. He then added that his SmartTrack transit plan will put seven stops in Scarborough.

Unsurprisingly, the debate snowballed into Ford and Tory bickering while Chow tried to referee.

An aggravated heckler at that point interrupted the debate, screaming and ranting at Tory and Chow. The man was quickly escorted out and the debate resumed.

Despite all of the conflict, all three candidates found common ground on quite a few issues brought up throughout the night.

When Chow proposed a City Hall mentorship program, giving immigrants their first Canadian job experience, Tory agreed with the concept.

All candidates agree that Scarborough needs to build up the arts and culture sector. Ford plans to reach out to privatize the initiative. Chow supports the idea of a Scarborough Hall of Fame. Tory opts for Scarborough utilizing the spaces it already has.

Finally, the topic of the terrorism risk in Toronto was met by a cohesive answer of good community policing and bridge building.

“Worrying is pointless. We need to be alert not afraid,” Ford said on the issue. Commenting further, that it was the citizen’s job to report behavior that they found suspicious.

The debate ended with Roberts asking all three candidates what they cherished most in the city.

Chow said our children. Tory was passionate about bringing the city together. Ford said it was a no-brainer; the diversity.

The final televised debate will be held tonight at 6 p.m. and will be hosted by CP24.