The debating seat for the Conservatives sat empty at John Polanyi Collegiate Institute Tuesday night.
While all candidates in the riding of Eglinton-Lawerence were invited to the provincial election debate on education, last night, only the Liberal, New Democratic and Green Party candidates took part. Conservative Rocco Rossi was a no-show.
Howard Goodman, Toronto district school board trustee for Eglinton-Lawerence, opened the Education Day debate by addressing the absence of the Tory candidate.
“Rocco Rossi told us he was not going to be hear he is busy doing other things tonight,” he said. “Rossi will be at the Goldhawk (Rogers TV) interview later tonight, but chose not to come here… But if he shows up he is welcome to come, and we have a seat for him.”
The Ontario Public School Boards Association had named Sept. 20, Education Day, a day when cities across the province could hold non-partisan, all-candidate debates on the subject of education. The Toronto district school board held various Education Day debates all over the GTA.
The Toronto Observer attempted to contact Rossi on the subject of education, but he did not return calls. Ron Soreanu, Rossi’s media representative, did send an email stating that he has been going door-to-door since May and is open to discuss education at any of the four debates he is scheduled to attend.
“While education is a critical issue, so is health, jobs, taxes and the economy. All questions, including those on education, are welcome to be put to him at any of the four debates,” Soreanu said in the email.
Parents attending the debate were given a chance to address concerns about education with each candidate. This ranged from issues on solar panel production, to wi-fi in the school, to the question of whether fund-raising should be allowed in public schools.
One parent, Eilean MacDonald, has a son who attends Northern Secondary high school in the riding. She said that she felt disappointed that not all candidates attended the debate.
“It shows that either he was afraid to come because he doesn’t know what to say, or the Conservative Party doesn’t care about public education,” she said. “I think it adds to my decision process of who I want to vote for this election.”