Beaches East York debate live-blog

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Welcome to my live-blog of tonight’s Beaches-East York all-candidates debate at Beach United Church. This is my first attempt at live-blogging anything and I don’t know how well this is going to work out.


7:08pm: Moderator introducing candidates.

Helen Burstyn (LIB) works with Dr. Eric Hoskins at Ontario Trillium Foundation. Serves on board of LuminaTO. Vice-chair of CAMH board of trustees. Founding director of Equal Voice. Born in Toronto, proud resident.

Michael Prue (NDP) MPP for 10 years. Proven record of strong leadership. Was last Mayor of East York. Cut city’s debt by 7.8M with no tax increase while investing in infrastructure. Sustainable environment and energy plan; accessible and affordable public transit. Has lived in Beaches-East York for 30 years.


7:12pm: Opening statements: Burstyn’s mic is too quiet, has to move to front. Thanks everyone for coming & thanks organizers. Running for office because of experience at OTF. Bring understanding of government & work together for this very important community. Choice between cutting & conservative govts at fed & city level. Ensure gov’t at provincial level is investing. Making us the best we can be.

Prue’s mic works. Thanks audience. Profoundly disappointed that two candidates aren’t here. Citizens deserve opportunity to see who wants to represent us at Queen’s Park & make informed decision. Running to put people first. Gov’t record puts wealthy & privileged first. Health care, education, student debt load, poverty, child care, most importantly how city is spiralling downward is causing grief. Need to find solutions, NDP has answers.


7:15pm: Q: how do you propose to make community age-friendly? How to address needs of aging population?

Prue: we are an aging population. Need to start planning now. Essential to start spending wisely. Spend health care dollars on long-term care facilities, community home-care facilities. Keep people healthy at home longer. More important than hospitals.

Burstyn: Mic works now. Pop’n aging, more seniors than other Toronto ridings in BEY. Keep people who don’t have to go to hospitals in their homes for care.

7:18: Priorities for educational spending.

Burstyn: When students start well they finish well. Ensure JK/SK priority. Reduce size of classes. Full-day kindergarten province wide by 2014. Raise graduation rate, goal is 85%. Post-sec affordable & accessible to all who are qualified to go.

Prue: Greatest need is in post-secondary. School in ontario avg. 6,700 for uni, 6,900 for grad studies. Highest in all of Canada. Debt load of 25% of grads is 25,000 or more. Worst ratio of profs to students in Canada. Largest class sizes. Priority needs to be post-sec. BEY needs a French school at public level.


7:20: Q: Food share promoting mandatory food education.

Prue: Absolutely, people must learn where their food comes from. People eating too much sugar. Speaks about East Lynn Farmers Market.

Burstyn: Healthy Snack Program helps young people learn about nutrition early. What’s available in schools should be healthy. Trans-fat ban. Make people more aware of their own health.


7:22pm: Financial meltdown in 2008 – 3yrs later many still concerned. How will you create new jobs?

Burstyn: Ontario fared better than most in recession, have gained back more than we lost. Up 124%. More jobs gained in ON than in rest of Canada combined. But more needs to be done, esp. green jobs.

Prue: Meltdown is not over, markets dropping today. Don’t give away billions to banks & insurance companies who cut jobs. Reward small business & corps that create jobs w/ $5,000 tax bonus for each job created. No tax benefit from NDP for cutting jobs.


7:24: Questioner will vote for party who will tax rich people most. Prue says “I guess that’s me.”

Prue: Don’t just tax rich people, tax people fairly. Speaks about Buffett’s tax letter. People should pay their fair share, everybody should benefit. End corporate handouts.

Burstyn: Libs want fair taxation too. Not just on ability to pay but also on what society can sustain. People complain about taxes at the doors, but glad to live in society where taxes pay for services, education, health care.

Prue uses card to say more: should be concerned about taxes on homes and properties. Pay highest taxes on homes & properties in the world, because so many services have been downloaded. Must make taxes level with other provinces, cities must be able to raise revenues in other ways, otherwise people driven out of their homes.


7:27pm: Given that Cdn businesses bear cost of social programs, how can they compete with businesses in China with no such programs? Support tariff to support programs, or …

Burstyn: There is a cost to businesses for social, environmental, other benefits we enjoy. Not competing with China on basis of cheap goods. Other nations look to us for innovation. Health care is huge benefit. Well educated work force is huge benefit. Foreign companies locating here because of them.

Prue: Produce wonderful goods & services in Ontario, depend on exports. Can’t close off markets & expect to leave markets open to us. NDP proposes Buy Ontario policy, when costs are competitive.


7:30pm: does your party have plans for export development?

Prue: Explain? … Need to export. Of course we need export policy to make Ontario prosperous. Can’t do it alone.

Burstyn: We do have an export development policy, always have. Liberal gov’t looks at most promising markets to export to. Large populations like China, India. Largest partner still USA. Export innovative technologies, not just natural resources.


7:32pm: Mother of 5 receives midwifery care. Until 6wks after birth, midwives provided on-call care. Pay is significantly less compared to health care providers. Would like to see midwives paid more.

Burstyn: is mother of 4. Midwifery is important service. Underpaid relative to other health professionals, can’t say what she would do about it right now.

Prue: NDP released policy today on midwifery: promising 4 birthing centres in province, pay midwives decent wage. Work with them & women across province to convince that giving birth in those centres is as good or better than hospitals (germs, etc). Will save money, free hospitals for acute care.


7:35pm: Does your party support or will expand housecalls by doctors?

Prue: remembers when doctors would make housecalls for flu, days long gone. NDP wants emergency centers in communities to take load off hospital emergency rooms. Need options. Waits at ERs too long.

Burstyn: Libs just introduced house calls, first with seniors. Difficult for them to wait in ER or doctor’s office, better to receive care in own home. Make it more convenient & take pressure off existing facilities.

One person claps for Burstyn.


7:37pm: What are 3 top challenges facing Beaches-East York?

Burstyn: Many challenges, many gifts. Main streets need to be revitalized. Danforth (east) needs to have more buzz, energy, more things happening. Less of a dividing line between north & south riding. Protect waterways & beach in riding. Protect environmentally sensitive areas; appropriate development.

Prue: 3 greatest challenges: rampant deveopment, developers taking over neighbourhoods, destroying streets. Abolish OMB; enough to save neighbourhood. (applause) Next is transit, transit is lifeblood, restore TTC budget & all transit budgets. Toronto only North American city with no subsidy from senior government. Reverse damage done by Harris. (uses extension) Infrastructure has to be updated. Mentions need for new French language schools again.


7:40pm: What is vision for Beaches East York community?

Prue: would like community to stay as it is, prevent rampant development. Don’t pit neighbour against neighbour. Condos nice but destroys character. People like ambiance of community. Cannot allow that to be destroyed simply for profit. Preserve streetscapes, homes, festivals.

Burstyn: Celebrate diversity through festivals. Special community, one of most diverse in all of Ontario. Some parts don’t know other parts, community should be more connected & cohesive. Bring neighbourhoods together. Brag about community more, draw attention.


7:43pm: As a resident, questioner doesn’t feel represented at Queen’s Park, current MPP unavailable. If elected, how will you represent us?

Burstyn: people always have representation. BEY hasn’t had as much attention as some other communities. Need to attract attention from government.

Prue: office hours 5 days a week; makes personal house calls. Goes to every festival, is visible on the streets, nobody could do more. Was him who brought attention to get funding for local hospital. Will continue to be a great opposition MPP but would love to be government MPP.


7:45pm: Journalism student who has only ever voted NDP: why should I vote Liberal?

Prue: Thanks questioner. Jack Layton encouraged people to come out and vote more than ever before. Says Horwath doing a good job without taking cheap shots at other parties. NDP talking about own platform more than other parties, not resorting to cheap attacks. Stand by principles.

Burstyn: Positive progressive plan to move forward together. Health care, education, Green Energy plan that David Suzuki lauded. Proud of many things done over 8 years, but more to be done.


7:47: Proposal for huge mega quarry will affect water quality. What will you do to protect communities?

Burstyn: Liberals will put hold on mega quarry project until further studies are done. Seek resolution that does not over develop & affect residents negatively.

Prue: Quarry is obscene, should not be built. At headwaters of major rivers, on prime farmland. US firm building is just looking for profit, doesn’t care about people. NDP will not allow it to proceed.


7:49pm: Private schools accused of selling credits to students, affects university standing for qualified students.

Prue: private schools need to be regulated and violators need to be shut down. Need to provide equivalent education that is available in public system. Looks bad on Ontario.

Burstyn: credit mills need to be investigated. Need to be regulated, practice of giving credits to students who haven’t earned them needs to be stopped. Thanks Toronto Star for uncovering local story.


What do you have to offer college students?

Burstyn: New spaces. Colleges not “B-team” of post-sec institutions any more. Now enjoy respect of post-secondary system. Increase spaces available.

Prue: Tuition has risen 30% in last 6 years, now want to give grant. Liberals need to make up their mind. NDP will freeze tuition, is frozen in rest of Canada. Post-secondary education is important. Need to cut interest rates on student debt. Must build & staff universities. Mentions prof to student ratio again.

Burstyn adds: Liberals raised tuition to help schools suffering from Harris era, then reduced rates later. Encourage non-profit activity by extending no-payment period for student loans.

7:55pm: How to fix Ashbridge’s Bay? Disgusting, has to affect water quality.

Prue: smells from sewage treatment plant disgusting. On Toronto Council, many studies re: reducing smell. Engineers need to work on that. But sewage facility is necessary, sewage must be treated before it goes into the lake. Water goes out cleaner than it came in. Trust scientists.

Burstyn: no easy fix. Not enough of a priority, need to raise issue with the city & the province to address.


7:57pm: What is your party’s position on wind farms?

Burstyn: Liberals support wind energy, alternative energy. Can’t make it only energy source but very important to replace dirty coal plants. Promote clean energy. But no wind turbines in residential areas. Location important.

Prue: NDP supports wind energy, even on water if feasible. Some people might not like it. Liberals made people angry by passing legislation that takes away the right of every municipality to have a say where wind farms & other hydro plants are built. Communities must have input.


8:00pm: Q for Prue: Queen Street rotten with panhandlers. Support legislation to remove them?

Prue: these are people who need help from society. Very few are aggressive, need police presence to deal with aggressive panhandlers, but some panhandlers are ok. Harris legislation has failed.

Burstyn doesn’t answer.


Q: programs to encourage foreign investment?

Burstyn: Highest level of foreign investment of any jurisdiction in North America because of Liberal programs. Large investment from Samsung, much investment in green economy. Many opportunities for investment for the types of industries we want.

Prue: public has right to know who is coming & when. Nobody knows what’s in $7B Samsung deal. NDP government will get a copy of the deal & make it public, will cancel if it’s not a good deal. Liberals redacted all but 12 words.

Burstyn adds: Samsung deal has been renegotiated, hopes that renegotiated deal is publicly available. Believes in transparency. Terms kept private by request from Samsung, not government.


8:04pm: How to control rampant development?

Prue: Beach was offered opportunity to be declared heritage district on street-by-street basis; most residents voted against so it didn’t happen. Get rid of OMB that can overrule wishes of residents.

Burstyn: development not “rampant” but pockets of unsatisfactory development. OMB needs to be revamped, maybe not abolished. Membership should be revisited, should be citizen representation on the board.


8:05pm: If elected, how will you use social media?

Burstyn: experimenting with social media in campaign. Learning from people every day how social media can be used to get message out. Much different from traditional media. Has a Facebook page, is on twitter.

Prue: social media is the way of the future. As older adult, not as adept as younger people on campaign team, they help to get message out. Traditional ways appeal more to older voters, leaflets at subways, door-to-door, phone calls, signs; more in tune with politics of community.


8:07pm: Why are political campaigns characterized by attack ads & blame? Why not more positive?

Prue: NDP has no attack ads. Running positive campaign only, talking about own platform. Jack Layton left legacy for Canada, how effective positive politics can be.

Burstyn: doesn’t like attack ads, doesn’t use them. Negativity comes from US campaigns. Campaigns on Liberal platform and Liberal record only.


8:09pm: Given NDP is unlikely to form government, can a third-party critic properly represent riding?

Burstyn: believes in role of opposition. Canada has 3 strong parties. Yes, you can have strong representation from opposition. But better to have experienced representative in government.

Prue: Libs & Cons have said he is best representative of anyone in Legislature. Talks about people of riding, brings forward rational arguments so that Beaches-East York is completely in the picture.


8:12pm: Question for Prue: You want to freeze tuition. Do you want to freeze taxes too?

Prue: Will take GST off home heating fuel, HST off electricity, reduce HST on gasoline over time. Won’t pay more taxes unless you earn a lot of money, or corporations whose tax breaks harm people.

Burstyn doesn’t answer.


8:12pm: 17-yr-old injured worker lost job when employer refused to accommodate disability, claim denied by WSIB. How would you change?

Burstyn: doesn’t know specific case; not fair treatment. Did you try appeal process? System in place that works well to deal with injured workers. Can’t answer, needs to look at specific case.

Prue: system is not fair at all. When worker is injured, key goal of WSIB is to get worker back to work. Deeming Provision can deem you able to work even when you’re not, then you’re deemed to have refused and WSIB is cut off. Needs massive overhaul.


8:15: Recent poll says health care most important issue.

Prue: Nanos also has NDP within 1% of Liberals. They’re right, health care is most important. Feds giving money to province for health care, province must choose how to spend it. Won’t spend on million dollar consultants for e-Health. Will spend on professionals, practitioners, caregivers.

Burstyn: Poll is correct, health care is most important issue we face. Liberals investing, building new hospitals, hired over 11,000 nurses. Creating new opportunities for people to receive care in their communities instead of in hospitals.


8:17pm: Where does party platform diverge from local riding issues?

Burstyn: No divergence. Platform speaks to needs of people in all parts. Something for everyone. Not intended for only certain issues. Costed by senior economist for (I missed the name of the bank). PC platform to get elected, Lib platform to govern.

Prue: special love for municipalities. Towns & cities must prosper. Need more than 8 cents of tax dollar to go to local government. Must be able to build infrastructure. Needs to be finest place to live.


That was the last question, now 90 seconds for final statements.

Prue: Thanks organizers, this has been very exciting even though there were only two of us here. Asking for support to go back to Queen’s Park. Skills & abilities well respected on all sides of house. Chosen as Deputy Speaker because fair & balanced. Beaches East York look out & care for neighbours, need to be seen at Queen’s Park. Hoping to bring talents to government. Ran 5 budgets with no tax increases as East York mayor. It can be done, believe I have the skills. (applause)

Burstyn: Thanks organizers & audience. Less debate than community meeting, many important questions, hopefully good answers. Very respectful, constructive, need more of this everywhere. Will bring this sort of leadership to politics. Not fighting – collaborating, working together. Have worked in government since 1982. Can work together if you want to. First-time candidate but brings experience. Bring new dignity, new grace, better meaning to politics. I’m a community builder. (applause)


End of debate. Moderator thanks organizers, thanks Remarkable Bean for providing coffee, Thomas Breads for providing snacks, Beach United Church for providing space, and Neighbourhood Link for organizing the debate. Also thanks candidates, not an easy job to campaign but it’s an important part of the process. Also thanks people for coming & being informed.

And that’s the end of the debate, folks. Thanks for following along & putting up with my first attempt at a live-blog! Now go get informed and vote on Thursday, October 6!

About Greg Burrell

Greg is an accountant, cyclist and political observer living in Toronto, Canada with too many cats.
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  • Anonymous

    Can’t believe someone complained about panhandlers on Queen in the Beaches – the only one I’ve ever seen is the guy who sells pencils in front of the IGA.

    • I know, and he sings! I’ve never come across an “aggressive” panhandler out here. I suspect the asker had one incident one time and is bitter. Or a Harris supporter.