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article imageToronto mayoral candidates debate the arts, Ford gets booed Special

By Andrew Moran     Sep 29, 2010 in Politics
Toronto - The Toronto mayoral candidates discussed arts funding in Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The packed house booed and heckled Rob Ford, laughed at Joe Pantalone, was indifferent towards Rocco Rossi and cheered for George Smitherman.
The Toronto municipal election will be held in less than four weeks. The latest polls show that mayoral candidate Rob Ford is the frontrunner but George Smitherman has made significant strides in slashing Ford’s lead. Meanwhile, Joe Pantalone and Rocco Rossi are still trailing and Sarah Thomson has dropped out of the race and threw her support behind Smitherman.
On Wednesday, the mayor hopefuls, and fringe candidate James DiFiore, gathered at the Art Gallery of Ontario – along with 750 potential voters – in downtown Toronto to debate arts in the city and what they would do in relation to the arts if elected mayor.
Toronto mayoral candidate  Rob Ford.
Toronto mayoral candidate, Rob Ford.
Ford began the night out by explaining that he was a big supporter of the arts – more than what most people think – but said that he wasn’t going to make grandiose promises that he wouldn’t be able to keep because of the “$3 billion debt the city has accumulated.”
The 10-year Etobicoke councillor noted that there should be more private sector involvement instead of the taxpayers forking over the money “because not everyone supports the arts.” He later added that the city needs $300 million in road repairs, which is more of a priority for the city of Toronto. At this point, Ford received loud boos and heckles from the crowd.
Prior to the debate, Smitherman released his Creative City Plan at the Roy Thomson Hall where he was joined by “several arts and cultural leaders. Smitherman’s platform includes increasing cultural investment to $25 per Torontonian to pay for arts and youth programs and cultural organizations, which would be “paid for by the Billboard Tax.”
Toronto mayoral candidate George Smitherman.
Toronto mayoral candidate George Smitherman.
His plan would also “position Toronto as Hollywood North” by ordering film offices to contact the mayor and hold an independent review of the city’s film production industry. Another initiative is to hold an annual Toronto Ball for the Arts.
“I think it’s also pushing as many resources as we can further down to the community level and giving them the potential that’s there, especially for the kids,” said Smitherman. “I think this is how we can expand access and make it more of a right.”
One of Pantalone’s arts initiatives includes a pedestrian mall on Yonge Street between Dundas and Queen Streets. There would be a pilot program on summer weekends if elected mayor.
Toronto mayoral candidates (from left to right): James DiFiore  Rob Ford and Joe Pantalone.
Toronto mayoral candidates (from left to right): James DiFiore, Rob Ford and Joe Pantalone.
“We’re always told that Toronto is one of the best places in the world for art; right behind London, Paris and New York,” said Pantalone. “But I think we’re better than all those places.” He further added that Toronto is the “Silicon Valley of the arts.”
The deputy mayor continually kept pointing out through charts – similar to his performance at the recent CP24 mayoral debates – that the city does not run a deficit and has a small debt compared to other governments in Canada:
“We only have more debt than Alberta. But Alberta has oil. If we can find oil when he dig tunnels, like what Mr. Rossi wants to do, then maybe we’ll eliminate all our debt.”
Toronto mayoral candidates Rocco Rossi (L) and George Smitherman (R).
Toronto mayoral candidates Rocco Rossi (L) and George Smitherman (R).
As most of the mayoral candidates pledged to increase cultural investment to $25 per capita by the year 2013, Rossi said by the end of his four-year term, he would increase it to $33 just like the city of Montreal.
Wednesday’s debate, which was organized by the Toronto Arts Council, ArtsVote and others, was so successful that the AGO actually had to turn people away.
“It really shows that there is a real interest in this issue, which is critical,” said the Toronto Arts Council executive director, Claire Hopkinson. “But the bigger issue is, when it comes to budget time, will the mayoral promises be kept?”
Mayoral candidates Rob Ford (L) and Joe Pantalone (R)
Mayoral candidates Rob Ford (L) and Joe Pantalone (R)
The mayoral candidates quickly rushed to the Federation of North Toronto Residents' Association debate being held in the northern part of the city. The candidates were unable to speak with Toronto voters or the media.
The next debate will be held on Thursday at the Novotel North York Hotel where they will discuss issues affecting condominium owners. It will be followed by a debate in Leaside to debate various topics.
Torontonians head to the polls on Monday Oct. 25. Advanced voting will be held from Oct. 5 to 8, Oct. 12 to 13 and Oct. 16 to 17. Polling stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Election Day they will be open until 8 p.m.
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