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article imageCanadian Liberal MP Bob Rae debates opponents in Toronto Centre Special

By Andrew Moran     Apr 16, 2011 in Politics
Toronto - Canadians will head to the polls in two weeks. Although the federal party leaders have concluded their televised debates, local debates are being held all over the country. The Toronto Centre held the first set of debates Friday evening.
Polls are showing that the Conservatives are in first place, while the Liberals are holding onto second place. The New Democrats are in third place, but are making serious strides in Toronto ridings, which is of concern to the Liberal Party.
The 519 Community Centre hosted the first set of debates for the Toronto Centre electoral district. The Toronto Centre, a riding that is diverse in ethnicity, income and other demographics, will be a key area for the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party.
Liberal MP Bob Rae went up against NDP federal nominee Susan Wallace, Green Party federal candidate Ellen Michelson and Independent hopeful Bahman Yazdanfar. Conservative candidate Kevin Moore could not make the debate due to “scheduling conflicts,” which did not please the debate attendees who booed the announcement.
Libertarian candidate Judi Falardeau, Marxist-Leninist candidate Phillip Fernandez and Communist candidate Cathy Holliday were not invited to Friday’s debate.
(From Left to Right): Green Party candidate Ellen Michelson  Liberal MP Bob Rae  NDP candidate Susan...
(From Left to Right): Green Party candidate Ellen Michelson, Liberal MP Bob Rae, NDP candidate Susan Wallace and Independent candidate Bahman Yazdanfar.
Social Housing
The debate started off with a discussion on Ottawa’s policy of social housing. It was agreed upon by all of the candidates that the federal government needs to immediately get back into the issue of housing, but with the cooperation of the provinces and municipalities.
Rae noted, though, that all forms of housing is social housing, which needs to be made sure that it is “affordable and diverse” for the many young people, singe adults and those who are transitioning from community housing or shelters.
Susan Wallace immediately made the point that the actions of the Liberal Party have “not matched Rae’s words” because former Prime Minister Jean Chretien took millions of dollars out of social housing, and, later, former Prime Minister Paul Martin did not reinvest in housing, despite a budget surplus.
The Green candidate stated that the problem of social housing is another reason that her party needs to be in power because “the others are not delivering on these issues.” Michelson said that her party has looked at this issue and put it in the budget “line by line.” She concluded that “everyone is entitled to appropriate housing” and that “Canada is last on housing appropriations.”
From a financial standpoint, says Yazdanfar, the housing crisis is due to the paucity of affordability, “which equals lack of jobs.” The Independent candidate’s solution would be an income guarantee for everyone in order to “get rid of bureaucracy from all levels of government.
Liberal Member of Parliament Bob Rae and Toronto Centre New Democratic Party federal candidate Susan...
Liberal Member of Parliament Bob Rae and Toronto Centre New Democratic Party federal candidate Susan Wallace.
Income Splitting
The room was generally opposed to the notion of income splitting because “egalitarian gay couples are left out,” said one debate crew member. Susan Wallace of the NDP said that she is against the policy because it gives “more money for the rich and shovels down everyone else.”
“Thumbs down from me,” said Wallace,” and thumbs down from the NDP.”
Yazdanfar is also against income splitting because it discriminates against single people. He feels that single people are more at a disadvantage than families, and these types of policies prove his point.
Meanwhile, Michelson stated that this is another example of parties taking the Greens’ platforms, but revising them and giving them all the blame for the failures of enacting the policies.
“We welcome other parties to take our policies,” said Michelson. “But you take them, revise them and then the Greens get blamed for them.” She added that income splitting for the general “stereotypical Conservative families.”
The issue at hand led to Rae to make a broader statement. The former Ontario Premier said, “We’re becoming more unequal in society” because as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and lose the middle income status “we have a big problem here.”
Rae is suggesting that the government increase coverage for RRSPs because “private pensions are not reliable anymore.” Rae added that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “proposal is miserable because we can’t continue to discriminate for those who are better off.”
New Democratic Party candidate Susan Wallace.
New Democratic Party candidate Susan Wallace.
Prostitution, Crime Omnibus Legislation
Prior to the candidates answering questions on the issue of prostitution, the host of the show asked if everyone knew what former Prime Minister and Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau said in the 1970s.
Most people knew what he said, which was that it is nobody’s business to know what goes on in the bedroom of an individual. All of the candidates agreed with this sentiment and elaborated that prostitution should be legal.
“Criminalizing prostitution doesn’t solve anything,” said Michelson. “The Greens focus on healthcare, ending poverty, respect for diversity and ending the criminalization of cannabis – we want to legalize it, tax it and regulate cannabis.”
The Liberal MP agreed that it is no one’s business what someone does in private. But Rae noted that the government has to make sure that people are not taken advantage or forced into prostitution and protect those from violence and abuse.
Wallace briefly added that “it is about safety and an environment free from exploitation.”
Will you oppose the Criminal Omnibus Bill?
Wallace: “Absolutely.”
Rae: “I do think the mood of the country is changing on crime. We’re all tough on crime, no one wants it. We want to see a full-scale review on the criminal code and we’re opposed to the omnibus legislation.”
One of the final questions involved Canada’s Senate. A six-year political science student asked the candidates what the role of the Senate is, if we need it and what can we do to eliminate the Senate.
The NDP candidate immediately told the audience that the purpose of the Senate is to “stuff Conservative criminals.” She also urged the audience to elect the New Democrats in order to end the Senate, which led to a loud applause.
Rae immediately stood up and and corrected Wallace because, according to Rae, in order to abolish the Senate you have to “get provinces to agree” and it “can’t be something done by the federal government.”
When asked if the Senate could be elected, Rae responded: “We don’t know if we can elect the Senate because it’s up to the Court.”
Liberal Member of Parliament Bob Rae.
Liberal Member of Parliament Bob Rae.
Gay Blood
The final question involved the ban on blood from homosexuals. Yazdanfar said that if we have the technology to see if the blood is safe then we shouldn’t have a problem accepting blood from gay people.
The other candidates all said they were against the ban.
Toronto Centre Riding
The federal electoral district sits from downtown Toronto to midtown and uptown. The riding is located from St. Clair Avenue East to Queen’s Quay East and Bayview Avenue to Avenue Road.
It has a population of more than 120,000, most of which maintain a modest middle-income. The riding has an unemployment rate of eight percent and nearly 40 percent of the residents are visible minorities.
Bob Rae is the Liberal Member of Parliament representing the district in the House of Commons. Rae succeeded Liberal MP Bill Graham – who represented the riding since 1993.
Be sure to continue following Digital Journal’s extensive Canada Election 2011 coverage
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