NEWS

Ford, Tory clash over BMO field funding

09/30/2014 06:17 EDT | Updated 11/30/2014 05:59 EST
Toronto mayoral candidate Doug Ford used a debate Tuesday about sports funding to repeat his opposition to the city contributing a $10-million loan toward the expansion of BMO field.

"I don't believe for a second that one of the wealthiest corporations in the world should come hat in hand to the city and ask for $10 million," said Ford at a debate hosted by the Toronto Sports Council at the Metro Central YMCA.

In April city council voted to approve the $90-million expansion to BMO Field, which is owned by the city but operated by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. MLSE was seeking $10 million from each of the city, province and federal governments to approve the expansion, which passed with Doug Ford and Mayor Rob Ford opposed.

John Tory countered Ford's claim the money was an example of corporate welfare.

"It's a loan Doug, money that will be paid back to the city with interest," he said.

Olivia Chow said she supported MLSE's move to upgrade BMO but said such contributions should happen in areas across the city. She mentioned the Toronto Maple Leafs contributions, which have improved outdoor ice rinks across the city.

"It's here there and there, it needs to be done across every neighbourhood," said Chow. She also said user fees for city fields have gone "way up" in recent years. Tory said he supports holding the line on user fees.

All three candidates said the registration process for city-run activities such as swimming lessons must be improved.

Thousands of parents routinely try to register their kids via telephone at internet at the same time, resulting in long waits as demand exceeds capacity. 

"The good news is that we have a website through which people can register for these programs," said Tory. "The bad news is it may be the first website that was ever put up on the Internet in terms of its capability to actually deal with real people and their situations." 

Chow agreed.

"I have two granddaughters that are in swimming lessons and my God, I know what it takes to register a kid in the parks and rec program. Parents shouldn't have to line up early in the morning before the sun goes up and it makes no sense."

Tory and Ford agreed when the debate turned to the Pan Am Games, which Toronto is hosting next summer. Both candidates said they were happy the Games would bring investment and new sports facilities to the city, but wanted more details about the traffic plan.

"They're going to have dedicated lanes for anyone that has anything to do with the Games, but what about the rest of us?" asked Ford.

Ford wrapped up the debate by vowing to upgrade 20 rundown city playgrounds, three new cricket fields, and five new outdoor skating rinks in the areas of Scarborough and North York.

Earlier in the day, Ford issued a news release accusing Tory of being in a conflict of interest because he received an endorsement Blue Jays president Paul Beeston. The Blue Jays are owned by Rogers, a company that Tory ran as CEO. He remains a board member.

 "There are many, including me, who believe this presents a clear conflict of interest," said Ford's statement.

"Not only does Rogers Communications own many of the major media outlets that are covering this election, now John is getting endorsed by one of his own employees. It would be like one of my managers endorsing me for mayor."

Tory has said he would step down from the board of Rogers if he wins in the Oct. 27 vote.

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