NEWS

Debate organizers face dilemma in Toronto mayors' race

10/10/2014 01:50 EDT | Updated 12/10/2014 05:59 EST
Olivia Chow says she feels sorry for anyone in the no-win position of organizing a candidates' debate in this Toronto mayoral race.

- INTERACTIVE | Mix, match and create your dream candidate

The furor over the lineup of a Friday night debate was sparked Thursday when Doug Ford forced organizers of the Inner City Union debate to exclude long-shot candidate Ari Goldkind by threatening to not attend.

Organizers complied and Goldkind was uninvited. This prompted Tory, for a time, to drop out of the debate "on principle." Goldkind was re-invited a few hours later. Tory then vowed to attend but Doug Ford, as of early Friday afternoon, has said he will not take part.

Tory said he was disappointed that Ford "strong-armed" debate organizers to keep Goldkind out. Ford said Tory was "afraid" to attend the debate without his "sidekick" Goldkind at the podium. "[Tory] needs his buddy there beside him to protect him," said Ford.

Chow told CBC News she tried to stay above the fray by committing to attend Friday's debate.

"I didn't get involved, I didn't put out ultimatums," she said. "As to who gets invited, that's really up to the organizers."

But how do they choose who gets a spot on the stage? More than 60 candidates are on the ticket for mayor. The complete list is here.

Goldkind, who is running fourth in the race according to most polls, has appeared in many of the almost daily debates. The defence lawyer is polling in single digits, leaving him with almost no hope of winning. But Goldkind's ability to skewer Ford has raised his profile enough that many are turning to social media to lobby organizers to let him in.

CBC has not been immune to this. Goldkind is not invited to a debate scheduled for a Thursday evening at the CBC Broadcast Centre. That debate will feature Chow, Ford and Tory and some are decrying the omission of Goldkind on Twitter.

In a statement posted on the Metro Morning website, CBC management has said the debate will feature "the three leading candidates."

"CBC acknowledges that there are more than 60 candidates running for Mayor of Toronto. We are committed to giving the candidates equitable coverage throughout the campaign," reads the statement.

So the debate quandary continues with no easy solution. Leave candidates out and organizers are criticized of subverting democracy. Invite too many and the debate takes podium time away from candidates who have a legitimate chance of winning.

Tory's potential conflicts of interest

Senator Art Eggleton spoke Friday at an event in support of Tory. The former Toronto mayor said the municipal campaign, which began in January, is simply too long with too many debates.

"In our day [the campaign] started on Labour Day," said Eggleton. "It should be about the same length as a provincial or federal election."

Earlier in the day, Chow held a new conference to say that if Tory is elected he will face a potential conflict of interest in dealing with the ongoing issue over whether jets will be allowed to operate at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Tory's son works for a company at the airport. She also pointed to Tory's involvement in Rogers Communications and other business interests.

Tory said he would follow the Municipal Act's rules regarding conflict of interest if he's elected.

"I want to know what the facts and the law are," said Tory. "I will follow all of the rules. I will sit down with the integrity commissioner the day after I get elected."

Also Friday, Tory said at a press conference that he would initiate a review of operations at Toronto Community Housing. He also vowed to speed the delivery of money allocated for repairs of TCH buildings.

"It is not acceptable to have that money sitting in the budget while waiting for the other governments to come forward," he said.

MORE:cbcNews