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The Toronto-Danforth Debate
21/06/2004

I was working tonight, so I wasn't able to attend the Toronto-Danforth debate. Besides being the riding I'll be moving to in a month or so, it's a high-profile and exciting race between Liberal incumbent Dennis Mills and NDP leader Jack Layton. (Not to mention Green leader Jim Harris.)

However, I knew some friends who were going and asked them to write something about it. Here's a report from Linda Tam:

I arrived a bit past the 7pm start time thinking I would have to sit towards the back of Jimmy Simpson Community Centre (JS). Imagine my surprise when I came upon a crowd outside of JS. Based on the size of the crowd (later estimated at 100 people) and the audible voices of the debate, I thought the debate may have been outside! Quickly, I realized that people wanted to go in but were not allowed because the gym was at capacity. I lingered on in a bit of disbelief. Eventually, I could not leave due to the energy of the debate and my attraction to listening in on one of the most interesting races in this federal election.

The candidates were Loftus Cuddy (Conservative), Jim Harris (Green Party Leader), Jack Layton (NDP Leader), Dennis Mills (Liberal, incumbent for 16 years), a Marxist-Leninist Party rep, and Scott Yee (Marijuana Party). I believe the good moderator was Andy Barry. Almost all the questions came from the floor. People asked pointed questions about daycare waiting lists, broken promises by the Liberals, affordable housing in general and particularly for people with disabilities, head taxes on immigrants, employment barriers for new immigrants with professional credentials, the seal hunt, the "undemocratic" ways of the NDP, and proportional representation. No responses (that I was able to catch via the two speakers outside) were surprising if you've been following the heavyweight campaign strategies.

Issues that opposing candidates brought forth included Liberal scandals, cutbacks, and inaction on the waterfront; the cost of NDP?s promises (i.e. higher taxes); and the suggestions that the Conservatives would "imperil" human rights on same-sex marriage and women's right to choose. Air quality and the importance of the Kyoto Protocol were also discussed by most. Cuddy the Conservative questioned the science of global warming. Mills and Layton each promoted their past successes and significant experiences with the riding. Harris performed well, too. No one embarrassed themselves except perhaps poor Mr. Yee who was accused of smoking pot before the debate and at times mistook heavy doses of foul language for passion when stating the Marijuana Party's position.

The crowd was quite diverse. I think the applause-o-meter was edged out by Layton supporters but the Mills supporters were significant. The outside crowd withstood a steady drizzle for over two hours. We shared umbrellas with strangers. At times, we lined up when it looked like we may get in. As an aside, rumour had it that a Senator Grafton [could it be Grafstein? -- ed] skipped the queue and eventually he and a friend got into JS leaving the rest of us in the rain. Is that ironic, Alanis? As the debate ended, the rain began to pour.

Like a rock star groupie competition, the crowd waited for Mills and Layton to come out chanting at each other, waving election signs in each other's faces. Several creative and entertaining uses of "Jack" cheers and jeers were enthusiastically employed capping off an important evening in the Toronto-Danforth race.

Another friend attended, so I'll add her report too, if she writes one.

UPDATE: Haven't heard from my other correspondent yet -- maybe she didn't go -- but The Armchair Garbageman has written a good one. He was stuck outside too. He also links to some of the press coverage.


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