When one of the persons seeking to become mayor of this city, in this case former New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Olivia Chow, is verbally assaulted by an individual in a raucous crowd, it is clear that we are now edging into the type of down and dirty electioneering that would be more commonly found in parts of the United States.
Chow claims she did not hear the audience member at last week’s mayoral debate held at York Memorial Collegiate shout that she should “Go back to China.” Even so, enough people heard the insult, that it made it into print.
The debate, if it could even be called that, was the first public participation by one-term councillor Doug Ford (Ward 2 Etobicoke North) as he gets his campaign for mayor rolling, and it signalled a shift in tone, of which there may be more in days to come.
We are now just over three weeks away from arguably the most anticipated municipal election Toronto has faced in recent memory.
Yet, rather than having an easy understanding of what mayoral candidates Olivia Chow, Doug Ford and John Tory would support if elected, we are about to be dragged into a personality contest.
Elections do stir emotions, since choices made by the electorate could significantly affect their vested interests, but it would be unwise of the Chow and Tory camps to allow Doug Ford alone to decide the tenor of these final days.
With a city of three million facing a 10 per cent unemployment rate and a youth unemployment rate nearing 20 per cent, it is a fundamental disservice for candidates to allow themselves in the heat of campaigning to descend into personality politics and narcissism.
Torontonians want assurances that jobs will be generated here.
Clearly, the burden for job creation does not fall to municipal governments as it would at the federal or provincial level. However, creating a climate to increase hiring, that welcomes start-up businesses and makes it easier for business to navigate myriad regulations are matters that these candidates can speak to.
In recent days, we have heard from Tory promises that “thousands” of jobs for youth would arise from his pushing to double the number of businesses that are now enlisted in the Partnership to Advance Youth Employment program. The program is a partnership between the city and private businesses to employ young people in need. Tory wants to cut city hall red tape and to get businesses to locate along the subway link currently under construction between York University and Humber Regional Hospital. He would also give a 10 per cent property tax break to businesses setting up in proximity to the Scarborough line. Adding to the construction boom that is already taking place, he would push for private development at Downsview Park and at the former Unilever Canada plant east of the Don River as a job creation stream.
Chow is also focusing on youth job creation with the promise that companies that win city contracts would have to agree to a certain number of youth hires and training. She would also build apprenticeship training into the city’s capital budget for the next 10 years. As of yet, Ford has not spoken specifically about his vision for creating employment but has referred to the employment picture during the four-year term under his brother, Rob Ford, during which time the unemployment rate held at the current 10 per cent.
Concentration on youth employment shows awareness of this critical issue as it affects Toronto and the region at this time, so any or all of these proposals are desperately needed. However, in order for the youth of this city to benefit from these proposals, we would require a mayor who has the skills to build consensus on council.
Therefore, the question of which mayoral candidate can best create consensus has to be a serious consideration for voters. Jobs may be at stake, our transit future certainly is and, after four tumultuous years, city morale is also on the line.