There wasn’t much focus on Jewish issues at the CIJA-UJA-hosted mayoral debate Sunday night, but Ari Goldkind, the race’s sole Jewish candidate, arguably stole the show with his caustic barbs directed at fellow candidate Doug Ford, particularly when he confronted the councillor on his brother’s past use of an anti-Semitic slur.
The debate, held at the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto’s Wilmington campus and attended by several hundred people, featured fringe candidate Goldkind debating alongside leading contenders Ford, John Tory and Olivia Chow.
It was moderated by National Post columnist Chris Selley, who gave each candidate several minutes to respond to questions on transit, taxes, community safety and conduct in city council.
Goldkind, a defence lawyer and the fourth-place mayoral contender, had the audience chuckling with one-liners such as “What does Ford stand for? Falsify. Overstate. Repeat. Deny” and “This campaign has turned into a reality show. It’s like the Kardashian show.”
He later took Ford to task for what he said was the former’s failure to apologize for an anti-Semitic slur uttered by his brother, Mayor Rob Ford – who made a conspicuous appearance partway through the debate – last March.
“Mayor Rob Ford called Jews the ‘K’ word,” Goldkind said. “And then he has the chutzpah to come in here tonight. He might get a free pass from the others on this stage, but not me. When you insult a whole people, you are not setting an example for the city.”
As the audienced laughed and booed, Ford responded, “I have a Jewish doctor and a Jewish dentist… my family has the utmost respect for the Jewish community… We look forward to working with the Jewish community, as we have for the last four years.”
He then added that he had already apologized on behalf of his brother for the remark, adding, “I’ve told [Rob] clearly that those comments were unacceptable.”
On the subject of funding proposed transit projects, Goldkind stated, “I’m the only one on stage who’s open in saying we have to talk about taxes. If you believe Tory’s Smart Track plan is going to be free, or Ford’s ‘subways, subways subways’ will be, or that Chow’s proposed tax increase [to fund transit] will only be on the wealthy, if you accept that math, they’ll earn your vote,” he said sarcastically.
He added: “I will ask each household in the city to pay 50 cents extra per day… then… instead of going to the provincial and federal governments with our hands empty, go to them and say, ‘the people of Toronto have spoken and we have a transit plan worth investing in.’”
Invectives aside, the four took turns laying out their respective visions for transit, with poll-leader Tory emphasizing Smart Track, his London England-modelled surface rail subway plan. Meanwhile, Chow endorsed her plan to build light rail transit (LRT) and a downtown subway relief line, Ford called for subway expansion and Goldkind advocated for a downtown relief line, new LRT lines and replacement of the Scarborough subway line with LRT.
Regarding taxation, Ford and Tory both pledged to privatize garbage collection in the city’s east end.
Ford trumpeted his brother’s administration’s slashing of the vehicle registration tax.
Chow said she would increase the land transfer tax for houses valued at more than $2 milion and raise property taxes around the rate of inflation, and Goldkind suggested congestion fees and road tolls on certain highways to help pay for infrastructure improvements, as well as raising the land transfer tax on homes valued at over $1.1 million.
The candidates also addressed community safety and the recent spike in anti-Semitic incidents in Toronto.
Chow said the Toronto police hate crimes unit could use more support and training to be able to better work with people, including those with mental health issues. She suggested that her plan to beef up after-school activities across the city could be a good antidote against “young people who get into trouble and get recruited by people who are full of hate.”
Tory brought up the need for better education for “the young and less young,” including more training for police and interfaith initiatives in the community.
Ford said that under his brother’s administration, the city hired more police officers and re-allocated a number of officers to the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS). He said the city needs more mentors for young people.