Mitzie Hunter and four other mayoralty candidates square off in first debate

Former Toronto Police Chief  Mark Saunders was a no-show

By Lincoln DePradine

Mark Saunders

Toronto needs to be taken “on a different track’’, because “everything is not going well’’ in the city, according to mayoral candidate Mitzie Hunter.

“We have to do things differently so that we get different results – the results that we deserve,’’ Hunter said Monday during a debate in Etobicoke.

The debate, hosted by the Daily Bread Food Bank, was livestreamed and watched in person by more than 200.

The theme of the debate, which ran about two hours, was “From Surviving to Thriving: Tackling Toronto’s Affordability Crisis’’.

Her vision, said Hunter, is “a Toronto that works for everyone’’, and she appealed to city residents to “join me in this effort’’ by electing her mayor.

Hunter and at least eight other people from the Black and Caribbean communities are among 102 people running to be the next mayor of Toronto.

Mitzie Hunter

However, she was the only African-Canadian chosen, and accepted the invitation, to participate in the debate. She was joined on the debate stage by Olivia Chow, Ana Bailão, Brad Bradford and Josh Matlow.

Organizers said candidate Mark Saunders, the former Toronto Police Chief, was invited to the debate but declined the offer.

Kevin Clark, another Black candidate, was not invited but was removed from the room by police, after he began yelling and interrupted the debate.

The pending byelection, scheduled for June 26, was called following the resignation of former mayor John Tory after announcing that he had an “inappropriate relationship’’ with a staff member.

Since then, Scarborough councilor Jennifer McKelvie has been the acting mayor. She’s not a candidate in the mayor’s race, which allows for advance voting from June 8 – 13.

Kevin Clarke was not invited

In order to run for mayor, candidates must meet certain criteria including payment of a $200 nomination filing fee; and providing at least 25 endorsements of nomination from eligible Toronto voters with original signatures.

At Monday’s debate, Hunters and her competitors all expressed support for the work of food banks.

“If you are running for mayor of this city, you have to care about those who are hungry,” said Jamaica-born Hunter, who described the discussion as “an important debate’’.

She urged voters to examine the plan she intends to implement if elected City of Toronto mayor.

“I’m focused on making sure that we have a city that works for everyone, everywhere in the city,’’ Hunter said. 

“Everything is not going well in our city,’’ she added. “And, that is why we need to take Toronto on a different track, right? You know it. I know it.’’