Hiring cops and affordable housing hot issues at debate

Mayoral candidates Jennifer Keesmaat and John Tory were in the hot seat at a debate hosted by Operation Black Vote Canada Monday over their support for hiring more police officers and their records on building affordable housing.

There was a spirited exchange between the two over who was responsible for the luxury condos springing up all over the city while more and more people can’t afford rent let alone a mortgage.

“John Tory and Jennifer Keesmaat failed the people of Toronto,” said mayoral candidate Saron Gebresellassi, who called for a state of emergency on the issue. “Ms. Keesmaat was the chief city planner for five years and with John Tory authored a failed housing policy. They promised the people of Toronto 10,000 affordable housing units … Not even half (were built.)”

Keesmaat shot back that Gebresellassi was wrong.

Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is pictured at Monday’s debate. (Antonella Artuso, Toronto Sun)

“It’s precisely because of Mr. Tory’s failed leadership that I am running for mayor,” Keesmaat insisted. “I agree we have a crisis in this city with respect to housing in this city.”

Keesmaat, who’s promising to build 100,000 units of affordable housing, accused Tory of fueling the affordable housing crisis by selling off city lands.

“It’s probably safe to say no person in the history of Toronto or Canada has approved more high-rise luxury condo buildings than Jennifer Keesmaat as chief planner,” Tory responded. “No person as chief planner brought forward fewer affordable housing projects.”

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Mayoral candidate Kina Singh sparked strong applause when Toronto’s social housing provider, the Toronto Community Housing Corp., has to seriously consider a rent-to-own program.

The debate, which featured four candidates addressing issues to the black community, touched on everything from community safety to jobs to mental health supports to business supports.

At one point, Tory was asked about calling two shooters in a Scarborough playground incident that put two little girls in hospital “sewer rats.”

Mayor John Tory (Antonella Artuso, Toronto Sun)

The mayor responded he was angry when he spoke about the June 14 incident and wouldn’t retract the statements.

But Tory did express remorse for previous comments he made, including denying the existence of white privilege, saying that he grew up as a white man in relative wealth and did not have the experience of being followed by security in a store based on his appearance.

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“White privilege does exist. The comments that I made were ill-informed. They were made several years ago. I’ve learned a lot since then,” Tory said.

Both Singh and Gebresellassi zeroed in on the $1 billion police budget, questioning why some of those funds aren’t redirected to helping youth get jobs and supports.

Tory said he supports the hiring of 200 police officers to get cops back into neighbourhoods, but he also wants resources to fund programs like youth jobs.

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies