Gender and the City Mayoral Debate: Press Release Update

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 7, 2014

Mayoral Debate on Gender Cancelled

TORONTO – The Gender and the City mayoral debate scheduled for October 9th at YWCA Toronto’s Elm Centre has been cancelled. The coalition of event organizers (Toronto Women’s City Alliance, North York Women’s Centre, Women in Toronto Politics, METRAC and the Toronto-York Region Labour Council) sends its regrets to those who had registered to attend (over 300 people) or were planning to watch the debate at home.

The City of Toronto has strict policies for city-funded agencies hosting political events during the campaign period. Any debates or other political events hosted by a city-funded agency must extend invitations to all candidates for a given office, to avoid giving unfair advantage to any candidate. The coalition’s initial interpretation of the rules was that all front-running candidates must receive an invitation, and it was upon this understanding that the coalition organized the debate.

As the event approached, the coalition learned that in order for the debate to comply with City of Toronto Community Grants Policy, all candidates for mayor must be invited to speak at the debate. While many other debates did not follow this format, the work each coalition member does in Toronto is too important to risk future city funding by failing to comply with the policy.

The 2014 mayoral race in Toronto attracted a whopping 65 candidates. Since most candidates do not receive much media coverage, many were thrilled at the opportunity to participate in our debate – far too many for the discussion to be manageable for any moderator, or to tackle the issues we sought to address with any degree of detail or substance within a two-hour timeframe.

To compound this problem, the three front-running candidates were unwilling to participate in a debate that involved such a large number of candidates. All three declined to participate once they learned we had invited all candidates.

The coalition is of the view that gender issues form some of the key threads in our city’s fabric, and are saddened and frustrated that the debate cannot go forward. This was the only event looking at issues impacting the women of Toronto, from the lack of affordable housing (which has resulted in women staying in abusive relationships), to the number of women working in minimum wage jobs with little to no job security, many of whom are recent immigrants. The debate would have also touched on the need for improved childcare options in the city for families, more diverse services for seniors, and the importance of prioritizing women and trans people’s access to safe community spaces.

In lieu of a debate on these issues, the coalition will send the debate questions to all mayoral candidates and request their written responses, which coalition members will then publish online for consideration by the media and Toronto residents.

About Women in Toronto Politics
Women in Toronto Politics is a non-partisan grassroots group that uses events and online channels to amplify women’s voices in Toronto civic discourse.

About Toronto Women’s City Alliance
Toronto Women’s City Alliance promotes equity and equality by making audible and visible the voices and issues of diverse women in Toronto.

About METRAC
METRAC works with individuals, communities and institutions to change ideas, actions and policies with the goal of ending violence against women and youth.

About North York Women’s Centre (NYWC)
NYWC is a community of diverse women providing programs, resources and support that empower women to effect positive change.

About Toronto York Region Labour Council
Toronto York Region Labour Council is a central labour body that combines the strength of hundreds of local unions representing 195,000 working people and their families.

About YWCA Toronto
YWCA Toronto is dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls by helping them flee violence, secure housing, find jobs, establish their voices and develop confidence.