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Progressive Conservative candidate expected to skip debate

Toronto Centre debate will have lots of discussion about queer issues

PC candidate Martin Abell. Credit: Promo pic

Toronto Centre Progressive Conservative candidate Martin Abell has not responded to requests to attend an upcoming all-candidates debate at the 519 Church St Community Centre.

The Sept 22 debate is being hosted in partnership with Xtra.

Since the provincial election kicked off on Sept 7, Abell has attended only the Rosedale Toronto Centre debate to face off against Liberal MPP Glen Murray, the NDP’s Cathy Crowe and the Green Party’s Mark Daye.

Debate organizer Matthew Cutler, who is the manager of resource development and communications at The 519, says Abell is “ignoring repeated invitations.”

“We are hopeful he will show up at our debate,” Cutler says. “It will be very disappointing if he doesn’t.”

Abell did not respond to Xtra’s requests for comment.

Cutler says The 519 serves a broad mix of people from every political stripe. “Yes, we serve the LGBT community across the city, but we also serve a large area of the downtown, from Bloor to Gerrard, from Bay to Parliament. It’s not just LGBT people. There are families, seniors and folks who are keenly interested in what’s going on in this election who would love to hear from their candidate.”

The last provincial vote was a by-election in Toronto Centre. The PC candidate at the time was Pam Taylor. She attended a debate at The 519.

During the last federal election debate at The 519, the conservative candidate, Mennonite Brethren church pastor Kevin Moore, did not attend. Rob Ford was also a no-show at last year’s municipal election.

Not surprisingly, Cutler expects the upcoming debate to be lively, with lots of discussion on queer youth and gay-straight alliances (GSA), trans rights, healthcare, criminalization of HIV, seniors and the economy.

“People assume that The 519 debate will focus on social issues, but the debate will really run the full gamut of discussions,” he says.

Jane Farrow, who recently stepped down as executive director of Jane’s Walk, will moderate the debate at The 519, Cutler says. “She is an amazing moderator and has a real ability to play the crowd. She’s great at throwing back questions to hold the candidates’ feet to the fire.”