2 min

Ward 27 candidates let loose with game show-themed debate

Chan, Wong-Tam win the cheering war; Pride Toronto question divides contestants

A dozen candidates for the gaybourhood area of Ward 27.

It was a format designed to test the knowledge — and good humour — of the candidates vying to replace Kyle Rae at city hall in October.

It started with The Price is Right: Candidates’ Row and moved on to Where in the Ward is Carmen Sandiago, as comedian Maggie Cassella put an unwieldy field of 12 candidates through their paces.

More than 150 people at fly nightclub laughed along. The audience — drawn in using Facebook and Twitter — was made up of voters mostly in their 20s and 30s. Among the partisan supporters, Ken Chan and Kristyn Wong-Tam were the favourites.

It was the first high-profile appearance for several of the candidates, including Pride Toronto volunteer coordinator Evan Dean, who announced his candidacy in early March, and political science professor Robert Meynell.

The candidates took the format in stride, giving each other high-fives during a Family Feud parody and hamming it up during game-show theme songs.

But the camaraderie among candidates — and the amiability of the audience — disappeared when David Demchuk put the night’s toughest question to those on stage: has the city acted appropriately with respect to Pride Toronto and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid?

The opinions ranged from those strongly in favour of Pride Toronto (Dean, Simon Wookey) to those strongly opposed (Wong-Tam, Enza Anderson, Chris Tindal, Susan Gapka, Rob Salerno and Joel Dick).

Ken Chan dodged — “What we need to have is a dialogue” — while Meynell and Ella Rebanks seemed lost.

Here are some of the highlights from their answers:

Chris Tindal: “I oppose the decision that was made, and the process by which it was made, behind closed doors and without community consultation.”

Enza Anderson: “Pride Toronto was bullied by the city, and that’s got to stop.”

Ella Rebanks: “I think it’s encouraging to hear how people are responding to this.”

Kristyn Wong-Tam: “Pride Toronto belongs to the people. We need to talk about how we can take back Pride Toronto, how to take back the march.”

Robert Meynell: “The conflict in the Middle East is too complicated to discuss in a game show.”

Rob Salerno: “Censorship is wrong. The city has a role to play in not directing funds to hate speech, but did QuAIA meet that test? No.”

Evan Dean: “I support what Pride has done. You can’t ask an organization to put its own funding at risk.”

Susan Gapka: “Censorship makes me uncomfortable.”

Joel Dick: “[Giorgio] Mammoliti’s motion to put funding at risk over an internal matter at Pride Toronto was wrong.”

As for the rest of the debate, the candidates were largely convivial.

If the competition was about the best political joke, Salerno may have thrown the knock-out in the first half.

One Price is Right question asked how much of the TTC budget came from fares. The closest guess, without going over, took the points.

“Are we supposed to lowball the cost of the TTC?,” Salerno asked. “Because if so, Sarah Thomson wins by default.”

Everyone except Thomson — who was in the audience — seemed amused.