Thornhill hopefuls head to school
Candidates on centre stage
Hoping to make political hay out of a stage trick, challenger Peter Shurman conjured up images of a “magic subway” and a “magic hospital” and then tried to convince 100 students at St. Elizabeth Catholic High School that it was all a figment of Mario Racco’s imagination.
Four of Thornhill’s seven candidates took the stage on Tuesday to debate the issues students raised ahead of the Oct. 10 provincial election.
The field included Progressive Conservative Shurman, Liberal incumbent Racco, Green Party candidate Lloyd Helferty and independent candidate Malcolm Kojokaro.
Though the production was a fairly tame affair, a few stinging lines delivered with some punch managed to break through the otherwise friendly tone.
“You’ll hear about a magic subway up Yonge St. and a magic hospital in Vaughan,” Shurman said. “Why are they magic? Well, they’re magic because, first of all, they don’t exist except in my opponent’s mind.
“Not that his intentions aren’t good. I commend him for them. I want those things, too.”
The matinee debate was dominated by talk of faith-based school funding, the referendum on changing the electoral system, transportation, seniors care and government accountability, which provided the most humorous moment of the show.
“Our Mr. Red and our Mr. Blue candidates, Liberal and Conservative, Bloods and Crips, whatever,” Kojokaro began, pausing just long enough to allow the laughter to subside. “We often speak of trying to remove crime from our streets. Hopefully we can get to remove crime from our government.”
As a frontrunner, Shurman absorbed his share of jabs and left-hooks from the other contenders, but it was Racco, as a member of the current government, who predictably took the brunt of the attack. Shurman led the charge.
“Now they admit to their broken promises.” Shurman said. “But like children, they promise not to break their new promises: they won’t do that again.
“And voters are supposed to believe that?”
On the question of seniors care, Racco listed off his party’s accomplishments in its four years in power, including the hiring of more nurses, homecare funding and the building of more longterm care spaces.
Again, Shurman pounced.
“The seniors of Ontario are the victims of the largest scandal in Liberal party history,” Shurman retorted. “Sometimes they wait for a longterm care space in this province as much as three years, and then when they get the call that a space is available they have to show up in 24 hours.
“Can you imagine doing that to a 90-year-old person?”
The veteran Racco, though, did not back down. He gave as good as he got, especially on the issues of faith-based school funding and transportation.
“The Tories destroyed the education system,” he said, making his case against extending funding in order to fix the current system. “Ask your teachers. Ask your principal. Ask your parents.”
Shurman defended his party’s position to extend equal funding, saying that “there are no kids that are more equal than others”.
Kojokaro agreed with Helferty and the Green Party, who advocated against government-funded religious schooling and for the merging of the Catholic system into one public school system.
“It should really be the responsibility of the parents to teach their children about their faith,” Helferty said.
Missing from the stage were Freedom Party candidate Lindsay King and Family Coalition Party candidate Nathan Kidd. The NDP’s Sandra Parrott was absent due to illness.
John Warecki, head of St. Elizabeth’s Canada and World Studies department, produced the debate. Questions were prepared and posed to the candidates by students in civics, law and world studies classes.
Vaughan Today Friday, September 28, 2007 Page: 6 Byline: Philip Alves