Toronto-Danforth Voters Angrily Reject Debate Stand-In for Jack Layton



    TORONTO, Oct. 8 /CNW/ - Voters in Toronto-Danforth last night rejected a
debate stand-in for Jack Layton, with many saying that the NDP Leader's
decision not to participate in the only local All-Candidates debate in his own
riding showed that he was taking voters for granted.
    The NDP sent would-be provincial party leader Peter Tabuns to debate in
Layton's place, but the bait-and-switch tactic was rejected by participants,
who voted overwhelmingly with a show of hands not to accept Tabuns as a
replacement. Angry shouts of "Not on the ballot!" and "Where's Jack?" were
heard as the moderator asked the crowd whether they wanted to hear from
Tabuns.
    The debate was scheduled to fit Layton's schedule. His staff still
claimed to constituents who contacted his office in the days leading up to the
debate that Layton would attend, despite the fact that the NDP central
campaign confirmed to several media outlets that Layton would participate in a
town hall meeting in British Columbia at the same time as the debate in
Toronto.
    "If Jack couldn't attend the debate, I don't know why they couldn't just
have been honest about it," said long-time Toronto-Danforth resident Gabe de
Roche. "Not only does Jack not think that the voters he represents have a
right to hear him debate locally, he doesn't even believe that we deserve to
hear the truth about where he spends his time."
    Layton's visit to Comox, British Columbia on Tuesday night is the second
time he has visited that community since August. Layton has only hosted one
campaign stop in his home riding during the same time, although he has hosted
several high profile campaign events in his wife, NDP MP Olivia Chow's Toronto
riding of Trinity-Spadina. The couple also lives in the Trinity-Spadina
riding.
    "Over the past year as I have been knocking on doors and meeting people
across our community, I have heard time and again that people feel that we
have an absentee MP in Jack Layton," said Liberal candidate Andrew Lang. "He
takes the support of the people of Toronto-Danforth for granted, and they are
fed up and frustrated."
    All of the candidates in last night's debate remarked that Layton's
failure to show up after confirming his attendance was disrespectful to the
people who have campaigned across the riding for months.
    After being ejected from the debate, Tabuns and several other NDP
supporters entered into a heated exchange with a Green party member standing
in the foyer outside the auditorium.
    Onlooker Andrew Sally said that the NDP members shouted at the Green
member, and at one point he worried that the exchange could turn violent.
    "They were shouting 'this is your fault' at this much smaller man, and at
one point I thought they were going to hit him and I might have to step in,"
said Sally.





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