Ward 26 debate gets heated

Accusations fly surrounding anonymous leaflet trashing Mohamed Dhanani’s record

A Ward 26 all-candidates debate was hot last night and not just because 250 people packed a room inside Leaside Memorial Gardens.

There were questions on job creation, heritage, the arts, transit among others, but things got quite heated when resident Lise Lareau asked who distributed anonymous literature denouncing Mohamed Dhanani’s record.

The one-pager, accuses Dhanani of inflating his resume, being involved in the billion dollar e-health spending scandal when he worked for former health minister George Smitherman. It also questions what Dhanani has promised in exchange for an endorsement of the Toronto York Labour Council.

Lareau asked each candidate to own up or denounce it.

“I had nothing to do with it,” joked Dhanani later adding the info was all lies.

Incumbent councillor John Parker said he sincerely condemns this tactic and stated he would never conduct his campaigns through smear tactics. Each of the candidates in attendance denounced it and said they were not behind the anonymous literature.

The last question of the night came a Thorncliffe Park resident who accused Dhanani of dividing the community.

The man was booed when he made this claim but he continued with his question, “He (Dhanani) is saying vote for me or the white man will win again.

“Why are you dividing Ward 26,” continued the resident as he was shouted down by members of the audience.

The moderator, Brian Athey president of the Leaside Property Owners’ Association the organization that organized the debate, disallowed the question so Dhanani never got an chance to respond.

The debate also went to the dogs at one point following a written question which asked about how to accommodate the ward’s four legged friends.

“I have always fought to build an inclusive city,” Dhanani said in answer to the canine question to laughter from the audience. “I think we need to build inclusive neighbourhoods. The Beaches Dog Association president has endorse my campaign.”

Other candidates went further in their pledge to support man’s best friend.

“I don’t have a dog,” said Salim Naweb Khan to laughs. “But I will get two or three to learn for myself because it’s important for our society.”

The question was restated to make it clear it was about creating off-leash dog parks in the ward.

Yunus Pandor said people will let their dogs off leash anyway, so it’s important to designate some space where they can do it legally.

Parker said he’s done just that though a new city off-leash policy he supported. He’s gotten a new off-leash dog zone approved for Sandy Bruce Park.

“Of all the issues I have had to deal with at city hall. The one with the most blood on the floor was off-leash dog parks,” said Parker who is a dog owner.

Jon Burnside, a former cop in Leaside, Thorncliffe and Flemingdon joked that since he’s adopted eight dogs from shelters over the years he should have received the dog association’s endorsement not Dhanani.

The candidates also laid out their resume and what they have done to help the ward over the years.

Burnside who was born and raised in the ward has volunteered in the area for 20 years, is president of Healthy Heart Meals, a volunteer at Community Share Food Bank, has coached numerous sports in Leaside and fundraised for a sports arena in the ward.

Dhanani has been a director with the Flemingdon Community Food Bank for years. He worked with Anglican Diocese, that ran it, to develop a coalition of three churches and four Muslim organizations to form a sustainable model to keep the food bank going for years to come, he said to huge applause.

Khan spoke mostly about his work with the United Nations and as president of the Pakistan Association of Canadian Community Programs, a non-profit for all Canadians.

Shaukat Malik has focused on connecting job seekers with employers.

Pandor has lived in the ward for 35 years said he helped establish a mosque in Thorncliffe that has helped revitalize the area.
Parker said he’s worked on many issues in the ward but he’s proudest of getting a developer to re-use heritage site 211 Laird Dr. rather than tear it down along with beautified the street overall.

In the 2006 election, 15 candidates competed in Ward 26 when then incumbent Jane Pitfield ran for mayor leaving the seat open. Parker won with just 214 votes over Dhanani the second place finisher.

This race is one of the most heated in the city and is expected to be a fight to the finish on election night.

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer
Posted: Oct 20 2010 5:54 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto