The fourth and final debate in the Toronto Centre byelection was a relatively calm event, with the biggest splash being made by an independent candidate who was not part of the panel.
At Rosedale United Church on Nov. 21, Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland, the NDP’s Linda McQuaig, Conservative Geoff Pollock, and the Green Party’s John Deverell were the four invited to debate federal issues by five residents’ groups who were co-hosting the night.
But during Pollock’s introductory remarks, uninvited candidate Kevin Clarke stormied the podium and announcied he had equal right to participate. Told by an organizer that it was never advertised as an all-candidates’ debate, Clarke shifted the blame to Freeland, who he said had advertised it as such on her campaign website.
Many in the crowd applauded as Clarke made his case, but an equal number cheered as he was escorted out by police, yelling “I love you all” to the standing room only crowd.
Once the debate got back underway, Pollock demanded an apology from Freeland for causing the interruption. Freeland apologized, and the debate went on without incident for the duration.
Despite one question during the debate dealing with income inequality, an issue both Freeland and McQuaig have published books on, another topic got the liveliest responses.
During a discussion of Quebec and federalism, McQuaig touted her party as having “effectively killed off the Bloc” in the last federal election by winning Quebec.
Freeland fired back the NDP was pandering to the electorate and was irresponsible in bringing up separatism at all, as it hasn’t been an issue for some time.
Once the debate ended, the four candidates gathered for a group photo, smiling and with their arms around each other.
Outside the church, as people were leaving, Clarke was loudly proclaiming his message to people.
Pollock ignored Clarke’s jabs at him, except to correct him that his “name is Geoff, not Greg.”
“Don’t worry,” said Clarke, laughing. “I still respect you.”
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