The Ryerson Students’ Union voiced its disappointment on Monday after mayoral candidate John Tory cancelled two separate campus appearances.
“The specific line that they gave us was they had competing campaign priorities and that in this new phase of the campaign, that those priorities were more important,” said Jesse Root, RSU’s vice-president for education.
Tory was set to debate Olivia Chow on transit at 5 p.m. Monday in an event hosted by TTCriders, an advocacy group for TTC users, and the union, but backed out with just three hour’s notice. Chow agreed to participate despite Tory’s absence, according to an RSU news release, and the event went ahead as a question-and-answer session with Chow on transit.
Tory was also scheduled for a question-and-answer session earlier in the day at an event organized by RSU and Mobilizing Actively Political Students (MAPS), but his camp emailed to cancel on Friday.
Tory passed up two opportunities to engage with Ryerson students about issues that matter to them, Root said.
“We’re concerned that that means he’s not interested in hearing student perspectives and student voices, and he’s not really talking about student issues.”
Root said Tory’s absence is “another move that’s indicative of his not engaging with students.”
“Students aren’t apathetic as many people think we are — we’re engaged,” added Root. “In fact, a move like this from John Tory further disengages students in that it doesn’t give them access to the political process that they feel like they have a vested interest in.”
TTCriders’ Executive Director Jessica Bell expressed similar displeasure with Tory’s failure to appear at the transit debate.
“We are very disappointed that John Tory didn’t show up yesterday to the Big Transit Debate because it sent a message that he doesn’t care about Toronto’s million daily TTC users and students across Toronto,” she said.
Bell said her group wanted to question Tory on how he plans to improve TTC service, make it more affordable, and pay for it all, but “he didn’t even have the courtesy to show up and explain his platform.”
Tory did however, attend another debate on Monday. It was held 7 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Church, where he traded words with Chow on property taxes and transit.
Tory’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Ryersonian, but at a press conference on his gridlock initiative held outside his campaign headquarters Tuesday, Tory did answer questions about his absence at the transit debate.
“I had been to 22 debates before we missed that one and I was at a 23rd last night and I’ll be at many more going forward,” Tory said. “I made a choice in that regard and I’m accountable for it.”
Tory said he sees transportation and traffic as the “biggest single priority” this election. “I will continue to debate that and will continue to put forward my views as to actions that need to be taken,” he said.
Tory is not scheduled to appear at any future RSU-sponsored events.
According to a Forum Research poll of 1,228 voting-age Torontonians conducted Friday, Tory leads the mayoral race with 41 per cent support. Last-minute candidate Coun. Doug Ford — brother of Mayor Rob Ford, who dropped out of the race following a tumour diagnosis — comes in second with 39 per cent, and Chow trails behind with 19 per cent.
With files from Kayla Hoolwerf.