A group of Ontario federal election candidates participated in the Proud To Vote LGBTQ issues debate last Thursday, with the Conservative party absent.

The event was held at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in the Church-Wellesley Village. An empty chair represented the missing party representative.

“We received no response (from the Conservatives),” said debate moderator Brenda Cossman. The Ryersonian reached out to Julian Di Battista, a Conservative rep who was invited to the panel, but did not hear back.

“My job would’ve been a lot harder if a Conservative Party rep had (shown) up,” joked Cossman, who was trying to stay neutral as the event’s moderator.

An empty chair represented the missing party representative. (Anna Chorazyczewski / Ryersonian Staff)

An empty chair represented the missing party representative.
(Anna Chorazyczewski / Ryersonian Staff)

Doug Kerr, the event co-ordinator and a volunteer with the Dignity Initiative — a network of people who voice human rights issues within the LGBTQ community — said that he reached out in advance to the Conservative party. He said he wasn’t surprised that the party was a no-show.

During the debate, Cossman discouraged Liberal candidate Bill Morneau, the Green party’s Chris Tolley and the NDP’s Craig Scott from engaging in a “Clint Eastwood-style” debate with the empty Conservative chair, referencing the time the Republican actor and director had a debate with an empty chair.

The discussion and debate was split into two parts, with questions from event partners and audience members.

Several issues were brought up during the debate related to the LGBTQ community, including domestic and foreign policy issues. Other topics raised included refugee and asylum seekers, arts and culture issues, and indigenous, women’s, trans and sex workers’ rights.

Event partners included: the 519 community centre, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Pride Toronto, Sherbourne Health Centre, Trans Lobby Group, XTRA Pink Triangle Press, #ENDhatelaws and the Bonham Centre.

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