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Mississauga mayoral race tight after Thursday debate

September 12, 2014

The two front-runners in the Mississauga mayoral race have near-identical platforms, are in a dead heat, according to polls, and the ideas they proposed at an all-candidates debate on Thursday evening were difficult to tell apart.

Ward 5 councillor Bonnie Crombie and former MP, MPP and councillor Steve Mahoney spoke of creating specific jobs within the city or striking task forces to tackle a range of social issues in a debate at the Living Arts Centre. Long-serving mayor Hazel McCallion’s retirement makes the campaign for the Oct. 27 election the most heated one in nearly four decades.

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Ms. Crombie proposed a diversity and inclusion committee to ensure staff and council “reflect the diversity of the city” and offer immigrants chances to job shadow in their fields.

“What are we doing for these people?” Ms. Crombie asked. “I hope we have some sort of welcome wagon for them” with information about health care, affordable housing and more.

Mr. Mahoney lamented how many immigrants arrive with hoping to make a living in professional fields such as medicine but must take menial jobs because their foreign credentials are not recognized. He promised an “office of the Mississauga ambassador” to help fix this.

“People get sold a bill of goods overseas – they think [Canada] is the land of milk and honey,” he said.

The two candidates, members of the federal Liberals earlier in their political careers, said they support going ahead with the light-rail transit line on Hurontario Street. Both proposed beefing up affordable housing options for the poor as a solution to everything from obesity (Mr. Mahoney) to success for youth (Ms. Crombie).

In a Forum Research poll of 696 people released in July, 27 per cent of voters said they planned to vote for Mr. Mahoney and 26 per cent chose Ms. Crombie. Another 47 per cent were undecided.

The debate, attended by about 100 residents, was hosted by the Social Justice Collaborative and covered health, poverty, racism and youth. The nine candidates were given 20 questions ahead of time and asked five during the debate. Later, they answered audience questions and gave a one-minute “action statement.”

When asked about donations from developers, several candidates – some of whom admitted they had not been offered any – said they would never accept funds from a corporation. Ms. Crombie said developers have a role in corporate responsibility and noted if such donations were prohibited, the money would come in the name of a citizen rather than a company.

Mr. Mahoney agreed, saying a campaign is expensive.

“I think it’s the one thing Bonnie and I agree on,” Mr. Mahoney said, to laughter from the audience.

Follow on Twitter: @DakGlobe

Article source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/mississauga-mayoral-race-tight-after-thursday-debate/article20572121/?cmpid=rss1

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