Smitherman scores in debate, but poll gives Ford lead

Originally published in the Toronto Sun on August 12th, 2010. To go to the Toronto Sun please click here

George Smitherman reeled in a big purple fish Wednesday as he walked out of the CARP mayoral debate at Ryerson University topping an informal exit poll.

Going into the hour-long debate — which featured a large purple fish with a bullhorn for a logo and focused on issues affecting older people, Smitherman had the support of 18% in the audience of 250.

By the time it was over, that number had grown to 43%, giving him a significant edge over the other four candidates in the Oct. 25 civic election on the stage with him.

“I think it’s a competitive race with (Rob Ford) and I in the top two spots,” Smitherman said after the debate but before the poll results were in.

Ford stuck to the spending cut theme that he says has propelled him to 35% in internal campaign polling.

Ford’s numbers are supported by a Pollstra Research poll released Wednesday that shows he has 37.6% support among decided voters compared to 28.7% for Smitherman.

Just a day after attacking Ford for keeping his day job at his family’s business while also working as a city councillor, Smitherman went after his rival several times during the debate, saying his opponent’s vow to cut taxes and reduce spending at City Hall was a “recipe for the kind of cuts we all experienced under (former premier) Mike Harris”.

Ford, he said, would forgo $1 billion in tax revenue over four years from cutting the land transfer and vehicle registration taxes and has argued against senior-friendly services such as 311 phone service and snow clearing, Smitherman said,

And when Ford defended himself on the snow clearing charge, saying he was only opposed to clearing minor side streets and dead ends, Smitherman produced a motion Ford introduced at council calling for city-wide elimination of sidewalk and street snow removal.

“I’d love to accommodate everything everyone wants,” Ford said.

“The bottom line is we have a spending problem. Until the gravy train ends, I feel sorry for everyone in the city.”

Despite his success so far in the wider campaign, Ford was the choice of a mere 8% of the audience at the start of the debate and dropped one point to 7% by the end.

Rocco Rossi, who grew emotional as he talked about his mother’s struggles raising a family of five in Toronto with no English, went to 23% from 17%.

Sarah Thomson dropped from 7% to 3% while Joe Pantalone fell from 9% to 6%.

The undecided vote stood at 39% going into the debate but had fallen to 17% by the end.

© The Toronto Sun

Keywords: seniors, election