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Mayoral candidates talk faith, taxes at debate
Toronto mayoral hopefuls gathered this morning to talk about faith and its place in local politics, with candidate Rocco Rossi proclaiming that "city hall left God."
Hosted by the Toronto Interfaith Council, four of the six leading candidates agreed that faith could play a greater role at city hall, but there was some disagreement over how such a goal could be achieved.
One idea that sprung from the chat was to create a multi-faith day or week, which would celebrate the city's diverse beliefs.
Rossi came out in support of the idea, adding that the city needs more initiatives that touch on spirituality.
"God has never left city hall," he said, adding, "city hall left God."
Mayoral hopeful George Smitherman told the crowd he believes the city's diversity can be harmonious, despite the desire to keep city hall free of any religious terms.
"I'd like to be able to imagine a circumstance where the city of Toronto becomes sophisticated enough to acknowledge the cultural and religious dates of importance to the broad community," he said.
Smitherman added that city staff shouldn't "have to call a Christmas tree a holiday tree."
Others, like Joe Pantalone and Rob Ford, wanted to hash out specifics of such a plan.
"The devil is in the details," said Pantalone. "So I'd want to work with the interfaith council on how we do that. Who's going to get the prime spot?"
"If we're going to have faith weeks, there are 52 weeks in a year, but a lot more than 52 religions."
Despite the best attempts of organizers to keep the focus on faith, talk soon turned to taxes, CTV Toronto's Alicia Markson reported.
Ford said that if he were elected, he would axe two of the city's more despised taxes.
"I am the only candidate on record promising to abolish the land transfer tax and vehicle registration tax," Ford said.
However, Smitherman shot back, and said the city needs those revenue sources.
"Those resources, which total $200 million for the city treasury, continue to be required resources ... I would not repeal it."
Pantalone said that keeping the land transfer tax ensures that revenue is coming from higher income Torontonians, rather than families who live on a tight budget.
"Frankly, I'd rather have land transfer taxes for those who are able to buy, rather than a 10 per cent tax increase on families," he said.
Rossi echoed Smitherman's sentiments, saying that "no one likes to have additional taxes, but at the moment, there is no way to replace, easily, $200 million in revenue.
Giorgio Mammoliti and Sarah Thomson, who were not at the debate, appear to side with Ford in eliminating the land transfer tax.