By Justin Brisbane
“This grandma’s going to fight like hell!” said NDP candidate Gene Lara, a 64-year-old grandmother, who got Monday’s Toronto Centre-Rosedale candidates debate off to a sensational start with remarks that made even seasoned political animals like Liberal George Smitherman and Tory John Adams jump.
Lara’s outburst was indicative of the mood as the three candidates battled over the province’s most economically and socially diverse riding.
Representatives from Rosedale’s mansions, Regent Park’s housing projects, Church and Wellesley’s gay and lesbian community and even the odd university student filled the Toronto Truck theatre to challenge the candidates. Smitherman pledged a two year tuition freeze, while increasing accessibility to the schools.
“I met with Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse, and spoke with him about the importance of a knowledge based economy to a Liberal party,” said Smitherman. “Education is the foundation of the Liberal platform.”
Smitherman also promised the Liberals will revamp OSAP and create an additional 50,000 spaces in Ontario Colleges and Universities.
Adams pointed out the need for a new deal for cities. A former city councillor, Adams said his experience fits the job.
“it is critical there be a credible working relationship. I can work with the municipalities to get a new deal,” he said.
Adams believes students have had a successful partnership with student loans in Ontario.
“i’m a student debt survivor myself. Ontario students have always had a partnership with student loans. One of the things we will do for students is grow the economy,” said Adams.
According to York University’s financial services department, Adam’s political science degree would have cost him roughly $648 a year when he graduated in 1970.
Lara, participating in her first debate, struggled with a number of key issues in the NDP platform, but demonstrated her passion when talk turned to housing and education.
“The NDP will roll back tuition by 10 per cent and reinstate rent control. We will also raise the minimum wage to eight dollars an hour. That will help students,” she said.
Lara is a community leader form St. Jamestown.