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By Yohannes Edemariam

The Toronto mayoral race passed through Ryerson’s Jorgenson Hall on Monday.

Four of the main mayoral candidates – Tom Jakobek, David Miller, John Nunziata, and John Tory – explained how they would make the city a healthier place in which to do business. Notably absent was front runner Barbara Hall.

The debate was moderated by the dean of Ryerson’s school of business, Tom Knowlton, and organized by the school of retail management and the Retail Advertising Council.

While not a single Ryerson issue was raised at the debate, Knowlton said it was an honour to hold it on campus.

“It raises the profile of the school to have a debate of this stature held here,” he said.

Neil Thomlinson, who teaches courses on local government at Ryerson, says that since many services are under municipal control  like transit and policing  Ryerson students have a vested interest in voting in elections.

“As far as Ryerson is concerned, the university, to be successful and survive depends on a healthy and vibrant city around it,” he said.

Thomlinson also said that the municipal government must be committed to cleaning up the downtown core.

In that regard, there have been a number of drives, organized by the Yonge Street Business Association, to clean up the area around Ryerson and it a marketable identity.

Mitchell Kosny teaches urban planning at Ryerson and has been on the boards of six similar business improvement projects.

He feels that the issues discussed at the debate are relevant because Ryerson’s downtown location means its fortunes will rise and fall with those of the city.

“If you look out the window from my office in Jorgenson Hall you can’t tell where Ryerson ends and the city begins,” he said. “I think we are enmeshed with the downtown core of Yonge and Dundas.”

Although debate questions focused on a wide range of subjects including how, if they were elected, candidates would change retail taxes and tackle issues of accountability (tempers flared when the MFP computer leasing scandal was discussed), the most heated debate centred around problems created for toursim and business by panhandlers and the homeless.

“Under my administration I would make it unlawful to panhandle, unlawful to sleep in public places,” said Nunziata.

Jakobek disagreed, saying that such laws would be difficult to enforce.

Tory said he felt that the only way to help clean up the streets was to address the root problems which result in panhandling and homelessness, namely drug addiction and mental ilnesses.

During the debate Nunziata stressed the importance of young people getting involved in the democratic process.

“It’s critical that [students] get the right leadership for when they graduate and go on to get jobs,” said Nunziata. “Voter participation is plummeting and a lot of those individuals who aren’t voting are young people.”

But only a handful of students were in attendance at the debate.

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