Tony Ianno's Terrible TemperI attended the Trinity-Spadina debate at the Harbourfront community centre yesterday. Tony Ianno took heavy fire from residents, particularly over the issue of the rogue Toronto Port Authority that he helped create, and the expansion of the Island Airport. You can read reports in the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, and Globe and Mail.
I've lived in this riding for ten years, and this was actually the first time I've seen Tony Ianno in the flesh. It quickly became clear that one reason Ianno keeps such a low profile in the riding is that he has a serious temper control problem. At least twice during the debate, Ianno stood up and raged at the audience. It was admittedly a largely partisan crowd, but still, you'd think any smart politician would know better than to shout at his constituents in a public meeting. I think Ianno has developed a sense of entitlement when it comes to this riding, and he seems to take challenges as a personal insult.
Another thing that was obvious is that Ianno has a major hate-on for Toronto mayor David Miller. You could hear the venom in his voice every time he mentioned the mayor, and he mentioned him a lot, trying to shift blame for the 35-million dollar bridge payoff Ianno engineered for the Port Authority.
The debate format itself was painful. Ten different community groups sponsored the event, and each submitted one question for the candidates in the first half of the debate. It seemed like eight of the ten were re-phrasings of the same question: what is the future of the Toronto Port Authority and the island airport? Are there really no other issues affecting this community? The ham-handed moderation by York prof Susan Swan was also poor.
By about the fourth question, even Ianno was claiming that he would listen to the community and work to close the airport, although he claims it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to do so. Of course, he has very little credibility, as he has been the incumbent for 12 years and has done nothing to date. His big claim on recent developments in the TPA/airport issue was that he had sent a letter to the Minister of Transportation inquiring about it. Oooh, a whole letter! And the Minister had "agreed to communicate" with him on it! Such progress! Such dedication!
The individual questions from the audience in the second half were slightly more varied, but still, about a third of them continued to harp on the airport. One questioner brought up the trust fund issue, which brought cries of protest from Ianno's team in the audience, who shouted "there is no trust fund"! Well, there isn't NOW. Apparently (and this only became clear a few days ago) Ianno's trust fund was dissolved two years ago when the election finance laws were changed to close that loophole. He still refuses to disclose the donors or reveal how the money liquidated from the fund was spent. As the questioner pointed out, the residents of the waterfront would dearly like to know if any of the people with financial interests in the Island Airport are amongst those donors. Surprisingly, the Conservative party candidate, Sam Goldstein, leapt to the defense of Ianno, pointing out that the trust funds were not illegal when they were established. Of course, while they were not technically illegal, they were never ethical. They made use of loopholes in campaign finance laws, and obviously any anonymous, unregulated donation to a political candidate raises major ethical issues. We must know to whom our members of Parliament may feel financially beholden! This is currently a major issue for MP Sarmite Bulte, and it should be an issue for Tony Ianno as well.
On rabble.ca's discussion board, some have suggested that it was unfair for Ianno to be "ambushed", "not shown any respect", and "heckled" by the audience. The fact is, Tony Ianno has had twelve years to gain the trust and support of the Trinity-Spadina community. Instead, he has hidden out in the backbenches for 12 years, stayed invisible to his constituents, and done essentially nothing but show up for photo ops. He clearly doesn't respect the citizens of this riding, so he shouldn't expect them to respect him. In addition, it wouldn't be possible to 'ambush' a politician with a record of accomplishment. Most incumbents who've been around for 12 years could easily produce a long list of things they've done for their constituents. Since Ianno has no such record (look at his own website - his own campaign team can't come up with anything significant), he has no positive defence. Any promises he makes in the campaign (eg closing the airport) are significantly weakened by the fact that he's had 12 years to make things happen and has not done so.