Toronto doesn’t need a debate. Toronto needs a trial.

September 24, 2014

I am not going to waste too many words on the September 23 debate/debacle except to say we have all seen more civilized displays on the Jerry Springer Show, and more intellect at a hockey fight. If you asked me to declare a winner, I would give it to the media, who get to milk this schoolyard brawl endlessly until the next one.

My problem is with the top three candidates’ behaviour and emptiness at every debate, speech and event. What we have seen, since the very beginning, is high-profile candidates endlessly repeating their respective mantras to ridiculous lengths, and steering every question back towards themselves and their prepared talking points. The debate moderators – who try their best to manage this unruly theatre are no match for the egos of those who have come to sell their tired old ideas: the charging rhinos of political entitlement.

I am a trial lawyer and work in the court system alongside and against other tough lawyers and equally tough judges. I feel that this city needs to hold a real debate in a trial setting, with a real judge as moderator. Here’s what I mean, specifically.

Show us the facts

When you make a statement in court, it has to be backed up by fact. If you tell the court you have saved a billion dollars, or that your transit system will work, you have to prove it: line by line, dollar by dollar. No fudging, no stalling, no deflecting, no vague illustrations. Prove it or lose it.

If you lie or evade in court, you will be found in contempt.

Answer the question

When a question is put to you in court, you must answer it. There is no tolerance for diverting attention by speaking more loudly, or countering with an obfuscating statement. You answer the question and your replies go on record. You will be held responsible for what you say. You don’t get a pass in four years when it becomes clear, but far too late, that all these great plans and shiny promised trinkets are just fairy dust and election sloganeering.

Hearsay evidence does not count

To claim achievements that you did not actually achieve, to suggest progress where there was none and to take credit for the actions of others, is dishonest and illegal. This is akin to hearsay – it is not the truth, simply a collection of non-facts that are construed to tell a story. A judge would rule this as inadmissible.

What we have seen over the past seven months is a futile puppet show, in which the various candidates vying for the position of mayor have tried to outdo each other with bluster, hoping that no-one will bother to fact-check.. I have met thousands of engaged and connected voters – people who are desperate for intelligent plans to guide this city. They are actively interested in seeing their city prosper and improve. These people pay taxes, they work, they spend their leisure dollars here, and they expect more than platitudes and buffoonery from those who seek its highest office. And if I have met thousands, that means there are hundreds of thousands more out there, seeking the same thing. So in the short time we have available before election day, why don’t we put each and every one of the top three on trial, as well as myself, so that each of us can clearly and unequivocably demonstrate what we stand for? –Not with slogans, or shouting or photo ops, but with the type of fact-based testimony that will win their case decisively and fairly, for the benefit of everyone who lives in our beautiful city.

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