Mayoral candidate cries foul after he’s kicked off Nathan Phillips Square during his press conference

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A mayoral candidate is complaining that what he says is an election rules double standard after he was kicked out of the public square in front of City Hall on Wednesday morning while trying to hold a press conference.

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Gil Pealosa was announcing a housing policy in Nathan Phillips Square when a pair of security guards stepped in and told his campaign team they had to leave the city property.

When he agreed and stood on the edge of the square, the guards again intervened and asked him to go further away. According to his campaign, at one point he threatened to call the police.

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“I was having a press conference in front of the Toronto sign, and we were kicked out,” Pealosa said in an interview. “We were on the sidewalk and then we were thrown out somewhere else. Why? A sidewalk is a public place. ,

According to Toronto Chief Communications Officer Brad Ross, city security guards confronted the group because the press conference violated municipal policy on the use of city property during the election. He cited a rule that states that candidates are allowed to take questions from the media in Nathan Phillips Square and other municipal facilities, but events that use amplified sound are not allowed.

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Before stepping into security, Pealosa spent about 10 minutes speaking via the microphone while members of his campaign team held up capital letters next to the famous sign of the square to pronounce “GIL 4 TORONTO”. .

“While informal media scrums are allowed in public squares, formal events such as the one seen today are not,” Ross said. He said the policy is “not new” and the rules are “widely communicated with all candidates.”

But Pealosa, who is Mayor John Tory’s highest-profile challenger in the October 24 election, said it was not fair for him to be booted from the square “when I see the mayor holding press conferences in front of City Hall all the time.”

Most recently, the Tories attended a September 7 press conference about a city campaign to combat anti-Semitic sentiment, staged in Nathan Phillips Square, just steps from where Pealosa held her event. was.

Although last week’s announcement was not directly related to the Tory’s campaign, Pealosa and others argue that holding such events during the campaign period gives favorable media coverage to office-holders seeking re-election, and to incumbents. gives an unfair advantage.

Registration of candidates for municipal elections closes on August 19, and the campaign season is generally in full swing after Labor Day.

In a statement, Genesa Crognally, communications director for the Tory campaign, defended the mayor’s involvement in the city’s media events while the election continues. She said her term is until November 15, and until then the Tories are “doing what they were chosen to do.”

Krognali said the September 7 incident was one of several announcements made for the city’s anti-discrimination initiatives during his tenure, and that his “mayor’s commitments … are different from his campaign programs.”

Maiar Simiatki, emeritus professor of politics and public administration at Toronto Metropolitan University, says Penalosa has a point.

“The mayor is announcing the initiatives that he is currently undertaking in his capacity as mayor. And in this regard he is taking advantage of his current position…candidates who are not incumbent have equal opportunities Not there.

Siemiatki noted the contrast of municipal elections at the federal and provincial levels, where conventions prohibit government programs during a campaign.

With files from Victoria Gibson.
Ben Spur is a Toronto-based reporter who covers city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Contact him by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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