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The Conservatives Were Represented By An Empty Chair At An LGBT Debate

Toronto just hosted this election's first LGBT-centred debate.

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On Thursday night, a group of local candidates gathered in Toronto for this election's first LGBT-centred debate.

BuzzFeed Canada

The participants came from several Toronto ridings, though the questions focused on national issues.

The parties were invited to choose their representatives and the participants were:

  • Bill Morneau, Liberal candidate for Toronto Centre
  • Chris Tolley, Green candidate for Toronto-Danforth
  • Craig Scott, NDP candidate for Toronto-Danforth

The Conservatives — who did not send a candidate — were represented by an empty chair and a forlorn water bottle.

BuzzFeed Canada

Got anything to say about Bill C279, little guy?

BuzzFeed Canada

At one point, debate moderator Brenda Cossman asked the candidates to kindly not engage in a "Clint Eastwood-style" debate with the empty chair.

Lynne Sladky / AP

The candidates took questions from both the debate organizers and the audience on topics including the death of C279 — (a transgender rights bill), LGBT refugees, blood donation and protection for sex workers.

Thurs Sept 24 is the #Toronto debate on #LGBTQ issues in the federal election at @yyzbuddies, 5pm. #LGBTQVotes

Both the Liberal and the Green candidate stumbled on a question from an audience member about the criminalization of not disclosing one's HIV status. Only Scott — the only openly gay candidate on stage — appeared to be aware of the law.

Scott told BuzzFeed Canada the Liberals simply sent a local candidate "who is not an expert on the issues."

In his closing statements, Liberal candidate Morneau said he would be a "champion" for LGBT Canadians.

LGBT issues have by and large not been a talking point during this election. Green candidate Tolley said that's because it's not a comfortable topic for some of the other parties.

"It’s territory that the traditional parties have to be very careful about where they’re going. You’re trying to not lose your base, a lot of it is political strategy," he said.

The absence of a Tory candidate seems par for the course this election. According to a Star report, the party has told candidates to avoid debates and media requests. Party members, however, have said that is not the case.

Lauren Strapagiel is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at

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