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Mayoral hopefuls see bigger role for religious groups

Four of Toronto’s mayoral candidates have vowed to give faith-based groups a bigger role in city affairs, with Rocco Rossi proclaiming: “God hasn’t left city hall — city hall has left God.”

Four of Toronto’s mayoral candidates have vowed to give faith-based groups a bigger role in city affairs, with Rocco Rossi proclaiming: “God hasn’t left city hall — city hall has left God.”

At a morning debate hosted yesterday by the Toronto Area Interfaith Council, Rossi, George Smitherman, Joe Pantalone and Rob Ford all said city hall should be more open to advice from, and partnerships with, religion-based groups.

Smitherman said as mayor he would bring together the faith groups, arrive at common goals for social justice and social development, and have them work with the city to help the homeless, the addicted and others on society’s fringe.

Toronto should be a city sophisticated enough to acknowledge religious and cultural events as important in the broader community, “where we don’t have to call a Christmas tree a holiday tree,” he said.

­“This is a pillar of service and outreach that needs to be celebrated,” Rossi said of faith groups.

“The mayor’s door would be open to all faiths ... Whether in affordable housing, whether in the shelter system, whether in assisting the homeless ... faith communities are there.”

Rossi made the quip about city hall leaving God when one of the roughly 100 people in the audience at Metropolitan United Church, while asking candidates if they would support an official interfaith day or week, remarked that “it seems as if God has left city hall.”

 
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