Canada's Don Valley West (Ward 25) city council candidates speak

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to: navigation, search
Toronto municipal election, 2006


Etobicoke North (Ward 1)
Etobicoke Centre (Ward 3, 4)
Etobicoke—Lakeshore (Ward 5)
York West (Ward 7, 8)
Parkdale—High Park (Ward 13, 14)
Eglinton—Lawrence (Ward 16)
Davenport (Ward 17, 18)
Trinity—Spadina (Ward 19, 20)
St. Paul’s West (Ward 21)
Don Valley West (Ward 25, 26)
Toronto—Danforth (Ward 29, 30)
Beaches—East York (Ward 32)
Don Valley East (Ward 33)
Scarborough—Agincourt (Ward 39, 40)
Scarborough East (Ward 43, 44)
Toronto from space

Toronto from space.

To write, edit, start or view other Canada articles, see the Canada Portal

Friday, November 3, 2006

On November 13, Torontonians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward's councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto's ridings is Don Valley West (Ward 25). Three candidates responded to Wikinews' requests for an interview. This ward's candidates include John Blair, Robertson Boyle, Tony Dickins, Cliff Jenkins (incumbent), and Peter Kapsalis.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.

John Blair

48-year-old John Blair is a high school English teacher.

Q: Describe the three most important issues in your campaign.

A: First, I propose a personal property tax freeze. After three consecutive years of increases above the inflation rate, homeowners need some breathing space. Many are in danger of losing their homes due to higher taxes (just as tenants are being evicted from their apartments because of rising rents at a record levels in Toronto). We need to apply the brakes.
Second, developers, who (inspired by nothing other than optimum profit) ignore the wishes of communities in all wards, need to be taken to task. Public appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) are almost never successful while appeals by developers are disproportionately successful. Nothing short of dismantling the OMB will start to solve this situation.
Third, the Toronto Council pay raise is inexcusable and I will invest my 8.9% raise in worthwhile Ward 25 causes. Elected officials need to earn the respect of the electorate by showing leadership in their own finances.

Q: What one election issue do you feel is most relevant to your ward in this election?

A: Definitely, over-development and intensification. Real two-way communication is necessary between neighbourhoods and the developers who propose to transform a given area. Ward 25 residents like their living spaces and any new development has to "make sense" to the people currently living in the proximity, not just dollars for developers. There must be a vision -- a "fitting in" with the existing character of a community.

Q: Why have you chosen to involve yourself in the political process?

A: For some time, I have thought about being more involved in the challenges that face Toronto. I want to live to a higher standard than just to live for myself. Public service is an honourable calling. With the demolition of the former Don Mills Centre indoor mall (to be replaced by an outdoor lifestyle centre (courtesy of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and its instrument, Cadillac Fairview), I finally made my decision. The Don Mills Centre was already more than a shopping mall -- it was a friendly village for old and young alike, and now it has been levelled to satisfy the greed of a ruthless developer and its owner.

Q: Why do you want to represent this particular ward on council?

A: Since I was five years old, I have spent a lot of my time in places such as Wilket Creek Park, Edwards Gardens, the Don Mills Centre, the Yonge and Lawrence area and many others. Ward 25 is where I grew up. I feel I know this ward and its varied neighbourhoods as well as anyone.

Q: How are you currently involved in the community?

A: Practically all the services I make use of (entertainment and numerous other amenities) are located in Ward 25. My breakfast club and many other friends live in Ward 25. If elected I will make the short move to Ward 25.

Q: What does Toronto mean to you?

A: Toronto is a culturally diverse and lively place to live in. Compared to other major North American cities, it is relatively safe and clean. We need to work hard to make it continue to be regarded as such. The city must resist the current trend to intensify development without taking into consideration the "existing character" of any given neighbourhood. Our past is as important as our future. Hopefully, we can be a model to the world of what a progressive and environmentally conscious city can and should be.

Q: Which council decision (since the 2003 election) do you feel the city/your ward should be most proud of, and which was least desirable?

A: A very recent council decision (the vote against condominiums at the intersection of Fairlawn and Avenue Road) was a good one -- of course the developer has appealed this ruling to the OMB. The city should be least proud of its decision to increase their salaries by 8.9%.

Q: If you were elected as a "rookie" councillor, what would you bring to the table beyond the incumbent?

A: I am not a "business" person. I bring to council a fresh new perspective on things. I'm very serious about transparency and moral and ethical conduct. The public has a right to know many things that are apparently hidden from it at present. I really want to "open things up." After all, we are supposed to be the representatives of the people. We should strive to earn the respect of those who have elected us.

Robertson Boyle

46-year-old Robertson Boyle is a management consultant (marketing/business development for businesses in the professional services)

Q: Describe the three most important issues in your campaign.

A: Managing the City's phenomenal growth with a focus on those areas that impact on Ward 25.
• Urban development pressure and its impact on the neighbourhood, infrastructure, and environment.
• Accountability, transparency and responsible fiscal management at City Hall with a focus on increasing efficiency and reducing spending to alleviate upward pressures on property taxes.
• Greater interaction between councillor and community with a view to engaging the community in decisions that effect the community and ensuring top quality customer service.

Q: What one election issue do you feel is most relevant to your ward in this election?

A: Intelligently managing the City's growth with its incumbent challenges relating to real estate development, traffic congestion, and environmental pollution.

Q: Why have you chosen to involve yourself in the political process?

A: We live in a very exciting time and Toronto is a very exciting place that is growing at a phenomenal rate. I am a well rounded individual and in the prime of life, energetic and dedicated to civic duty. I want to use my experience, knowledge, and intelligence to serve the people of Ward 25 and to engage them more fully in decisions that affect them in their community. I also want to influence and inspire the direction of the growth of this wonderful city in a positive way.

Q: Why do you want to represent this particular ward on council?

A: It is the ward in which I have lived for the past 17 years.

Q: How are you currently involved in the community?

A: I have been involved in charity work with such organizations as Big Brothers, the church to which I belong, and fundraising for other health related causes. I am a avid fan of the arts in Toronto and have volunteered with a number of community groups that provide theatre to seniors and moderate income families. And I am past president of the Upper Canada Tenants Association.

Q: What does Toronto mean to you?

A: Home Sweet Home, the greatest city in the world.

Q: Which council decision (since the 2003 election) do you feel the city/your ward should be most proud of, and which was least desirable?

A: Most proud of: The Toronto Green Development Standard. It is time to put it into effect.
Least proud of: Wasteful spending habits - which impact directly on our property taxes and the City's debt.

Q: If you were elected as a "rookie" councillor, What would you bring to the table beyond the incumbent?

A: I am a man who prefers to get out into the community and meet the people and I now work very hard to do that. It amazes me that most people I speak to in the Ward, have no idea who their representative is and have never heard from him - this, to me, is an abrogation of a councillor's duty to her or his electorate. I want to know their concerns, firsthand, and make every effort to provide the means by which they can communicate their concerns and also hear their suggestions for solutions. I will forge effective partnerships with the leaders of the residential and business associations as well as representatives of the police, health and environmental bodies, religious groups, and others, in order to have their input and work together to get things done for the benefit of our community. Furthermore, I would be a strong voice at City Council in advocating for those issues at City Hall which directly impact Ward 25: development, taxes, solid wastes issues. I believe the incumbent has not met the expectations of the community in these regards. Furthermore, I have 18 years' experience in managing a successful business working within strict budgets and tight timelines and would bring that experience to the position of City Councillor.

Cliff Jenkins (incumbent)

60-year-old Cliff Jenkins is the incumbent for Ward 25, Don Valley West. Previous to that, Jenkins was a client executive for IBM Canada, leading a team of information technology professionals to meet the business needs of a large client.

Q: Describe the three most important issues in your campaign.

A:
  • Managing Toronto's density explosion: The population of Toronto is increasing at about 15,000 people per year. New residents require additional infrastructure – increased sewer capacity, more TTC buses, increased solid waste capacity, extension of our subway service to York University and beyond, increased policing capability. Just about every municipal service has to be ramped up to meet the increased demands - and ramping up generates significant complexity and increases costs. The best estimate of the amount new capital infrastructure required by each new person is $20,000. Unfortunately, we receive only about $4,000 per person in development charges. As a result, we've had about a $240,000,000 capital shortfall every year – which we've "solved" by increasing debt and seeking handouts from other orders of government. This is unsustainable and unacceptable. Increasing development charges is the first step towards solving the infrastructure shortfall.
  • Protection and preservation of neighbourhoods: The density explosion puts great pressure on our stable residential neighbourhoods. The City's Official Plan directs growth to specific places in the City – particularly those serviced by rapid transit. But the development industry continues to seek growth in those areas of the City which are NOT targeted for intensification, as well as over-intensification in those areas identified for growth. This has immediate negative impacts on neighbouring single-family homes. While we have made gains in improving policies of the Official Plan to protect these neighbourhoods, it will be the job of the next Council to ensure that Planning Staff interpret and enforce these policies to really protect them.
  • Election Finance Reform: While Council has indicated its intent to reform how candidates raise money for election campaigns, it does remain a serious problem that must be fixed. VoteToronto, an independent organization, has documented the problems at www.votetoronto.ca of the influence that can result from election contributions of special interest groups. The new City Council must finish the job of election finance reform.

Q: What one election issue do you feel is most relevant to your ward in this election?

A: In Ward 25, the key issue is protection of neighbourhoods. For most people, their investment in their homes is their single biggest investment. Intrusive nearby development can have major negative effects. For example, at 1000 Mt. Pleasant Road, an application for a 13-storey apartment building which would tower over and impact neighbouring single-family homes was deemed, by City planners, to be contrary to the City's Official Plan and should be refused. City Council did refuse the application. But, on appeal, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) overturned the City's decision. City Council must re-enforce policies and processes which protect our stable residential neighbourhoods and must demand OMB reform from the provincial government.

Q: Why have you chosen to involve yourself in the political process?

A: As President of a community association for 12 years, I saw the threats and challenges faced by one stable residential community. They ranged from inappropriate and intrusive development to a property assessment system which resulted in unstable annual reassessments. Through my colleagues, presidents of other community associations, I learned that the problems were not isolated in my community. They were systemic across the ward, the City – and indeed, across the province.
I saw cases of unfair impact on homeowners who had previously believed that the Official Plan and the zoning by-law would protect their quiet enjoyment of their homes, apartments and their investment in the community. In every case, I felt there were ways for governments – particularly Toronto City Council – to protect our stable residential communities. In conversation and discussion with people in Ward 25, I found it resonated. Many people were and are impacted by inappropriate development. People want a planning process which serves them.
I developed an election platform in 2003 around protection of our stable residential communities. Once elected, I set out to implement it, against entrenched interests – with considerable success in many aspects, for example: Official Plan amendments, changes in the Committee of Adjustment, and new freedom for people to access previously withheld building permits.
There is more to do. The new harmonized zoning by-law coming before Council will require provisions to close existing loopholes. The planning process reform must be completed – to ensure that people are engaged earlier and meaningfully consulted on development applications in their community.

Q: Why do you want to represent this particular ward on council?

A: My wife Liz and I have lived in Ward 25 for 21 years, raising our three sons, Neil, Scott and David here. Ward 25 is a vibrant, wonderful place to live, work and enjoy life. Ward 25 residents are proud and protective of their neighbourhoods. Our employment areas on Leslie and Scarsdale and our commercial areas are thriving - but some are at risk from purchase and conversion to residential uses. Our parks and natural areas are magnificent. The ravines of the Don Valley are life-giving ribbons of green that benefit the entire City. Ward 25 is a jewel in Toronto. I want the best for it.

Q: How are you currently involved in the community?

A: To be a conscientious Councillor is to be deeply involved in the community. It requires very frequent attendance at local events and meetings. It is critical for a Councillor to hear what people have to say about matters affecting their communities, about their hopes and desires for their communities. I attend many evening meetings with ratepayer groups, with tenant groups, with school organizations and with other community groups. Doing that is more than a full time job. Consequently, I've temporarily deferred most voluntary activity – particularly my long-time involvement in my own ratepayer association where I was President for twelve years. I've also been a junior boys' baseball coach and junior boys' curling team advisor. My wife Liz, however, maintains her volunteer work. For many years she was active in Home and School associations as our kids worked their way through school – serving as President from time to time. As well, she was a volunteer for many years at Tennis Canada – rising to the position of Volunteer Co-ordinator for the annual men's/women's Canadian Open Tennis Championship. And now, she is a volunteer at Sunnybrook Hospital.
And lastly, it runs in the family – all three of our sons have had and continue to have volunteer activities.

Q: What does Toronto mean to you?

A: Toronto truly is a city of wonderful neighbourhoods. It is an economic engine that must continue to create jobs. While creating these jobs and as Toronto continues to grow, we need to ensure that our infrastructure and services support that growth. We must provide infrastructure and services in a resilient and cost-effective manner. And we must never forget who we are seeking to serve – the residents of Toronto who live in our wonderful neighbourhoods. We must provide them with a safe, robust and clean city – one where they can continue to live, work and enjoy life.

Q: Which council decision (since the 2003 election) do you feel the city/your ward should be most proud of, and which was least desirable?

A: Council's least desirable decision was its failure to increase development charges to the maximum permitted under provincial law. Development charges are intended to pay for new infrastructure required to support the population growth of the City. While Council did increase development charges to achieve annual revenues of approximately $50million - $60million. Our need, on the other hand, is estimated at about $300 million per year. We currently fund this shortfall by several unsatisfactory means: increased debt, starving our capital repairs budgets, raiding reserve funds and hand-outs from other orders of government. The next Council must reconsider this decision.
What the City should be most proud of is Council's decision to recommend that corporations and unions no longer be permitted to make contributions to candidates for election to City Council. The provincial government, however, did not implement it. But, under the new City of Toronto Act, Council will soon have the power to do so itself. I was co-leader, with Councillor Michael Walker, on this initiative. When finally implemented, it will reduce the influence of special interest groups – particularly those with an interest in City business – on elected City Councillors. And more importantly, over time it will result in the election of more community-oriented Councillors.
Bookmark-new.svg



Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.