Canada's Parkdale—High Park (Ward 13) city council candidates speak

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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)
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Monday, October 30, 2006

On November 13, Torontoians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward's councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto's ridings is Parkdale—High Park (Ward 13). Two candidates responded to Wikinews' requests for an interview. This ward's candidates include Linda Coltman, David Garrick, Greg Hamara, Aleksander Oniszczak, Bill Saundercook (incumbent), and Frances Wdowczyk.

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

Linda Coltman

35-year-old Linda Coltman is a consultant and boards member.

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

A:
Voter specific engagement (locally) leading to the new implementation of something citizen driven on an annual, in ward basis (& an increased citizenry interest in voting and voter engagement in general).
Identifying the social needs of our wards residents and seeking recommendations to such and working towards great new adventurous ways of addressing same.
Being open to inviting corporate development within our ward through the recognition of our strong cultural heritage and respect of such through a means of encouraging positive address of the social needs of the ward 13 constituency.

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

A: Unifying the ward and increasing civic engagement throughout (increased participation, heightened voter turnout etc.) Unifying the ward by the institution of a comprehensive website accessible by all the ward's residents is a new, innovative potential means of accomplishing such alongside more tried and true methods of encouraging and fostering participation through regular open community consultation and the like.

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

A: To pay equity to all issues and too to bring a different kind of representation to this ward.

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

A: To represent the multiplicity of its diversity, which differs from that of other wards.
Too, this ward has been my home for 20+ years and I have been actively involved within such throughout, as such I feel well suited to representing the people living and working within and further engaging with them to identify their needs, thoughts, wants etc. and seeking to foster positive interactions and growth within this, my home ward, in keeping and adhering to the diversity of the wards constituents.

Q: How are you currently involved in the community?

A: As a leader and a participant within many community groups I currently spend and have spent much of the past two decades alongside the constituency working to address, react to and seek democratic solutions to the ward's needs. As a member of multiple local Boards, Committees, Executives and community groups, I strive to keep abreast of issues through continual personal interaction with the residents and too through multimedia sources.

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: As far most proud of, there are multiple to choose from in respect to the total City perspective however, the May 2004 Implementation of pesticide bylaw in which Council decided on an implementation schedule for phasing in full enforcement of the bylaw is a decision that our incumbent councilor voted on behalf of the ward 13 constituents behalf in support of the pesticide ban and one that is of great importance on our ward level as citizen engagement in respect to environmental issues is strong within and listening to and supporting the opinions of the local citizenry is, in my belief, one of the key aspects to promoting further and increased citizen engagement in respect to all issues brought forth for discussion to City Council.
As far as least proud of, in respect to the views of our wards constituents, the Council decisions based in respect to financing, in September 2004 in respect to election financing and further tied in to such, in July 2006 in respect to compensation for elected officials. In July, Council approved a pay increase for members of the Council who will be elected in November, taking effect January 1, 2007 thereby increasing Councillors' current salary of about $87,000 annually to $95,000, a decision that while deemed to be reflective of bring the salaries in line with the average of large Ontario municipalities is not one that I see as being a desirable decision. Locally within ward 13 our incumbent councillor voted against the ward's constituents in 2004 in respect to a vote taken to restrict election donors to individuals, banning corporations and trade unions from making campaign donations. My views remain that citizen engagement is of paramount importance within our City and that the wishes of said citizenry should be reflected through individual Council member votes and the collective Council decision/outcome of such.

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

A: I will bring new age thinking.
I will be productive and resourceful in developing new programs and not flogging dead horses.
I will not be willing to sit in unproductive community partnerships with groups seeking to develop the ward but instead would ask groups to each develop one solid idea for which I would work with them to lobby for full council implementation of such within ward 13.

Q: What does Toronto mean to you?

A: Toronto, being the largest City in Canada, has the potential to become a world class leader in engaging our diversity thereby prompting our City into becoming the best led, run and operated City in the world.
While already recognized as a world class City and among the best in the world, the potential for Toronto to lead in all aspects is there and waiting to be utilized.
Through engagement of our City's populous I foresee that Toronto can make the transition from greatness to becoming the recognized world's best if we act on and make use of our untapped local resources in a more effective manner.

Aleksander Oniszczak

39-year-old Aleksander Oniszczak is a freelance journalist.

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

A: Taxes and Spending: Lawn signs, billboards, flyers - have you noticed that my opponents are spending a lot of money on their campaigns? Do you think they will stop spending a lot of money if they get elected? I believe fiscal responsibility is not just a phrase to drop in interviews. Intelligent and resourceful solutions are needed to get full value for our tax dollars. I don't just say it, I do it. Did I spend thousands of dollars on a flashy website? No, I created it myself. A can-do attitude can go far. Councillor wages need to be rolled back as well. We need to do our part. Of course, the flip side of the coin has Toronto paying a disproportionate amount of money in taxes compared to the services it receives. The Province, the Federal government and most importantly, the people of Canada need to have this made clear to them. It simply will not change until we have their support. Toronto is the economic engine of Canada and when that engine needs an oil change, it is best not to wait until it seizes up.
No More Ugly Buildings: Rampant uncontrolled overdevelopment needs to stop. We need to listen to the concerns of our citizens. Why is it that banks are allowed to build such monstrously ugly buildings in the area while other businesses like the McDonalds in Bloor West Village manage to be good corporate citizens and build to integrate with the neighbourhood? Why are condos being built where they are not wanted? Council needs a vision and a plan.
Traffic calming measures have backfired in the Ward. Traffic is worse than ever. We need a real integrated plan rather than a patchwork of band-aid solutions.

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

A: Property Tax: It affects everyone in the area homeowners and tenants alike. Our taxes have gone up but our services have gone down. Although it is less expensive to service homes in our area for garbage collection than it is in the more spread out suburbs, we pay more. Our infrastructure is already built, but our taxes go to build new, less efficient suburban ones outside our ward. Long time residents are being forced to move due to spiraling cost increases. Common sense is needed to put an end to this injustice.

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

A: Enough is enough. Our current Councillor seems invisible until election time. I have seen our ward decline in recent years with graffiti, reduced TTC service, ineffective traffic calming measures and inappropriate development. I've read the platforms of the other candidates, and they are just typical things politicians always say with no actual ideas to back them up. I want honesty in government. I believe in transparency. I believe in backing up every statement with a plan. Most of all, I don't see any vision in the other candidates platforms. For example, from Greg Hamara's web site we see under the heading " Building Safe and healthy neighbourhoods" that his big plan is "Better enforcement of traffic rules". Oh yes, very inspiring plan. That just gives me goose bumps. Compare that to my idea of Raised Bicycle Lanes as found in Amsterdam, eliminating graffiti as has been done by the New York subway system. The other candidates do not place the constituent first. Want proof? Check their websites and you'll see that I am the only one that actually lists and links to the websites of my competitors because I want to HELP constituents make the best choice.

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

A: Although I have worked in Austin, Texas, San Francisco and other cities, I have lived in Parkdale – High Park for over 35 years and I consider it home. I have seen how great the area once was and how great it could be and I am inspired to make it a truly great place to live again.

Q: How are you currently involved in the community?

A: As a freelance journalist I write about issues that concern the community on many levels. I volunteer my time to charity and support local businesses. I have lived in the ward for over 35 years and participate in its activities. I attend the Arts festival and Ukrainian Festival because not for photo ops as some of the other candidates treat the events, but for the experience itself. I do not join a group to just pad my resume or add as a bullet point on campaign literature, I go out and try to effect change. For example, I personally sought the Mayor out to discuss my plan for a raised bicycle lane as discussed in http://www.oniszczak.com/index.html#1. I had a vision and I talked to someone that could get things done. I saw a need for more community interaction – so I designed and built a website ( vividpicture.com) that allows all residents to discuss, comment and vote on each others ideas. The others list groups they join – but ask yourself – what did this group do for the community lately? Did the candidate actually contribute anything, or did he or she join because it looks good in a list.

Q: What does Toronto mean to you?

A: Toronto means opportunity and the ability to be the best at what we do. We see the underlying greatness in our city's genes but do not promote ourselves enough. We need more pride. We have the tallest building in the world (CN Tower according to the Guinness Book of Records) but most people don't know this and would more likely guess " Chicago" or "Kuala Lumpur". We are considered the most multicultural city in the world, yet we don't promote this richness in restaurants, shopping and experience to tourists. Toronto is like its waterfront. Beautiful, but hidden.

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: The council decision to raise the councillors' wages was the least desirable. Instead of being a role model for their voters, they have sent a clear signal that they feel superior to the electorate by increasing their own wages greater than any justified amount due of the cost of living. Have they earned the raise because they have solved the problems of the city of Toronto? I support a rollback in councillor wages.
The proudest decision was an agreement with the Region of York for the allocation of capital funding by Toronto and York as the municipal share of the proposed extension of Toronto's Spadina subway line. Now, this kind of decision is to be expected and is a basic common sense solution any good government would make for its electorate. However, it is sad that this is the proudest. Where are the grand visions? Where are the inspiring projects? We should be getting more for our tax dollars than this.

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

A: Ideas and energy. While the incumbent may have had some good ideas in the past, the last ones were many years ago. Perhaps after 18 years he has become jaded, but whatever the reason, not much has been heard from him since the last election. I plan to use the "rookie" status to full effect. I have a vision for making the place I call home a great place. I have specific plans to make it happen and I have the energy to pursue them.
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