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E-BLAST: Mayor Chow's New Council Appointments

Last week, I interrupted a brief summer vacation with my grandkids to come in to City Hall for a short Council meeting. Our new mayor, Olivia Chow, brought forward her official appointments to leadership roles and made a few changes to committee memberships. I'm excited to share my new roles and responsibilities with you and let you know which other Councillors landed in a few key positions.


I want to commend Mayor Chow for taking a very inclusive approach to her appointments. In her opening remarks, she reminded us all of the way politics used to be: when Toronto mayors gave leadership opportunities across the political spectrum. Post-amalgamation, Mayor Mel Lastman, a known conservative, carved out a role for then-Councillor Olivia Chow as Chair of the Children and Youth Advisory Committee, despite their political differences. Councillor Olivia Chow went on to have a significant impact on stabilizing children's services such as child care centres, nutrition programs, and health initiatives.


The next mayor after Mel Lastman, David Miller, continued the tradition of granting leadership opportunities across the political spectrum. That's how I found myself, a brand-new Councillor, chairing the Public Works Committee and helping negotiate our way out of dumping garbage across the border in Michigan. Subsequent Mayors, however, began the practice of consolidating leadership positions around their own personal politics. Mayor Chow brings us back to the good old days with appointments and committee memberships given to Council members of various political stripes. Let's dive into it.


I am very pleased to take on the role of Chair of the Budget Committee. While this is a return to a role I have held before, there's a twist: I will also remain at Economic & Community Development Committee as Vice Chair. In that role, I will be the Mayor's Economic Development and Culture Champion, keeping my appointments on the boards of Toronto Global and Destination Toronto. I will also continue to support the Economic Advisory Panel and Culture Advisory Panel, both of which I'm co-chairing with community leaders. Over the next year, the Mayor's office will work with my office and the City Clerk's office to develop a new standing committee that combines Budget with economic interests like business, tourism, and investment in arts and culture.

I spoke to reporters about my new position just before our Special Council Meeting last week.

New Councillor Alejandra Bravo will chair the Economic & Community Development Committee, focusing on the community and social development files. She's taking on some of the most difficult files in my former committee. Rest assured, she's up for the task. The pandemic's deepest impacts are still being felt in our shelters, long-term care homes, child care centres, and throughout the non-profit sector. This is where Councillor Bravo focused her work outside of City Hall for decades. We'll work together with the other committee members to continue the urgent recovery work underway in all of these areas. If you had asked me how similar Scarborough Councillor Jennifer McKelvie's politics were to Olivia Chow's when Councillor McKelvie first arrived on Council in 2018, I would have laughed and said "Not at all!", but dedicated politicians have a way of coming together when the needs of our city are so clear. Mayor Chow has acknowledged what an amazing job Councillor McKelvie did as Deputy Mayor many times and knows what valuable insight and leadership she brings to Council. Going forward, Jennifer McKelvie will continue as Chair of the Infrastructure & Environment Committee and hold a role as an honorary Deputy Mayor for Scarborough. In other key positions, Mayor Chow has appointed Councillor Ausma Malik as Deputy Mayor, Councillor Gord Perks as Chair of Planning & Housing, and Councillor Jamaal Meyers as Chair of the TTC Board. Showing her willingness to work together across political lines, Mayor Chow granted significant positions to former campaign opponents Brad Bradford and Josh Matlow. Councillor Bradford is staying on as Vice Chair of Planning & Housing and will take the lead advocating on Toronto's Music Industry Strategy, while Councillor Matlow was appointed as a TTC Commissioner and given an at-large spot on Mayor Chow's Executive Committee.


The full slate of appointments has been well covered in the media, and I'll share a favourite article of mine here:


What is most important to remember in all the fanfare about leadership roles is the unwavering importance of all 25 members of City Council. Each Toronto councillor represents more people than most Ontario mayors, and each one plays a key role in building consensus around what best serves our city.


All of City Council knows that our city is facing significant challenges. Despite our differences, we are all united in trying to make life better for Torontonians. I look forward to working together with Mayor Chow and my Council colleagues in the months and years ahead to deliver just that.

 


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