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E-BLAST: The Mayor Toronto Needs




Tomorrow marks one month until the June 26 Mayoral Election Day. You have until 4:30 PM tomorrow, May 26, to check that your information is accurate on the voters' list the easy way, online. After tomorrow, if you are not on the voters' list you will have to line up at the ballot box with your two pieces of ID and ask to be added manually.


My hope is that on June 26, there actually is a lineup to vote at every single polling station. Choosing a brand new mayor is a very important decision and voter turnout is crucial. I know the fact that we find ourselves here, less than a year since the general municipal election, is disheartening. Don't let it dampen your spirit for our city. Today, I want to talk about what's at stake in this election so that we can keep some key issues in mind as we look at the candidates over the next four weeks.

I'm not going to talk about any candidates by name here. That would not be appropriate on this page. Instead, let's discuss the challenges Don Valley North faces in the coming years and what a good mayor might bring to the table. As the month progresses with televised debates and campaign ads coming at us every time we turn on the radio or log into Facebook, now is a good time to ask ourselves what we are looking for in a mayor.

So far, I've noticed that all of the candidates are choosing a campaign style that is very similar to former Mayor Tory's announcement-based style of leadership. Every morning seems to begin with a slew of frontrunners assembling the media to announce some platform promise. All of these announcements are reminiscent of Mayor Tory's Monday morning announcements. While these flashy pressers serve a purpose, I would love it if members of the media sat each frontrunner down and interviewed them. It would help give us insight into their personalities and generate some real enthusiasm to get us to the voting booth.


Leadership personality matters. How will the new mayor collaborate with Council members on the challenges they face locally? How will they collaborate with and lead the public service? Even if the new mayor chooses not to use the most controversial of Doug Ford's recently-bestowed "strong mayor" powers, the ability to pass a law with only one third of Council's support, they'll still have the rest of the powers, including the ability to appoint senior city officials. I'm looking for a candidate that will always listen to local issues and use that power to help councillors solve those issues whether they are downtown or suburban. The new mayor's personal inclination should be to consult with others before unilaterally directing city staff.

Now, let's dive into the issues. Every candidate is talking housing, housing, housing. They will all promise some aggressive solutions to the current crisis and a magic number of homes to be built, but are they prepared to deal with the complexities of making those numbers a reality? We need a Mayor that will diplomatically but very firmly demand that the Province reinstate the regulations that demand adequate levels of infrastructure for new neighbourhoods. At the far end of the housing spectrum, those experiencing homelessness need a mayor with a strong sense of social justice and compassion.

As our city and our own neighbourhoods grow, we need a mayor who is thoughtful about all forms of mobility and strong enough to keep our city moving. Our new mayor will need the courage to listen to the experts, speak truth to all communities, and take whatever action is necessary to address Toronto's transportation and transit situation. Too often, we have had leaders say whatever voters want to hear in order to win the top spot, resulting in cancelled plans, tampered-with plans, or just no plan at all.

Finally, I want to touch on what I believe is the biggest issue of all: money. Our new mayor needs to be up-to-date on our current financial situation and understand that Toronto is at a tipping point. I've heard candidates reveal a bit about their property tax approach, but we are now well beyond solving our financial woes with property tax promises.

Here in Don Valley North, we have many people who cannot afford a financial approach that relies on a series of property tax hikes. I'm not just talking about seniors on fixed incomes, either. Many first-time condo buyers and renters would be devastated by sharp property tax increases over multiple years. This form of taxation simply does not capture wealth the way that consumer or income-based taxes do.

The time is right to open up a real talk between leaders at all levels of government. All three are struggling to pay the costs of the pandemic, but only one has absolutely no access to wealth or the new dollars that come from recovery and growth. If the Federal and Provincial governments aren't going to provide us with the economic assistance we need to properly run the nation's core city, then they must give us access to the kinds of revenue tools that allow us to help ourselves.

Dedicated E-Blast readers will know that I'm talking, of course, about access to a sales tax or an income tax—tools that are easy to implement, as they piggyback onto forms of tax collection that are already in place. That makes them cheaper and quicker to implement. These are tools that every other city in the world of our size utilizes in one way or another. We need a mayor who will fight for a sustainable financial model for our city, and be willing to spend the political capital to get it.

Getting us on a better financial footing won't happen overnight. It will require a mayor with an understanding of economics that no other government leader can credibly challenge, the courage to chart a new financial course for the good of all Canadian cities, and a real gift for communication to help councillors and their constituents understand why this change is needed now.

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