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Reflecting on a whirlwind year

It's safe to say 2018 has been a whirlwind year. It's been both incredibly challenging and rewarding, and I have so much to be thankful for.

At the moment, I am especially thankful for our healthcare system and workers – everyone from the fantastic paramedics, ER nurses and doctors, specialists and technicians, porters, food servers and the hundreds of volunteers who make hospitals as much like home at Christmas as they can.

My 91-year-old Dad, Jack Baskerville, became very ill last week and has been in hospital. I am spending as much time with him as I can, and he often asks: "How much is all of this costing?"

Of course, he is remembering a time before urgent care became free. He made me realize how lucky I am to be living in this time, despite how uncertain things may feel at times.

Last week's votes

I was also grateful to my colleagues last week when I was in the hospital with my Dad and missed the Council session. I supported their positions on key matters I know you are concerned about, such as the decision to enter discussions with the provincial government about the TTC upload.

It is important to note that vote was not about agreeing to an upload – in fact, Council made it clear they are fundamentally opposed to it – rather, it was about setting terms before agreeing to an information exchange process between the Province and the City on the alignment of transit responsibilities.

It is also critically important that we not let ourselves be dazzled by the promise of new transit lines being built through an upload – the devil will be in the details. There has been so much focus on which subway lines should be built first that many politicians have lost sight of their responsibility for our current system and the price tag to keep it running. I believe if we clearly educate the government on the operating burden that currently exists, that upload may not happen for a long time.

My Council colleagues also took the best option when they opted in to having legal cannabis stores in Toronto, with strict conditions. I know how concerned many of you are about this decision, but Council had a tough choice to make. Ultimately, Premier Ford has the legal authority to open stores anyway if every city in Ontario decides to opt out.

Opting in allows us to continue working with the province to understand the need for local controls over locations and licensing. And, as Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health pointed out, the most urgent need is to reduce the very dangerous black market our kids are exposed to every day. The law enforcement dollars provided to cities that opt in are crucial to achieving this.

Goals for 2019

I am especially thankful for my new Don Valley North ward team. Tom Gleason, Dan Fox, Ani Dergalstanian, Mustapha Khamissa and Ishrath Velshi have only a few weeks at City Hall under their belts but are already working hard to serve you. We will be joined by two more team members in the New Year to work on your hundreds of requests and plan a busy calendar of engagement with you in 2019.

In that vein, recently a reporter from the CBC asked me what my New Year's Resolution is. I told her I am determined to build a model of engagement in Don Valley North that is truly participatory in order to counteract the reduced representation you now have. I believe this is our opportunity to make the best with the hand we've been dealt – it may sound corny, but it's true.

With over 100,000 people in every ward, there are a lot of decisions to make. We will be designing many opportunities for you to get to know the whole Don Valley North team and take an active role in decision-making.

Snowier times at Oriole Lodge in Henry Farm. This is the former home of George S. Henry, the 10th Premier of Ontario. I captured this picture on Boxing Day last year.

Season's greetings

Right now, the weather is warmer and rainier than average for this time of year – not very Christmas-y, but if we cross our fingers we may get some snow at the last minute. If we do get snow over the holidays and you have any frustrations, remember that 311 is available 24/7 (another hard-working group of people to be thankful for). My team will also be monitoring any concerns you may have over the holidays.

Lastly – I haven't forgotten – I am thankful for you, the residents of Don Valley North. My team and I have knocked on tens of thousands of doors this year, meeting many new people and revisiting many old friends. We have learned so much about you and the unique challenges you face, and I plan to continue these doorway conversations through regular neighbourhood canvassing. I am incredibly honoured you chose me to serve you –we have a lot of work to do over the next four years, and I look forward to doing it together.

From my family to yours, I'd like to wish you a joyous holiday season and a healthy, prosperous New Year.


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