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Municipal Council size Notwithstanding these Candidates for Council are committed to representing You

Posted 10/5/2018

by Teresa Wright
    The Voice has promised to be a sounding board for our communities - including Our Politics. The upcoming election for the city of Toronto, meant that we have been planning a piece for this September issue to help you get to know your candidates. To say that the past week or so has brought many unseen challenges in executing this goal, is an understatement. At the beginning of September I reached out to all registered City Council candidates in the then four (of 25) Municipal Wards: 19, 20, 24 and 25. After the     September 10th Superior Court of Justice ruling by Justice Edward Belobaba, we re-issued our call to share with you, The Voice readers, despite the uncertainty.
While I wished to offer more time, a print publication does have a hard and firm deadline. In fairness to the registered candidates who did not respond in time to be included in this piece - this City Election Campaign has become, to be blunt, a sh**-show!
    That being said, please let me introduce you to some of your candidates … as you are certainly already aware, the final decision as to how many wards the City of Toronto will be voting to elect councilors to is likely to be up in the air for the next few weeks. Nonetheless, the following candidates have thrown their hats in the ring to represent You, no matter the Ward number, no matter the boundary, no matter the size of the constituency. Some of Your candidates have placed a campaign advertisement with us in this issue – please be understanding and forgiving if the Ward they’ve chosen to identify themselves with does not match the final outcome of the provincial-municipal-judicial-constitutional challenge. At the end of the day, these are the people who have stood up and said, I will represent my community, no matter how the provincial government or the city of Toronto, or the court of appeal, defines it.
    I extended an invitation to answer four questions. I believe the answers will offer a fair insight into the character and values of these individuals who are offering to represent your interests.
The three questions, below, are followed by the responses we received.
1. How do you define poverty? Given that, how would you define affordable living?
2. What percentage of your Ward’s population do you believe either lives in poverty or struggles to live within their means?
3. What solution(s) do you believe will most significantly impact affordability (housing, food, health, transportation) for constituents in your ward?
4. What place will nature, in particular the preservation of natural habitats, have in your representation if you are elected?

**Neethan Shan, Candidate for Toronto City Councillor Ward 25, responded to our questions after we had already sent the paper to the press. Here are his responses, followed by those that were published in the September issue of THE VOICE. No other candidate came forward with responses, or reached out for more time to communicate to you, our readers**

  • Living in Poverty means not being able to provide for the very basic needs of food, shelter and clothes and being not able to afford to live a decent quality of life. Affordable Housing is a broad term as affordability is measured based on income of the individual/family. When more than 30% of their income is spend on housing, it becomes unaffordable. 
  • 2. 25% to 35% 
  • In order to make life more affordable for constituents in my Ward, we need to increase affordable housing options, especially for seniors. It is also important to strengthen existing income security programs offered by all levels of government. Increasing opportunities for affordable healthy food and free recreational programs can also improve quality of lives. It is important to continue creation of sustainable employment opportunities with decent pay and safe working conditions. Access to Transportation is definitely a key social determinant of health, so having affordable rapid transit system in Scarborough is critical. I have been an advocate for all these systemic solutions to poverty for two decades and I will continue to advocate in the upcoming term as well. 
  • The preservation of nature and the protection of environment are important issues to me. I believe that we need to defend our parks and protect Green Spaces such as Rouge National Park. I plan to continue working with organizations such as the Toronto Environmental Alliance and Toronto Regional Conservational Authority to ensure that we cherish and protect the environment for our children. I have also served on the Zoo’s Board of Directors for the last year and a half and made it a priority to ensure the conservation, welfare and compassionate care of animals. 





Ward 20 or 38
Curtis Smith: I am one of the only Ward 20 candidates to have signed the Pledge on Poverty Reduction ( that includes increases in affordable & supportive housing units; increased shelter spaces; reduced TTC fares for low-income adults; new & subsidized child care spaces; and new recreation program spaces.
I believe that implementing these initiatives will have positive effects throughout our community. These effects won’t just be direct ones, either; there will be indirect positive impacts on economic/business development and public safety as well.
I am a huge supporter of our natural environment and would be looking to put appropriate measures in place to safeguard the Bluffs, among other locations.

Gerard Arbour: Hello to The Voice. With respect to the questions asked, I will be as succinct as possible with the uncertainty of Ward 20 or 38 in which I am running. Thought you should know I signed the Candidate Pledge on Poverty Reduction. Please note the 3 leading mayoral candidates signed as well. In it I pledged, if elected to Toronto Council, "to work with community, business and faith leaders to reduce poverty and inequality in Toronto and to support the full funding and implementation of Toronto's Poverty Reduction Strategy...including the following approved actions: 1. 7200 new supportive housing units, at least 8000 new deeply affordable rental housing units, and 1000 new shelter spaces. 2. Reduced TTC fares for an additional 157,000 lower income adults. 3. 11,500 new child care spaces, including 5,000 subsidized spaces. 4. 40,000 new recreation program spaces.
Regular Community meetings and engagement, and identifying Community Leaders, will help me keep in touch with areas in Scarborough Southwest that need support. Such initiatives as food and clothing collections will be promoted to help those in need as I have done in the past.
With respect to natural habitat habitation preservation, we need to look no further than the Scarborrough Waterfront Project to keep attention of the scope and magnitude of this trail plan. As minimum as possible ecological footprint will be supervised, and habitat preservation will be paramount. One of my campaign platforms will be to be on the board of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority to monitor, have a say and update residents on the project. I should also note that one of my pet projects is Toronto Wildlife Centre and the rehabilitation of displaced/injured wildlife to a safe return to natural environs.
Another important preservation of natural habitat will be to protect and maintain the tree canopy in Scarborough Southwest as it relates to natural replacement and maintenance with development of residential and other properties. The name is Arbour after all, will be looking out for the trees. Regular shoreline and park Community cleanups will be part of my mandate as well.

Robert McDermott:
1. Poverty is a state of insufficiency, a lack of money, the inability to support ones self sufficiently, poor, a lack of goods or services. Affordable housing is housing within a person's financial ability to pay. Normally, one-third of a person's household income is considered to be affordable.
2. This is a tough question. The research I have done in the ward indicates roughly 40% lives at the poverty level or struggles to get by in their day-to-day lives.
3. We need to build more af fordable housing in Scarborough. There has not been any rental apartment buildings built in 40 years. The current Toronto city council is more concerned about catering to the whims of high-end condo developers and ignoring lower and middle income families who need rental accommodation. There needs to be much more collaboration between the public and private sector on housing issues.
4. I have strong environmental values and would take a firm and bold position on preserving our green space and water. Part of my election campaign platform is to enhance the City of Toronto's recycling program and to reduce the amount of waste at landfill sites, which would be beneficial to us all and contribute to a safer and cleaner environment.

Michelle Holland-Berardinetti:
1. Many people and groups define poverty in different ways but individuals and families who struggle economically to meet even their most basic needs reflects how poverty affects people’s lives. It is unacceptable in our country and City that up to 1 in 7 people live within this definition of poverty. Affordable living can also be defined differently but those having to pay more than 30% of their income on shelter places unacceptable pressure on them to meet other basic needs as well as expenditures that may fall out of the definition of a “need.” All people deserve an income that allows them to care for themselves and their families.
2. Recent census data indicates that although the numbers vary widely across the ward, using the definition of 30% or more being spent on shelter, 40% or more residents and families would find it challenging economically. Rather than determining percentages our main focus must be on working to reduce poverty or economically challenging living conditions for people in our ward and across the City.
3. The City has developed an extensive anti-poverty strategy that I have supported from the beginning along with our Neighbourhood Improvement Area program for example that seeks to ensure that all residents have access to City services regardless of economic status. Affordable, efficient and accessible transit is also very important and I have always made this a priority. The City cannot meet this challenge alone so I will continue to fight for a comprehensive approach to challenging poverty that must include all levels of government. Working collaboratively, there is simply no reason why all three levels of government cannot meet these challenges.
4. I have always been a strong supporter of preserving our natural habitats. As Chair of the Parks and Environment Committee I worked extensively on the City’s ravine strategy, I lead the initiative that had Toronto designated by Bee City Canada as the first “Bee City” (pollinator friendly) city and my efforts to enhance our parks and green space have been part of my priorities since I was first elected.

Ward 24
Priyanth Nallaratnam:
1. In Scarborough, there’s two types of poverty that’s prevalent: situational and urban. Situational poverty happens when people are either temporarily stuck in a situation where they cannot pay of the bills due to spike in rent or other unfortunate events. Urban poverty on the other hand is much more common as we see many in Scarborough suffer from the lack of services due to population density. The spike in gun crimes and influx of drugs could also be attributed to urban poverty. Absolute poverty does exist in Scarborough but rare (will increase if not checked). Affordable living therefore should efficiently (and equitably) take into account the costs of vital services and essential needs for an individual and/or a family.
2. At least 40-55% of the ward suffers from urban, situational and absolute poverty. This number will increase if our city fails to prioritize worsening conditions in Scarborough.

3. Transportation, housing, jobs, childcare and costly recreational programs. These issues make poverty structural in Scarborough. Increasing transportation costs, child care and high rent rates cut into our income. Lack of TTC services and delayed subway extension will constrict the already narrow access to good jobs. With little income to dispense, people are not able to get the right kind of programs for their kids. It takes a multi-pronged macro/micro policy approach to solve this issue.
4. It’s absolutely necessary that we protect our beautiful and stunning green space. I will promote programs that make use of green space which saves us costs and also educate our kids on the absolute necessity to protect it.
Ward 25 or 47
Reza Khoshdel: Thank you for understanding the unique situation we are all in by extending the deadline for submissions.
1. Defining poverty has been an ongoing discussion among policy makers for a long time. The current consensus, however, is the notion of relative poverty. In this framework, it is not good enough to simply measure poverty in relation to the amount of money needed for the necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter), but we must also define it by relatively. That is, defining it in relation to the economic status of other members of society in that people are defined poor if they fall below prevailing standards of living in a given societal context. The same principle applies to the notion of affordable living in the context of a metropolitan city like Toronto.
2. For my own analysis, I looked at the Low Income Cut Off (LICO) and based on the most recent census data from 2016, roughly 11% of the residents in my ward live in poverty or struggle to live within their means. We must work closely with community stakeholders to find ways to empower and encourage those struggling to live within their means.
3. The costs of living in the past decade have continuously increased at a faster rate than wages, thus resulting with households having less disposable income than they once did. This increased pressure affects all aspects of life as it becomes difficult to manage a household when incomes do not keep pace with expenses. In my ward, as with many others, these four variables – housing, food, health, and transportation – are intrinsically interconnected with each other. For example, communities that are pedestrian and public transit-friendly allow residents to access employment and amenities more easily and effectively with less dependence on an automobile. This results in not only saved time and money, but also in increased physical activity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. We need to appreciate this school of thought and use it as the foundational basis of our policy decisions going forth. On average, it takes residents in my ward longer to travel the same amount of distance in other parts of the city, and this is closely tied to our lack of long-term transportation planning and poorly executed city designs.
4. Residents in my ward are truly blessed to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful natural ecosystems in the entire city. We are surrounded by a gorgeous lakefront trail and beach on one end, and a plush, national park on the other. Protecting the integrity of our parks and trails will be of utmost importance to me because they are deeply ingrained in the DNA of our community. Dealing with the pressures of population growth in our community must always be balanced with a delicate appreciation and appropriate safeguarding of environmental protections for the prosperity of futuregenerations. In the context of global warming, we as policy makers must always hold environmental considerations of Paramount importance in our decision making process.

Paul Cookson: 1. I’d define poverty as not being able to provide basic fundamental needs such as food, clothing and shelter for one's self or family on a consistent basis.
2. I’d define affordable living as someone earning a living wage, which is not necessarily the minimum wage. Earning enough money to be able to afford their basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter while still being able to enjoy some forms of entertainment with discretionary income, and being able to save money on an ongoing basis. Earning a living wage results in a greater stability, security, and allows the pursuit of long-term goals such as home ownership.
3. We don’t have great statistics on chronic or transient homelessness in our Ward, but it is a problem that exists and I have seen it firsthand with my work with City Street Outreach. But poverty isn’t just homelessness; housing instability, food insecurity, unemployment—these are issues our ward faces. Our 2016 Ward Census showed an 8.2% unemployment rate, that 43% of renters were spending over 30% of their income on shelter costs, and over 5,000 residents in low income households.
4. These are all complex topics that require strategies for change at all levels—Federal, Provincial, and City support as well as community-driven initiatives. There are several existing strategies developed by the City, like the 2015 TO Prosperity Poverty Reduction plan, the Toronto Affordable Housing Action Plan, the Toronto Newcomer Strategy, the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy and more, and I want to ensure that our Ward receives the funding and support it needs when these plans are being implemented. Advocacy and accountability are essential to driving social change when these strategies overseen by dozens of disparate councils and groups. But we can also start the work from home and bring fresh ideas to drive new action.
(~abridged from a lengthy response) Above all, we need to create awareness, empathy, and a sense of community. Too many residents don’t understand the hardships other face because they don’t see it or cant personally relate to the circumstance. You can’t fix a problem without first realizing you have a problem and this problem needs immediate attention.
5. Ward 25’s astounding network of ravines is among the City's largest. Our parks, ravines, the Toronto Zoo— these are highlights of the Toronto Area’s natural environment and a point of connection to nature for all. I intend to support only careful and conscious development of existing and undeveloped properties, but only in a way that will maintain and protect these areas for future generations to enjoy. Our community will benefit from greater accessibility, safety, and value in our greenspace.

Jennifer McKelvie: 1. I was born to teenage parents and grew up in a rental apartment. My parents worked hard to complete high school, and my mother went to college when I was young. As a result, I appreciate the need for affordable housing for low income families and the need for opportunities that allow everyone to reach their potential. I’m worried that the next generation of youth are struggling to find affordable housing options in Toronto. As your Councillor, I would support the establishment of a standing committee on housing. This committee should be responsible for a broad range of housing issues including development, affordable rental housing, and programs that allow seniors to remain in their homes.
2. According to census data, the percent of the population in Scarborough-Rouge Park below the federal government’s low-income measure after-tax (LIM-AT) is either low (10-19.9%) or very low (3-9.9%). The bigger issue locally is affordability. I am a firm believer in fiscal responsibility. No one likes to pay taxes, but taxes are the price we pay for high quality community programs and services. As your local voice, I will carefully review proposed expenditures to ensure value for money. I promise to bring a balanced voice to City Hall as we debate necessary investments in critical infrastructure, quality programming, and core municipal services, while also ensuring the taxes paid by residents and businesses are affordable.
3. Fast and reliable public transit is key to a vibrant community. We need an integrated transit network that relies on the Scarborough subway extension, Eglinton East LRT to UTSC & Malvern, improved bus service, and GO Transit. We need to stop planning in election cycles and agree on a long-term plan with dedicated funding and phased implementation. In Ward 25, many neighbourhoods are not well served by buses; both local and express routes need to be improved, specifically on evenings and weekends. These transit improvements will provide local residents more affordable transportation options.
4. As an environmental scientist with extensive experience in infrastructure planning and public engagement, I am committed to protecting our green spaces and enhancing our waterfront. With the planned investment of $170 million to extend the Scarborough waterfront trail, it’s the perfect time to advocate for a dedicated waterfront bike trail and other enhancements to improve local recreation.