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No. 9: Where is Toronto headed?!
It's been a wild ride in Toronto politics this February. My best guess at new Mayoral hopefuls. Also, thoughts on warming centres, transit safety, and powerful art.
Hello chipper chipmunks,
The majority of this edition of Dwell & Drizzle will focus on what has consumed Toronto politicos for the last few weeks. With a date now set for the Mayoral by-election (June 26), let’s dive into the world of possible Mayoral hopefuls and see if we can gain any optimism for a new “lefty mayor” that would turn the city into “toast” (quoting Doug Ford lol).
Before I get into that, I want to take a breath in and out. I’m feeling like there is a tension in the air, more conflict in our community groups and activist circles, etc. What really helped to ground me this week was going to see Kent Monkman’s powerful art at the ROM (free on the third Tuesday of the month). I don’t even have the words to describe how moving and incredible it was. I’ll share this one photo, but I hope you can either go see it or seek out other ways to reflect on our past and imagine a brighter future for all.
HOUSING & CLIMATE JUSTICE
either or both or taxing the rich
We are nearing the end of what feels like the longest shortest month of the year. I was so lucky to escape the short stint of -20/30 degrees Celsius here in Toronto for a perfect week away in Cartagena, Colombia.
However, many people do not have the luxury of escaping the winter weather, especially those who are unhoused.
As a Board member of Cecil Community Centre, the fourth and most recent warming centre in Toronto, I am extremely proud of our commitment to expand these spaces to get people out of extreme cold. But I do want to say that it is extremely depressing that the City only has a total warming centre capacity of 142 people (yes, this is with Cecil adding 30 spots to this fairly low number) when there is an emergency extreme weather alert declared by the City of Toronto.
Thank you to the activists who staged a “die-in” at City Hall at the beginning of the month for the unhoused. (CBC “Unhoused face 'life or death,' advocates say as Toronto looks at expanding warming centre hours”) Thank you for the frontline staff who know how absolutely painful it is to watch people suffer from hypothermia or other health conditions because we face a housing and homelessness crisis. City Council did pass a budget vote to keep one of the warming centres open 24/7 until April 15 as a result of all of this advocacy. It is not enough, but it is a win and it will save lives.
I also wanted to commend TTC riders who put together a “TTC Safety Town Hall” as a forum to share ideas on a safer public transit system in Toronto. There are real connections here, as unhoused people get scapegoated on the TTC as the culprits of increased violence (despite the data being unclear if there is an increase and by whom it is being caused by). Underfunding by the City on shelter systems and the lack of affordable housing has meant that “TTC has become an extension of the city's homeless shelter system, a kind of mobile shelter”, according to Marvin Alfred, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113. Service cuts to the TTC will continue to perpetuate these issues. Here are recommendations that came out of the Town Hall.
WHO WILL BE THE NEXT MAYOR OF TORONTO
aka will we ever live up to being a world-class city?
I know, I know, why are we still on twitter (I do love this tweet by former Mayoral candidate Morgan who ran when she was 18 in 2014)… but I will say, it was all the buzz on the night of February 10th when former Mayor John Tory held a last-minute press conference announcing his resignation. You can google it. The power dynamic and everything about it is gross.
What matters now is who leads the City after this chaotic turn of events!
I’m sure many of you have been following this closely as well. Gil Penalosa (urban planner and runner-up for Mayor last 2022 election) has declared his intention to run again, although I wonder if this tune will change once others put their hat in the ring. Former councillor Joe Cressy has said he will not run. Former deputy mayor Denzil Minnan Wong won’t run either. Interim Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie is focused on keeping the City running and said she won’t run either.
From various news sources (esp. here & here), twitter analysis, personal conversations and experience, here are my best guesses at possible Mayoral candidates (who have yet to announce):
Brad Bradford — City Councillor, Beaches-East York
It scares me that Conservative political organizers see Bradford as a “credible centre-right candidate”, when I’ve heard many so-called progressives say that he has an urban planning background and is generally on the right side of affordable housing, etc. I’m almost certain he will run. As with Matlow below, this is a rare opportunity to run for Mayor without vacating their Council seat. I think that will be tempting.
Josh Matlow — City Councillor, Toronto-St. Paul’s
Matlow’s long been rumoured to run for mayor one day. Is this the time? Matlow’s chief of staff, Andrew Athanasiu, was Penalosa’s policy director in the 2022 mayoral campaign. So, this may help seal the deal on feeling prepared for this undertaking. He ran as a Liberal candidate in 2002 (at 26 years old and lost), so we will see if he has the Liberal backing. I’d bet his campaign team will look like Jennifer Keesmaat’s — a mix of NDP and Liberal political staffers and volunteers if there aren’t other more left-wing candidates.
Ahmed Hussein — Minister of Housing and Diversity & Inclusion, MP York South-Weston
Will someone give me access to this Hill Times article? Anyways, Minister Hussein running would change the landscape of an otherwise mostly municipal politicians running. A big name. As you know, I do criticize the National Housing Strategy a fair amount, but I think Minister Hussein would be better than Tory by a lot.
Ana Bailão — Former City Councillor, Davenport
Now working for a developer (Dream Unlimited) as the Head of Affordable Housing & Public Affairs. It’s very possible she could want the top City job, but I don’t think she’d run if it was a crowded race.
Mike Layton — Former City Councillor, University-Rosedale
Again, like Joe Cressy, Mike Layton said he was not running for re-election for City Council to spend more time with his family. As such, I don’t know if he could be swayed by this window of opportunity and a sense of obligation to Toronto.
Michael Ford — MPP, York-South Weston & Former City Councillor, Etobicoke North
Y’know, I would never count out the Ford family running for Mayor of Toronto. If the Conservatives will stick to their word, Michael Ford could be the pick but so could someone like Bradford; anything to be well organized against any chance of a centre-left successor.
Mark Saunders — Former TPS chief
I hope we as a united left of Toronto can fight back hard in any way shape or form to prevent the City from this scenario playing out. Defund the police.
Honourable mentions: I’d like to see NDP MPPs Bhutila Karpoche (Parkdale-High Park) or Kristyn-Wong Tam (Toronto Centre) run for Mayor but I think that resigning their MPP seats to run for Mayor would be too high risk IMO for it to happen. Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter is set to make an announcement on Tuesday about a mayoral bid, but she is a frontrunner for Ontario Liberal leader and that may be what she goes with instead.
OKAY SO, that’s a whole lot of information in one go. I hope I hope we are serious about kicking Toronto into high gear. May we, the grassroots activists and progressive advocates, use this momentous opportunity to fight for the soul of the city and for those who need it the most.
Lastly, as a follow-up from last month, here’s an update on the progress on my personal goal of improving our neighbourhood connections. Shout-out to those who emailed me with suggestions on how to befriend our neighbours. Instead of sharing sugar or joining my condo board (I can’t as a renter), we had a slightly rowdy get-together and got a noise complaint at 1AM, oops. However, I told a neighbour though that I liked their outfit in the elevator. Alas, ups and downs, the journey continues.
If you made it all the way to the end of the email, why not leave a comment to share your thoughts on who you’d support to be the next Mayor of Toronto?!
Happy Black History Month!
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