Weekend Newsbrief: July 29, 2018
What happened at Toronto City Hall this week
Ford says he will slash council and Tory suggests a referendum. Premier Doug Ford made the stunning announcement on Friday morning he is cutting the number of Toronto councillors almost in half, from 47 to 25, in a move that will change the face of Toronto politics – and could change the upcoming election in Toronto. “It is time to reduce the size and cost of municipal governments starting right here in Ontario. We will be introducing legislation that, if passed, will dramatically improve the decision-making process at Toronto City Hall… Now more than ever, the city of Toronto needs to get some big things done. So we’re going to streamline Toronto city council. We’re going to align Toronto with federal and provincial boundaries,” Ford said at a news conference. In response to the news, Mayor John Tory announced his plan for a referendum, during the October election, for changes to take place at the next election (which, as it stands, would take place in 2022). Earlier on Friday at the mayor’s news conference, Tory said he wanted to see the decision about the number of Toronto councillors made by the people of Toronto. “We would live with the result, whatever it is, but at least the people – it will be the people, all of them who choose to vote, who will decide,” Tory said to reporters. “The city I want to lead is one where elected representatives, the mayor in particular, listens to the people. That is the very foundation of our civic system and of our democracy. It’s true, the province does have broad powers to do as it chooses when it comes to the City of Toronto … but this is a city that is booming … because of the people that call Toronto home … the people should decide.” Friday was the last day for candidates to register their nomination to run for council. Under the new legislation proposed by Ford, the nomination for councillor candidates would be extended, but not for mayor. Former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat entered the mayoral race just before the 2 p.m. deadline. (Read the story)
Gunshot-detecting ShotSpotter technology inspires debate at city hall. Days after as mass shooting on the Danforth, Journalist and activist Desmond Cole, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Michael Bryant reacted to ShotSpotter technology at city hall.
Reporter: What concerns do you have about ShotSpotter technology, especially it being used in various communities in Toronto?
Desmond Cole, freelance journalist and activist: All they want to do is point another finger and another microphone and another camera at black people. It’s not going to work and everybody knows it’s not going to work, but in the absence of real deep reflection about poverty and about lack of social opportunity, this is what we get.
Reporter: So what’s the solution?
Cole: I mean, have we not been talking about these solutions for years? Didn’t Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling write the Roots of Youth Violence Report 10 years ago and tell us thoroughly, thoroughly, throughly throughout the province of Ontario what the roots of this violence were? Did they not talk about systemic racism in our communities that has yet to be addressed? Did they not talk about lack of housing, low wages, lack of opportunities, kids being kicked out of school? We’ve been talking about these things in the black community and we have one of the most thorough reports done by Alvin Curling and by Justice McMurtry that’s ever been done, and 10 years later that report sits on a shelf and we get microphones in our community. People aren’t listening to the very clear remedies and healings that need to be done. They just keep trying to put a Band-Aid that’s going to hurt our community. (Watch Cole)
Reporter: Some communities, especially the black communities, are very cautious about this technology, they don’t want it, they say it’s another surveillance tool for them.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders: Well, I have yet to find technology that’s going to delineate whether you’re black or white. This is for sound. And if you fire a gun, whether you’re black, white, or anything else, it will say someone fired a shot here. It is indiscriminate, utilizing technology. It is, I think, a solution when it is there, and it does its job effectively. It is a force multiplier for us to get there quicker. Right now it is ad hoc. If someone fires a shot, it is up to the community – which by and large, the community does make phone calls because they are concerned – but sometimes it takes time because people say, you know what, someone else is probably calling. And I know sometimes there are going to be gaps where sometimes shots are fired and people don’t report, so I think it will be a clear indication to us to have a more objective number as to what the shooting occurrences are and that gives me an opportunity to then have a proper measuring tool to say these are the resources that I need for this particular neighbourhood. Not necessarily police resources, but other resources that could come into play. So the information that we gather will create an opportunity for the city, for city hall, other agencies, to have a true snapshot of what is really going on when it deals with gun play in the city. (Watch Saunders)
Michael Bryant, executive director and general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association: We have a concern around where the data for all this is being kept given that it’s an American company. American companies need to keep their data in the United States, typically, and that means that they’re going to be subject to the Patriot Act, which means that the U.S. national security authorities is going to be able to get the data that is going to be stored in the United States, but taken from the streets of Toronto. I don’t want to say that’s necessarily the case, but again we don’t have any information about how that’s going to work.
Partisan politics in the 2018 municipal election? Han Dong joins race in downtown Ward 20, says supporters are across parties. Former Liberal MPP Han Dong registered to run for city councillor of Ward 20 on Monday. Dong has just spent four years at Queens Park under Kathleen Wynne’s government, and was not re-elected. Now Dong is running as a city councillor and insists the municipal political landscape is not about party politics. “A lot of people, after reading [media reports], thought, oh it’s going to be a Liberal and NDP fight in the downtown core, sort of a Round 2. Sure, I have a lot of friends who are in the Liberal Party, but most of my supporters – they’re people from NDP, they’re people from Conservative as well. I think if we start bringing partisanship and protest on certain issues into our community, it’s going to turn community into a battleground. A lot of candidates registered in Ward 20. I don’t want this race, and definitely I don’t want the community [to] get turned into a battleground. I think it’s important for us to find common ground to build our community. For me, I’m running on my own name. I’m a proud Liberal. I was a Liberal MPP, but I think, more importantly, we need to come together and find the best solution for our community.” This is not Dong’s first time running in a municipal election; in 2003, he ran for school-board trustee and was not successful, but on Monday, he was ready to roll. “I think for any political candidate submitting their paper to run, willing to put their name on the ballot, it’s an exciting time.” Dong was defeated by the NDP’s Chris Glover during the provincial election. Dong joins a long list of those registered to run, including school-board trustee Ausma Malik; Al Carbone, owner of Kit Kat cafe on King Street; April Engelberg; Mike Lapointe; Dean Maher; Kevin Vuong; and Sabrina Zuniga. Current Councillor Joe Cressy is running in the new Ward 24. (Read the story)
Parking cop takes on Jaye Robinson for Lawrence Park/Bridle Path neighbourhood. Former parking enforcement officer Kyle Ashley registered to run for city councillor of Ward 27 on Wednesday. Reached by phone, Ashley described how he felt after submitting his nomination papers. “[It was] nerve-wracking, but I’m proud that I’m doing it, and I’m proud of the support that I’ve got from the community,” said Ashley, a resident of Etobicoke’s Ward 6. “It felt right because the democratic process only succeeds if people put their name forward for different options.” Ashley, a former parking enforcement officer with Toronto police, was known as an advocate for cyclists and bike lanes. He used social media to discuss and document infractions and areas he thought should be improved, and even made a public deputation at city hall about the Bloor Street bike lanes. “After that, I think that supervisors in the city thought that I was becoming a bit too political, and that’s sort of where we are now.” Ashley describes his path to politics as a kind of serendipitous happening. “I never chose politics – politics chose me. These issues [related to road safety] – I never went out seeking notoriety or attention. I really was just trying to do my job on the road as an officer with the Toronto police, trying to make everyone safe. The more and more I was doing the job, I felt I could no longer be propping up a system that was failing the citizens of this city. And seeing the cries from the public – and the fact I had voice and agency to act on their concerns – it’s directed my passion and my purpose.” Ashley says he’s not “bogged down by relationships or party affiliations,” framing it as an asset. (Read the story)
In other news… The Globe and Mail’s Marcus Gee’s latest, ‘Jennifer Keesmaat poses a challenge to John Tory, and that’s good for Toronto’s democracy,’ argues that Keesmaat is a formidable candidate, and the piece is a good example of journalism worth paying for. CBC’s newest writer, Matt Elliott, also wrote his analysis of Keesmaat this week, calling her one of the highest-profile bureaucrats in the city’s history, but questioning whether that profile will translate into political success. Elliott was recently a reader-supported columnist for Signal Toronto, until he moved to CBC Toronto. Reached for comment on Sunday, Elliott said, “I have sold out and moved to the CBC, but I do want Signal Toronto readers to know that independent media is valuable and important, and I am deeply ashamed that I have made the decision to sell out.” Signal Toronto wishes him good luck at CBC!
The week ahead… City council resumes on Monday for its sixth day of meeting on the item, ‘Urgent Consideration of the Provincial Government’s Plan to Reduce the Size of City Council – by Mayor John Tory, seconded by Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon.’ Council left off Friday on an unbelievable note, with Tory berating Councillor Mike Layton for comments made on Twitter, “I think you should stand in your place and apologize to me and to this chamber, for getting up, and in that way where you’re implying it but you’re not saying it. Get up if you have the balls to do it and say it.” Roars could be heard in the chamber. Reached on Sunday night for his response, Layton said, “What John Tory knew and what he thought at the time is immaterial now, but what is clear is that we must be united in defence of Toronto, and [we] both think it’s a bad idea and the Premier needs to step back.” Tory will speak to reporters at 7 a.m. with TTC Chair Josh Colle and Councillor Jon Burnside to promote hop-on/hop-off transit transfers at the East York Town Centre. Also reached on Sunday, Progress Toronto’s Michal Hay, who called for action on Monday. “We’re encouraging people to go to Queen’s Park tomorrow to sit in the legislature and in the gallery so that their presence is felt during question period.
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This Newsbrief is by Arianne Robinson