Insights from female city councillors on politics and power; taking the mayor’s Exec Committee on the road; The safety of bike lanes on Yonge Street; McConnell leadership award recipient advocates for “black liberation,” raises fist during photo with Mayor John Tory

11:29 a.m., March 6, 2018. The front of the Scarborough Civic Centre, where the next Executive Committee will be held on March 19.
11:29 a.m., March 6, 2018. The front of the Scarborough Civic Centre, where the next Executive Committee will be held on March 19.

Weekend Newsbrief: March 10, 2018

What happened at Toronto City Hall this week

Mayor wants to “take the government” to other parts of the city – starting in Scarborough. Mayor John Tory wants to bring his Executive Committee meeting on the road. The City of Toronto announced this week that the next Executive Committee meeting will be at Scarborough Civic Centre, and not, as usual, in Committee Room #1 at Toronto City Hall. “I’m sorry it’s taken so long,” Tory said at a news conference at the Rexdale Community Hub on Tuesday morning. The mayor said he would have held Executive Committee meetings at other locations earlier in his term, but it wasn’t possible because of “complications related to technology” and “legal requirements” that he said couldn’t be easily satisfied at civic sites other than city hall. “None of these things are simple,” Tory said. “It’s a simple idea and it’s a sensible idea but it’s not simple to take all the steps necessary to have a fully legal compliant meeting in terms of the technology and things required to put them on.” The date of the next Executive Committee meeting, scheduled to be held at Scarborough Civic Centre, is March 19. (Ready the story)

At the Board of Health, councillors don’t question stance of city’s top health officer on bike lanes on Yonge Street. On Monday, the Board of Health received a public health assessment from the Medical Officer of Health on the safest and healthiest options for the northern stretch of Yonge Street. Board members moved to accept the report unanimously without asking questions of the city’s top health officer, Dr. Eileen de Villa. After the meeting, she told Signal Toronto she does not favour one design option over the other for the stretch of Yonge Street from south of Sheppard Avenue to north of Finch Avenue. The first option (called Transform Yonge) envisions bike lanes on Yonge Street, with reduced vehicle lanes. The second option (called Enhance Yonge and Transform Beecroft) puts cycle tracks on Beecroft Road and/or Doris Avenue. Asked if the two options are equal in terms of safety, de Villa endorsed both. “From a public health perspective, we were actually quite satisfied that we could stand behind either one, and that’s our official position on the issue,” de Villa told Signal Toronto on Monday, saying both options move the city in the right direction. However, the real factors that will contribute to residents’ health outcomes are in the details, she said. “Slowing down larger vehicular traffic, for example. So car traffic, narrower lanes, does tend to promote slower speeds, which actually allows for the vibrancy of the other aspects of the streets, and safety in fact, whether we’re talking about cycle activity, pedestrian activity, etc.” Last week, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee supported the second option, but recommended against the city’s acquisition of property at the north end of the route that was going to be used for protected bike lanes, recommending they, instead, use paint to indicate that bikes and cars will share the road. Council will consider the issue at the end of the month. (Read the story)

12:05 p.m., March 2, 2018. Facing south on Yonge Street north of Sheppard Avenue. When it comes to assessing the best design options for the future of Yonge Street, the city’s Medical Officer of Health says it’s details like the width of car lanes that will make the difference in drivers’ speed, and the overall vibrancy and safety of the streets.
12:05 p.m., March 2, 2018. Facing south on Yonge Street north of Sheppard Avenue. When it comes to assessing the best design options for the future of Yonge Street, the city’s Medical Officer of Health says it’s details like the width of car lanes that will make the difference in drivers’ speed, and the overall vibrancy and safety of the streets.

Award recipient raises fist during photo with Mayor John Tory, says goal is “black liberation.” The first Pam McConnell Young Women in Leadership Award was presented to two recipients, Talisha Ramsaroop and Yusra Khogali, on Thursday evening. The award ($500 value) was created in 2018 in memory of Pam McConnell, who was a city councillor and one of three symbolic deputy mayors when she died in July, 2017. McConnell who was a social justice advocate and worked tirelessly to increase women’s participation in municipal government. The award honours Toronto women between the ages of 19 and 26 who demonstrate leadership in volunteerism, are committed to social justice and inspire other young women. Her daughter, Heather Ann McConnell, introduced the two recipients. “For their tireless work to effect change, Yusra and Talisha, thank you for making a difference in a city that matters so much to all of us,” McConnell said. “… If my mother has a legacy, I hope that her legacy is the creation of more young women like you who I know will accomplish so many of the dreams that she had.” Each recipient had a moment to address the crowd of 100. “I’m so thankful for the women I see here,” Ramsaroop said. “The women who are on council – including, Kristyn [Wong-Tam], yourself – who are opening doors for other young racialized women like myself, through programming, through networking, through just talking to us and inspiring us on a daily basis.” Ramsaroop said Pam McConnell was an inspiration to her for her work on progressive policies, and said she would be running for council in the future. Khogali, a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement, posed in a photo with the mayor, Heather Ann McConnell and Wong-Tam with her fist in the air before starting her speech with a call and response chant: “Black lives, they matter here… Black women’s lives, they matter here… Black girls lives, they matter here…” Khogali also gave a speech: “It’s not easy being a black woman taking a leadership role in community… I’m getting this award and I’m really, really grateful, and there’s an abundance of joy and thankfulness in my heart, but I’m also recognizing that I’m getting this award on the premise that there’s work to be done… P.S. My goals are not city hall. I’m not interested in running for public office.”  Khogali said her goal is “black liberation.”

7:11 p.m., March 9, 2018. In council chambers on International Women’s Day, Black Lives Matter activist Yusra Khogali raises her fist while a photo is being taken of her with the mayor.
7:11 p.m., March 9, 2018. In council chambers on International Women’s Day, Black Lives Matter activist Yusra Khogali raises her fist while a photo is being taken of her with the mayor.

Good to know

No subway between St Clair West and Union stations this weekend

The subway will be closed between St Clair West and Union stations on March 10 and 11.

Express shuttle buses will run along the route between Spadina and St Clair West stations.

St Clair West, Spadina, St George and Union stations will remain open for fare sales and buses and streetcars.

Dupont, Museum, Queen’s Park, St Patrick, Osgoode and St Andrew will be closed.

Wheel-Trans service will be available. To request service, customers can speak with TTC staff at any location throughout the closure.

6 Signal stories about politics and female power

This week for International Women’s Day, Signal Toronto looked at six stories we’ve published that consider the perspectives of female city councillors when it comes to power at Toronto City Hall. Here are excerpts from the stories:


1 Weekend brunch and dinner party talking points about the longest-serving female city councillors

Nov. 9, 2016 

Frances Nunziata:

Has Toronto City Hall or York ever felt like a boys club?
York was, yes. There were eight of us and the mayor. I was the only female. It was awful. There was a lot of verbal and sexual harassment. I went through a real difficult time with York council. … Some councillors were there longer than I, so I was kind of the young female coming on board. It was a boys club. There was a lot of that. I got stronger through that, because you’re able to tolerate the abuse, and then you become a different person. Now I would never tolerate that. … There was one [instance of] sexual harassment, by one councillor, he was an older gentleman. We were in a boardroom, we were having a meeting. All the councillors were there, sitting down. I had a skirt on. He actually put his hand up my crotch. When I yelled at him, the other councillors all just started laughing, they thought it was a joke. His comment to me, ‘Leave me alone, I’m an old man, I’m sick.’ So, I sued him. The other harassment was verbal harassment, threats from other councillors.

Is there still a boys club, or a culture of sexism at Toronto City Hall?
No … I don’t see that now. … Sometimes in council you’ll get one of the members of council start yelling they’re not happy – but compared to what it was – no. It’s changed a lot over the years. … I think men have accepted women as being equal now, much more than they did 20 years ago. … Politically, I think that it’s changed for women in politics [compared with] 20, 25 years ago. (Read the story)


2 Councillors debate Pam McConnell’s legacy in appointment of Troisi


Nov. 2, 2017

Toronto city council appointed former City of Toronto parks manager Lucy Troisi as Ward 28 city councillor Thursday afternoon. Council needed two rounds of ballots to get a majority for one of the 27 candidates.

Troisi won with 24 out of 44 votes (one councillor was absent). Michael Creek, the candidate supported by the family of late councillor Pam McConnell, the councillor Troisi will be replacing, had 19 votes in the first and second round.

Troisi spoke with reporters after meeting Creek and the McConnell family. She said she respected their support for Creek but she also had a lovely relationship with McConnell. “Pam was a real role model for me. I worked a long time with Pam, and both of us had similar agendas so I’m looking forward to going back and representing the ward in a different capacity,” Troisi said.

However, the extent of similarities between their agendas is questionable based on the magnitude of support for Creek from most of the left-leaning councillors (of which McConnell was among them), plus a handful of centrist councillors and Mayor John Tory.

As councillors made their speeches for who should be chosen for the Ward 28 seat, emotions ran high as a handful made arguments that Troisi should be chosen because she is a woman in politics and that was a key issue for McConnell, while others made arguments that Creek, an openly gay man who has experience with poverty, represented another kind of marginalized identity (there are no openly gay men on council).

(Read the story)


3 A deep dive into Toronto’s newly named streets reveals the city’s laneways are a boys club 

Jan. 23, 2018

As women around the world took to the streets this past weekend for the global women’s march, Signal Toronto looked at the spaces that connect the streets – the city’s laneways – and specifically the names of those streets.

We looked at 89 laneways named since 2014 (since the beginning of this electoral term) in Toronto, Scarborough, Etobicoke, and North York, including the backstory for why they were named what they were. The main things we looked for were whether the name of the laneway refers to a man, woman, family, business, or other. The analysis found that almost half of the laneways named since 2014 are named after men; more than a third are named in relation to nature, history, or a business or group; and 15 per cent are named after women.
(Read the story)


4 The first female mayor of pre-amalgamated Toronto remembered at city hall


Dec. 23, 2017

Former mayor June Rowlands died this week at 93. “She helped build this city and blazed a trail,” read a statement from Mayor John Tory’s office. Councillor Paula Fletcher said Rowlands paved the way for women in leadership positions at city hall. “She was a tough cookie. For her to run the Toronto Transit Commission – that was considered a man’s job only, even though she was an elected official.” Fletcher hopes the amalgamated City of Toronto will soon see its first female mayor. “This was the old City of Toronto that had June Rowlands as a woman mayor [elected in 1991] and then Barbara Hall as a woman mayor [elected mayor in 1994] and then we have the mega-city. So what I’m really waiting for now is for when the large mega-city, the amalgamated city, will elect its first woman mayor, and I hope it’s not too far away, but there’s not a lot of women elected in some of the other areas [of the city] so we have to do more work to make that happen.” According to the geographic divisions of the city’s community councils, the concentration of female councillors is in the city’s centre.

  • Toronto and East York Council – 7 women and 4 men
  • North York Council – 4 women and 7 men
  • Etobicoke York Council – 2 women and 9 men
  • Scarborough Community Council – 1 woman and 9 men

(From the Newsbrief)


5 Q & A with chief transformation officer’s council advocate, Councillor Christin Carmichael Greb

Nov. 17, 2017

There are fewer female politicians, so by default, you might become a role model. Are you aware of that in your day to day, or how you think about the work?
It has to, I’ve got three kids. For me, I plan my days so that I can make sure I can drop them off at the bus in the morning. If I have a meeting, I’m able to get home usually before – council’s separate because that goes all day – that I’m able to get home and see them before I have to go out again. I always believe that if you’re a woman in politics, yes it will be different, because – well, I had a baby when I was here. I didn’t get a maternity leave. She was born on a Saturday morning and I was on a phone call on Tuesday, and was at a meeting the following week. So as a woman – and this is my view – if you want to get involved in politics as a woman, yes you will have to make sacrifices. You also have to have a good support system. My husband and I work really hard to make sure that if I’m out at night that he’s home, or we have someone to watch our kids. It is different if you’re going to be a woman in politics and have children and have a family and for me, that’s the way I roll. You make it work. You do what you have to do to make it work. (Read the interview)


6 Girl power is political


Jan. 21, 2017

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam spoke at a rally at Nathan Phillips Square Saturday after a march from Queen’s Park for the Women’s March in Toronto. “Our prime minister calls himself a feminist. Our premier is a feminist, and to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never heard John Tory call himself a feminist,” Wong-Tam said to the massive crowd. “But my friends, that’s probably best because we may not believe him anyways.” Wong-Tam held a public forum on Thursday evening called “Gender Equity in the City Budget,” where participants wrote signs describing their ideal city. Wong-Tam tweeted photos including one that says, “My ideal city has a woman of colour as mayor.” (From the Newsbrief)


This Newsbrief is by Arianne Robinson