Jennifer Hollett registers to run for city council; says outdated government “doesn’t have to be that way”

10:28 a.m. July 10, 2018. Jennifer Hollett outside Toronto City Hall after registering her nomination to be councillor of the new waterfront Ward 21.
10:28 a.m. July 10, 2018. Jennifer Hollett outside Toronto City Hall after registering her nomination to be councillor of the new waterfront Ward 21.

July 10, 2018

By Arianne Robinson

Jennifer Hollett, former MuchMusic VJ and most recently Twitter Canada’s head of news and partnerships, registered her nomination to join the race and be a council candidate for Ward 21.

“I’m excited, incredibly – almost overwhelmed, I would say – just by all the support and the energy,” Hollett said at city hall outside the elections office.

The new Ward 21 overlaps with what is now Ward 28, a seat formerly held by the late councillor Pam McConnell and now held by appointed Councillor Lucy Troisi. Recently, this area of the city has received much attention for the futuristic ideas that Google parent Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs has been developing in an area of the waterfront near Leslie Spit, referred to as Quayside.

For Hollett, the possibilities for the growth and use of new technologies in a city like Toronto are positive. “I think there’s an opportunity to actually look at tech and data and how it connects to municipal government but also new developments, and ask the right questions. There’s always a lot of excitement when a tech company expresses interest in Toronto, whether that’s Alphabet Google [Sidewalk Labs] or even Amazon. You know, I share that excitement, but we have to ask those critical questions to make sure we get it right and it benefits the people of Toronto.

“So, I am thrilled at the idea that we’re starting to see technology and government come closer together because most people, when they think of government at any level, they think of, like, out of date and out of touch, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Neighbouring Councillor Paula Fletcher was one of 20 people, including Councillor Mike Layton, to attend Hollett’s registration at city hall to endorse her. “She is fantastic. She is so savvy about so many things that this city council could really do well knowing about, and it is [the late] Pam [McConnell’s] seat. So, she is a fantastic young woman who is running in a very critical part [of the city]. It’s the waterfront, all the co-ops, the St. Lawrence neighbourhood up to Moss Park, and I think she’ll do a great job,” Fletcher said.

“I’ll think she’ll bring a good set of eyes including onto the Quayside [developments] and Google. She really understands all of those things – the good parts and the iffy parts – and I think she’ll bring a good set of eyes to the city for these types of things.”

The 42-year-old head of news and government at Twitter Canada is widely known for her time as a MuchMusic VJ toward the beginning of her career and has recently been highly involved in politics.

In 2015, she ran as an the NDP candidate in the University–Rosedale riding, losing to now Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland (Hollett with 15,988 votes or 28.6 per cent to Freeland’s 27,849 votes or 49.8 per cent). The year before, Hollett was the digital director of Olivia Chow’s mayoral campaign for Toronto. In 2013, Hollett ran within the NDP to represent the party for a federal byelection in Toronto Centre, but lost the nomination race to Linda McQuaig (who lost to Freeland with 12,640 votes or 36.3 per cent to Freeland’s 17,194 votes or 49.4 per cent.).

In a TEDx talk posted on YouTube in 2014, Hollett said, “I like to say politics is what we make it and it’s the best part of politics. Democracy is depending on us. So if politics is what we make –– are we going to make it something that we hate, or rather something that we can be really proud of?”

Almost four years later at city hall, after registering to run for city councillor, Hollett’s message has the same tone of hope.

“It’s no easy decision to run for office, so to come in today and there’s incredible buzz on Twitter,” and to have my neighbours and supporters and friends and members of our team who have been with me since day 1 when I ran [to be the NDP candidate] for the Toronto Centre nomination in 2013 [for the federal byelection] – so yeah, feeling really good and inspired about what’s possible in politics.”

Screenshot of the City of Toronto’s interactive map showing the location of the new Ward 21.