Weekend Newsbrief: September 30, 2018
What happened at Toronto City Hall this week
Keesmaat commits to tear down Gardiner (east of Jarvis) and turn it into a “grand boulevard.” Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat announced on Sunday that if she is elected mayor she will pull down the Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis to create a “grand boulevard” in its place. The plan would change the “hybrid” option chosen by council in the spring of 2016 that was considered the most environmentally friendly and expensive option at the time, and would have created the most space between the lake and the expressway. On Sunday, Keesmaat said this plan will cost significantly less (saving up to $500 million) and will cut maintenance expense. Keesmaat said the local organization Waterfront Toronto, and the Google company Sidewalk Labs had advocated for this plan that fits into Keesmaat’s long-term transit plan for the city. “If you just look around here, it’s almost kind of magical to imagine what this can become when this structure [the elevated Gardiner] is no longer here. So much land becomes available to turn into a wonderful place.”
Mayoral debates get underway this past week with Faith Goldy, fare-free transit, and a look to a former Soviet state for TTC ideas. Called a “neo-Nazi sympathizer” who “dabbles in anti-Semitism, flirts with fascism, and carefully toes the line on the ‘JQ’ (‘Jewish Question’)” by Alheli Picazo on Canadaland this week, mayoral candidate Faith Goldy was escorted out of Monday’s ArtsVote debate before it began. If you don’t know Goldy, The Globe and Mail’s Denise Balkissoon also wrote this week about the woman who is often associated with sympathizing with white supremacists. The polling company Mainstreet Research published a poll this week that said six percent of the 802 decided voters surveyed support Goldy. The poll has Mayor John Tory with 61.8 percent, and former chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat with 25.6 percent. Then in transit politics, mayoral candidate Saron Gebresellassi pushed free transit as a right at the Global News debate. “There will be a time in this city when people will say that transit is a right,” Gebresellassi said. “The City of Toronto can afford free transit… this is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and so for the working class people in the city of Toronto $3.25 is way too punitive.” The other three candidates wouldn’t commit. “It’s an amazing idea… but it’s going to take some doing to get it there and it’s going to take a buy in from most of the city,” mayoral candidate Sarah Climenhaga said. “I actually [give] a clear no. We can’t do it right now,” Tory said. “I think free transit is a dream. It’s a wonderful dream. I think it’s a very difficult thing to achieve in most cities in the world, in fact I don’t know of cities in the world where that actually exists –,” Keesmaat said before Gebresellassi interrupted her. “Estonia has free transit.” Hat tip to David Rider’s tweet for drawing attention to Feargus O’Sullivan’s story in CityLab, “Estonia Will Roll Out Free Public Transit Nationwide.”
Getting ready to put up with pot. This week, the provincial government tabled legislation for legalizing cannabis which includes how municipalities will license the selling of marijuana. A backgrounder from the Ministry of the Attorney General says the province will provide $40 million over two years to help municipalities. On Thursday at the Toronto Police College, Mayor John Tory was asked for his comment on the changes to cannabis legalization and the effects on the city. “The reality that applies to most things in the life of this country. People call first to their local government. They don’t understand the difference necessarily – nor would I expect them to between, you know, the federal and the provincial and the municipal governments – they call the level of government they feel closest to. It’s one of the concerns I had very profoundly about the change in the composition of the council,” Tory said, calling on the other levels of government to compensate the city with additional costs incurred in keeping citizens safe through the transition.
Signs go up on lawns for mayor, city councillors, school board trustee… and local journalism? Yesterday (Thursday) was the first day candidates could put up lawn signs of support. We took to Twitter to see who has Tweeted what about lawn signs, and found the West End Phoenix, a Toronto community publication, is also campaigning. Termed as “slow news” by the paper’s founder and former band member of the Rheostatics, Dave Bidini was not available for comment about the campaign on Thursday night as he was launching his book, Midnight Light, and the second year of the West End Phoenix.
Election update. New polls from Mainstreet Research were published this week. The first poll was mayoral voting intentions and issue importance. The findings put John Tory in the lead for mayor, Jennifer Keesmaat in second place, and an open contest for third. The top three issues were transit, housing affordability, and crime and safety. Another poll from Mainstreet on five ward races puts Matthew Kellway in the lead in the Beaches-East York, Anthony Perruzza in the lead in Humber River-Black Creek, Jim Karygiannis in Scarborough-Agincourt, Kristyn Wong-Tam in Toronto Centre, and Frances Nunziata in York South-Weston. However, a statement from the polling company’s President and CEO, Quito Maggi, said it’s still early. “It not surprising the see such a high undecided rate for councillor races at this stage of the game, so it is too early to make hard conclusions on who is going to win on October 22nd. That said, our polling shows that Mammoliti, Di Giorgio, Smitherman, and Norm Kelly have some work to do if they want to be elected in less than a month’s time.”
A look at the numbers in election polls
A new Mainstreet Research poll this week suggests there could be a shift in tradition on Oct. 22 when it comes to top candidates for mayor. According to one poll published less than four weeks before the election, there are four noteworthy female candidates who are rising to the challenge of unseating incumbent mayor John Tory. If frontrunner Jennifer Keesmaat and one other are able to garner enough support over the next three weeks, then the 2018 municipal election will be the first in the history of the City of Toronto to have a majority of female candidates in the top three.
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This Newsbrief is by Arianne Robinson.