Mapping the 2018 candidates for Toronto City Council (Updated)

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Updated July 14, 2018

With less than two weeks left before municipal election nominations close in Toronto, all of the new 47 wards have at least one candidate running for city council. As the deadline to register looms closer, the council races have become more interesting.

As of July 14, only four incumbent city councillors — Justin Di Ciano, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Mark Grimes, and David Shiner — still have yet to register for re-election. Mike Layton and Neethan Shan, also late to register, did so this week.

Shelley Carroll, the long-time North York city councillor, resigned her seat earlier this year to run for the Ontario Liberals in the June 2018 election. Unfortunately, she lost that election (she would have been a great MPP and would have made a great contribution to the rebuild of the provincial Liberal Party). I am pleased that she filed her nomination to run in Ward 37.

It remains a possibility that other unsuccessful provincial candidates will run. Deanna Sgro (also known as Deanna Natale), the Liberal candidate for Humber River-Black Creek, will be running against incumbent Anthony Perruzza in Ward 8. There’s a possibility that other former city councillors that ran in the provincial election, including Chin Lee and Peter Milczyn, could still run in the municipal election.

There is still the possibility that former morning television host Ann Rohmer will run for council, likely against John Matlow in Ward 26. It was there that Mayor John Tory launched his re-election campaign. Matlow has been an outspoken critic of Mayor Tory’s policies, particularly the Scarborough subway extension, and Tory would probably like to see a friendlier councillor representing that ward.

In nine wards — 2, 3, 9, 15, 19, 24, 26, 27, and 43 — there are no other candidates running against the incumbent. If no one registers to run against those sitting councillors by 2PM on Friday, July 27, 2018, they will be acclaimed.


Originally posted – June 20, 2018

On Monday, October 22, 2018, Torontonians will be electing a new city council. Even though incumbent mayor John Tory faces no high-profile challengers, the municipal election is very important. Council — not the mayor — holds most of the power. Changes to ward boundaries and newly open council races will make this an interesting election. It is my hope that citizens will take notice of these local races and turn out to make an informed choice. City council decisions impact the lives of every single city resident, everything from policing, libraries, and the fate of multi-billion dollar transit projects and road conditions. The mayor only holds one vote.

When the new council is formed on December 1, 2018, there will be 47 wards, up from 44. As I mentioned previously, Downtown Toronto will gain three new seats, and North York will gain one, but one seat is lost in Toronto’s west end, in an area currently represented by Wards 14, 17, and 18. Only seven wards remain unchanged.

Several city councillors have announced that they will not be running for another term in 2018. Janet Davis (Ward 31), John Filion (Ward 23), and Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32) will not be seeking re-election, while Shelley Carroll (Ward 33) and Chin Lee (Ward 41) resigned their council seats to run for the Liberals in the recent provincial election. Ron Moeser (Ward 44) and Pam McConnell (Ward 28) died in office and were replaced by appointed caretakers who are not supposed to stand for election.

This means that at least ten new councillors will be elected this term.

Also adding to the intrigue: two west end incumbents — Cesar Palacio (existing Ward 17) and Ana Bailão (existing Ward 18) will be facing off against each other in the new Ward 16.

The deadline for candidates to file nomination papers or withdraw from the election is Friday July 27, a mere five weeks from now. As of June 20, 2018, there were 11 candidates for mayor and 118 candidates for city council. Four of the new wards do not yet have  nominated candidates (Ward 2, Ward 8, Ward 19, and Ward 26).


Map of the new 47 wards and registered candidates in each

As I go through the list of candidates, what worries me are several crowded fields of challengers against ineffective or divisive councillors running for re-election.

In the old Ward 16 in 2014, a long list of candidates allowed Christin Carmichael-Greb, one of Toronto’s most invisible and least-working municipal officials, to win with only 3949 votes, 17.4% of all ballots cast. Carmichael-Greb had name recognition (the daughter of the local Conservative MP at the time) and support from John Tory’s campaign. In 2018, there are already four challengers in new Ward 14 against Councillor Carmichael-Greb, making her re-election bid much easier than it should be. There are nine candidates against Scarborough Councillor Michelle Holland-Berardinetti.

And in Ward 7, represented by repugnant six-term councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, Tiffany Ford and Keegan Henry-Mathieu will likely split the vote allowing Mammoliti’s re-election. Ford, currently a TDSB trustee, is probably the stronger candidate; Henry-Mathieu came in a distant sixth place in 2014.

Ranked ballots — which would allow voters to chose first, second, and third-choice candidates could negate this problem. But another scandal-ridden councillor, Justin Di Ciano (who is currently under OPP investigation), moved a motion at council in 2015 to not ask the provincial government to permit the city to institute this democratic change. Unfortunately, a majority of councillors — including Mammoliti, Carmichael-Greb, and Holland-Berardinetti — voted with Di Ciano.

Incumbents — especially mediocre ones — know that they have the advantage in municipal elections, especially when voter turnout is low, there are no party labels and name recognition is a huge asset. A crowded field of challengers is even better for them.

I admire the courage and hard work necessary to run for office. But I wish there was a better way of electing good local representatives and holding our politicians to account.

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Requiem for Ontario’s regional malls

IMG_8782-001Shoppers World Brampton, 2016, before the Target store was replaced by smaller stores, including Giant Tiger

Recently, I wrote about the history of Ontario’s downtown malls. Most of these shopping centres, built in the 1970s and 1980s in the downtown cores across the province, failed by the end of the 1990s. The collapse of the Eaton’s department store chain and competition from larger, suburban malls and new big-box retailers drove customers away from Ontario’s downtowns. Only in Toronto and Ottawa, with large downtown office employment, residential development, and good urban transit, did these major shopping malls thrive.

But that does not mean that all suburban shopping centres are doing well, especially after the loss of Target in 2015 and Sears Canada in 2017. For TVO, I wrote more about how smaller regional malls in Ontario are re-positioning themselves.

The Brampton house that I grew up in was a ten minute walk from Shoppers World, which, in the 1980s, had a full line department store, Simpson’s, as well as Marks and Spencer, K-Mart (where I had my first paying gig, delivering shopping carts back to the store abandoned in nearby parks), a Pascal hardware store, and two supermarkets, Food City and A&P. Larger, more popular malls like Mississauga’s Square One and Bramalea City Centre were one bus ride away, but Shoppers World held its own, even if it was second tier. By the 1990s, though, it was clear that the mall was in decline: national retailers were leaving and there was a noticeable lack of investment in the property.

When RioCan REIT purchased Shoppers World in the late 1990s, it made some improvements and attracted big-box retailers like Canadian Tire, Staples, and Winners. Zellers took over the K-Mart store, which was expanded. But The Bay (which replaced Simpson’s) was closed down and the store later demolished. I had left Brampton in 2006, but I was still sad to see my one-time local mall decline. Now RioCan has talked about downsizing the mall, and redeveloping part of the property. Competition from larger, stronger shopping malls, newer retail power centres, the mismanagement of several retail firms, and internet shopping have all taken their toll. Shoppers World isn’t a dead mall, but like many smaller malls, it will be adapting to changing times.

In the TVO article, I take a look at a few other malls, like London’s Westmount Mall, in similar circumstances.

ShoppersWorld.jpgShoppers World, 2018. Despite many store vacancies, it’s still a community hub.

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Major improvements are coming to Scarborough’s waterfront

IMG_8897-001The Scarborough Bluffs will soon become more accessible

Over the last few years, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has been working on an environmental assessment for improvements to much of the Lake Ontario shoreline in Scarborough. Today, the TRCA announced that assessment is now complete, and it calls for major improvements between Bluffer’s Park and East Point Park.

A new multi-use trail is planned for the bottom of the Scarborough Bluffs, with access points at Bluffer’s Park, the Doris McCarthy Trail, Guild Park, and East Point Park, connecting with the existing path across Highland Creek and the Rouge River to Pickering. In addition, pedestrian and cyclist access down to Bluffer’s Park on Brimley Road will be greatly improved.

When my partner and I tried to walk along the Scarborough Waterfront in 2016, we found the Waterfront Trail lacking, and the section along Brimley Road quite dangerous. These changes, along with the new seasonal TTC bus service to Bluffer’s Park, will help to make Scarborough’s wonderful waterfront safer and easier to access. 

The plan also calls for improved erosion control measures, along with interventions to improve land and aquatic habitats, helping to protect one of Toronto’s most spectacular natural features while protecting the natural environment.

If you were looking for some good news in Toronto, especially with the many recent stories of violence on our streets, this is it.

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Toronto’s Transit Secrets

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Earlier this week, I attended a book launch at the Spacing Store at 401 Richmond Street West here in Toronto. While I have been to numerous book launches, often to support friends and colleagues, it was the first time it was for a book that I contributed to.

As some of you may know, I am an occasional contributor to Spacing Magazine and Spacing’s website. My writing has allowed me to think and learn more about Toronto, and meet fellow engaged Torontonians. Spacing’s latest book, 25 Toronto Transit Secrets, contains stories, photographs, and maps that detail both the history and the operations of the TTC. For my part, I wrote about the ghostly reminders of abandoned streetcar routes, the history of the convoluted Harbord Streetcar, and what happens to the TTC’s streetcars when they’ve reached the end of the line.

There are many other great stories as well. Read about the TTC’s safety mascot, Barney the Beaver, Toronto’s two ghost stations (Lower Bay and the lesser-known Lower Queen) and a history of the ferry service to Toronto Islands.

25 Toronto Transit Secrets is edited by Dylan Reid and Matthew Blackett, who both deserve a lot of credit. Any writer knows that their work is dependent on editors not only proof-reading their work, but also providing guidance and support. I am always grateful for their encouragement and providing the opportunity to be published.

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Where, exactly, is Northern Ontario?

29496350986_0f43c86857_k.jpgThe French River at Highway 69, where Northern Ontario truly begins

Last week, the leaders of the three major provincial parties (Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, and the New Democrats) met in Parry Sound, at a debate dedicated to issues specific to Northern Ontario. It was the second of three debates scheduled ahead of the June 7, 2018 general election.

But is Parry Sound, a town that’s only a two hour’s drive north of Toronto (when free of weekend Cottage Country traffic) really a part of Northern Ontario? That depends on who you ask. Even government agencies disagree. In my opinion, though, Parry Sound isn’t in Northern Ontario, even though the district it’s located in shares some characteristics of this vast part of the province.

Despite living my entire life in the Greater Toronto Area, I have an affinity for Northern Ontario, particularly the northeastern part of the province. My father’s hometown is Timmins, one of my siblings lives in Sudbury, and I have visited both cities many times. I made a trip up to Sault Ste. Marie to ride the Algoma Central Railway passenger train between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst and back before it was cancelled, and I still lament the loss of the Northlander, Ontario Northland Railway’s passenger train between Toronto and Cochrane that was terminated in 2012. I even made it all the way to Moosonee, on the James Bay coast.

The northern part of this province covers a huge area — over 800,000 square kilometres, larger than France, Belgium, and the Netherlands combined — but has a population of just over 750,000. It is even crossed by a time zone boundary. Despite my connection to the region, I still have to yet to make a proper visit to Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.

The North includes many First Nations communities accessible only by plane or ice road. Other communities, with names like Dryden, Kapuskasing, Iroquois Falls, and Kirkland Lake, were established to serve mines or pulp mills — resulting in a very different economic landscape than the agricultural and industrial south. In recent decades, many of those mines and mills have closed, eliminating many towns’ only major employer.

In a province dominated by the urban centres in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Ottawa, and London, it’s too easy to ignore the North.

So how do people actually define Northern Ontario?

Traditionally, Northern Ontario begins at the French River, Lake Nipissing, and at the Mattawa River. North Bay, which calls itself the “Gateway to the North” sits right on this line. For administrative purposes, this includes the entirety of Sudbury and Nipissing Districts, which extend south of the French and Mattawa Rivers, and includes most of Algonquin Park. It also includes Manitoulin Island, which can only be reached year-round from the north, through Sudbury District.

The Canadian Shield, the defining landscape of most of Northern Ontario, starts further south. Driving north from Toronto on Highways 400 or 11, the shield starts about where Simcoe County ends and Muskoka District starts. But the Canadian Shield also encompasses large sections of the City of Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough, Hastings, Frontenac, and Lanark Counties and the entirety of Haliburton County.

NOntario.jpgThe various definitions of Northern Ontario, including the county, regional and district boundaries. 

But the provincial and federal governments both have special economic development funding programs whose boundaries take a more liberal definition of Northern Ontario. FedNor, the Government of Canada’s economic development agency, includes Parry Sound and Muskoka Districts. The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, a provincial agency, includes Parry Sound District, but not Muskoka District.

Whether Parry Sound and Muskoka are considered part of Northern Ontario is very much a political question. In 2004, the newly elected Liberal government chose to remove Muskoka from the areas eligible for provincial grants meant for northern communities — Muskoka being a reliable Progressive Conservative seat, and the riding of the previous PC premier, Ernie Eves.

Parry Sound District, while not, in my view, part of Northern Ontario, at least shares some similar characteristics with neighbouring Sudbury and Nipissing Districts. It includes many isolated communities, and apart from the Town of Parry Sound itself, it has a very sparse population. Muskoka, on the other hand, is more urbanized with three larger towns, and is much more popular for recreation, particularly during the summer. Muskoka also has a regional government — the District Municipality — while much of Parry Sound District’s land is unorganized — meaning lands without any municipal government.

And if one considers Muskoka to be part of Northern Ontario, why not also include Haliburton County, which also has a sparse population and is relatively isolated from the urbanized south? A line needs to be drawn somewhere, and there is no valid reason why Muskoka should ever be considered a part of Northern Ontario. There might be a case for Parry Sound District, but definitely not cottage country.

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A tale of two university campuses

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Site of Brampton’s new Ryerson/Sheridan campus

Last week, the provincial government announced two new post-secondary educational campuses in Toronto’s fast-growing western suburbs, due to open in 2022. Wilfrid Laurier University will be partnering with Conestoga College on a new facility in Milton. Brampton will be getting a new Ryerson University campus in partnership with Sheridan College. Both new campuses, each receiving $90 million in provincial capital funding, will be focused on undergraduate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) programs. Both will host up to 2,000 students once the new facilities are fully operational.

Despite the many commonalities between the new Milton and Brampton facilities, the announced campus locations could not be any more different. Milton’s Laurier/Conestoga campus (which I previously wrote about as an example of the problems of greenfield institutions) will be located on a new greenfield site on the southwestern outskirts of the town’s built-up area, while Brampton’s Ryerson/Sheridan campus will be located in that city’s downtown core, on a site currently used for commuter parking. But since GO Transit’s free commuter parking has to go somewhere, Metrolinx has been buying up and demolishing houses and offices on a nearby downtown block.

I compared the two new campuses for TVO

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Brampton’s multi-use path problems

IMG_2362-001Recreational Trail: no loitering

Brampton, my hometown, has a great network of parks, many of which are connected by multi use paths that follow local waterways like the West Humber River and Etobicoke Creek. In suburban neighbourhoods where curvilinear street networks and cul-de-sacs predominate, these paths are necessary as shortcuts for pedestrians and cyclists, and for anyone looking to take a stroll away from the busy arterial roads.

But these multi-use paths, called “recreational trails” by the City of Brampton, do not properly accommodate all users. And where these paths meet major streets, users must either detour far out of their way to a designated crossing, or attempt to cross a busy roadway. Where Toronto and even other suburban municipalities can get this right, Brampton consistently gets it wrong.

IMG_2361-001Entrance to Addington Park at Balmoral Drive, Brampton. Part of the Don Doan Trail.

The first problem Brampton has is the consistent lack of curb cuts where a park path meets any roadway, be it a residential side street or a busier road. Curb cuts are necessary not just for cyclists, but for pedestrians with strollers, or anyone using a mobility device such as a walker or wheelchair. In many cases, a nearby private driveway or a nearby intersection can provide the necessary curb cut, but this is not always the case. Perhaps the reason not to provide the cut is to discourage cyclists or children with wheeled toys crossing without stopping and dismounting, or preventing motor vehicles from entering the path. But it instead encourages cyclists to ride on the sidewalk instead, where most cyclists shouldn’t be, and makes it more difficult for parents with young children, or pedestrians with disabilities from using the paths.
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