Contributed by David Morris, former Ontario Liberal Candidate – Toronto Centre
“People don’t care about politics.” It’s a line we hear, but I know it isn’t true. People care deeply about what happens in their communities. They just don’t always know who to go to for help.
I learned that as a candidate in the recent Ontario election, knocking on thousands of doors. Neighbours told me their hopes, fears and most pressing needs for downtown. Much of what they shared would directly involve our next city councillor. So, as we head into this fall’s municipal election and a Toronto Centre race with no incumbent, I’m highlighting these core issues in hopes they remain at the top of all candidates’ platforms.
First, we need a councillor ready to fight for housing. Not rampant overdevelopment, but gentle growth – the kind currently banned by outdated practices such as single-family zoning. Allowing only single-family homes in certain Toronto neighbourhoods is bad for the city, for home prices and for businesses.
Our next councillor must not be afraid to take on the NIMBYs in this city or on City Council. Toronto Centre can’t be the only district densifying. The good news is that our councillor will have allies. Organizations like More Neighbours are already doing great work advocating for this change. Ultimately, however, we need a city-wide pro-growth agenda.
Housing is only one solution. The second issue our next councillor needs to urgently attend to is community planning. Big changes are happening downtown. From Regent Park to Corktown to Yonge Street, there are 113 active applications for development in Toronto Centre alone (not to mention the coming behemoth of the Ontario Line).
Our councillor needs to watch this development with an eye to sustainable advancement, approving not just individual projects but thoughtful plans. Not only current residents, but also the needs of future neighbours who haven’t moved in yet must be considered. Green space, ample transit, small businesses and places for us to gather must be priorities.
Finally, we need a councillor who can effectively build bridges between local residents, businesses, mental health and substance-use services and the people who rely on them. These are complex issues that can’t be solved along ideological lines or with soundbites. No one on any side of these debates should be talked down to by our leaders, and our next councillor should be primed to create solutions for everyone.
These issues are at the top of our community’s list of priorities. None of them will be easy, yet we should not settle for a representative who shies away from these concerns, or who isn’t ready to do the hard work. The people of Toronto Centre deserve more.