At our most recent ‘Where Do We Start,’ we were lucky enough to have Gavin Crawford of Because News asking our questions to Jennifer Keesmaat, a Mayoral Candidate for city of Toronto. We tried to cover some basics like what a mayor does and the ways in which the job will change given the reduction of wards. Below is a quick summary of the night – and some links to point you in the direction of all mayoral candidates campaigns for further investigation!
What does a mayor do?
We learned that the role of mayor is to set the direction for the city, and drive forward an agenda that is aligned with this vision. The mayor is also in charge of electing the chairs of Toronto’s committees. These exist in every area of public interest: public roads (infrastructure, bike lanes, highways), parks and rec committee (parks, community centres), planning (growth and development, new condos, where they go and don’t). The chairs of these committees set the agenda for each.
How will the role of Mayor be impacted by the shift from 47-25 wards?
It will be impacted in many ways. It is a much smaller group to get on board to win the vote and push through your agenda. What has often led to delays in our city are the size of coalitions. With a smaller number of wards, these will be smaller in size as well. It basically gives our mayors more power as their vote on council is 1 of 25 rather than 1 of 47.
What is the fastest possible timeline the TTC could not be a s***show?
Keesmaat described something many of us in the room did not know about – that automatic train controls are currently being implemented. This means they’re automated, run closer together and at a higher frequency so we can move more people within the existing system. Keesmaat’s transit platform promises a 2028 delivery of the relief line.
Top 3 things we learned from our Q&A with Jennifer Keesmaat:
- Toronto is a large and diverse city, but ultimately what we all want for the city is more or less the same. Key issues that continually come up are transit access, affordable housing and public safety.
- Toronto defines affordable housing as the average market rent in the city. It’s a market driven definition, and Jennifer Keesmaat is not a fan.
- We’re underutilizing our community councils. These need to be restructured with the new wards with more citizen representatives
Our co-host and the curator putting this series together Zahra Ebrahim ended our Q&A period by asking candidate Keesmaat to tell us two truths and a lie we should keep our ears to the ground about on the campaign trail.
Truth One: Listen to people who believe we can change the city because we can. Local councillors matter and have significant impact. Wychwood Barns was cited as an example – the land was going to be sold off, but the community rose together and their vision has now come to life. Look for aspirational politicians with a vision.
Truth Two: Listen to councillors and look at their track record. Ask questions on who really believes in providing access to local democracy. How we structure community councils and create next the layer of democracy. Look for councillors who believe in creating strong local democracy.
The Lie: That we’ve done everything we can when it comes to affordable housing. Listen for that lie. It’s just the market, there’s nothing we can do. It is a choice, and we can do it.
NOTE: While we invited several other mayoral candidates-including incumbent mayor John Tory-to join in our mayoral roast, they were unfortunately unable to join us.
Next week we tackle BUDGETS and FINANCE – all the intimidatingly huge numbers politicians talk about, and what it really means! Details on our event page here!