The Star identified several “Wards to Watch” in a 47-ward election. Now that new legislation has made it a 25-ward election, we have determined all of the wards are worth watching. This is one in a series of articles. The election is Oct. 22. Advance voting begins Oct. 10.
“I’m still standing,” Diane Dyson declared Thursday after Councillor Janet Davis, who had enthusiastically endorsed Dyson to replace her when it was a 47-ward election, threw her support behind a rival candidate in the new 25-ward contest.
“This doesn’t deter me,” Dyson said, from staying in the new Beaches—East York race against 15 rivals including former NDP MP Matthew Kellway — who picked up Davis’s endorsement — and City of Toronto urban planner Brad Bradford, endorsed by Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon.
Dyson is a tenants rights activist and anti-poverty researcher who was called an “exceptionally qualified and experienced candidate” by Davis in June when the retiring councillor endorsed her in what was then Ward 35.
Davis, a New Democrat, says it was a tough decision to shift allegiance from Dyson to Kellway, who represented the area in Parliament from 2011 to 2015 and was running in Ward 37 before Premier Doug Ford forced a cut in the size of council that saw the two areas melded into one big ward, now Ward 19.
“Bigger wards are going to be challenging and it’s important we have a progressive voice at city hall with a depth of experience and a good understanding of the full ward,” Davis said. “Matthew served us very well as an MP and, with an election only weeks away, we need somebody who can win.”
The new ward includes Leslieville, the Beach and Parkview Hills in East York. Thanks to the retirement from politics of both Davis and McMahon, it is one of only two races with no incumbent, in a city suddenly full of council veterans fighting each other for a spot on the smaller council.
Beaches—East York neighbourhoods range from stately lakefront homes south of Queen St. to highrises on Dawes Rd. and bustling Danforth Ave. from Coxwell Ave. to the Scarborough border.
Dyson, on leave from her job as research and public policy director for WoodGreen Community Services, said the new ward has some of the highest levels of inequality in Toronto but “is still a ward where people care and want everyone to have a fair chance.”
She is campaigning on issues including working to boost child-care spots and ways to make housing more affordable, including creating “co-housing” options for seniors who want to live communally in houses without running afoul of the city’s rooming-house regulations.
“I know this ward, because it cares, will have a progressive voice, but it will have to decide who it wants to add to a new council that will likely have, by my count, at least 16 straight able-bodied white males,” she says. “That’s not the Toronto that we know.”
Dyson confirmed “a few” of her campaign volunteers have also migrated to Kellway’s camp.
Kellway said he is familiar with the new ward that matches his previous riding’s boundaries and at doorsteps is hearing concerns about development issues, traffic around the new Woodbine bike lanes and empty storefronts on Queen St. E.
As councillor, he said, he would push for co-ordinated planning including community centres and other infrastructure needed for residents of new buildings, and for design changes around the bike lanes to stem the flow of vehicles onto neighbouring residential streets while ensuring cyclist safety.
McMahon, finishing two terms representing Ward 32, says transit and affordable housing are hot local concerns but “road safety is what we hear about the most.
“Pedestrian and cyclist safety is a huge concern for people here,” said McMahon, a cyclist and strong advocate of “Vision Zero” efforts to protect vulnerable road users.
Development pressures around Danforth and Main St. are also a concern, she says.
McMahon is endorsing Bradford, on leave from his community engagement job in the office of chief planner Gregg Lintern, because “he’s young, he knows planning which is a huge benefit, he’s tenacious as hell, he’s independent and non-partisan, and he’s a term-limit guy.”
Bradford says that, like McMahon, he believes politicians should be forced to retire after two terms at city hall, where political parties don’t exist but have an unofficial influence on alliances.
“In the 25-ward model term limits are increasingly important,” he said, “because it’s going to be harder to unseat incumbents from a ward the size of a federal riding. If you don’t have the resources of a political party it’s harder to get elected, and that will amplify the influence of party politics.”
He is vowing if elected to work on improving road safety, using data and his planning skills to make collision-prone intersections safer while pushing for photo radar in school zones and police enforcement of traffic rules after a year with a record number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths.
The Star interviewed other Ward 19 candidates including:
- David Del Grande, a product manager with a strong interest in urban planning who as councillor would back only transit projects that “make sense” including the subway relief line. Del Grande would also welcome more housing density along Queen St. E. and the Danforth even if unpopular with some residents. “It’s a question of doing what’s right versus electability,” he says.
- Brenda MacDonald, who ran unsuccessfully against Davis in the past two civic elections and says she would work to alleviate flooding and sewer backup problems plaguing parts of the ward and fight for “creative” solutions including laneway homes to increase affordable housing in the ward.
- Joshua Makuch, a former soldier who served in Afghanistan and later became a management consultant after earning his MBA. As councillor, he says, he would champion a new tax on vacant storefronts to incentivize owners to either rent them out or sell them.
- Valérie Maltais, an environmental scientist campaigning on helping struggling small businesses by changing the mandate of local “BIA” merchant groups; improving transit options; and “inclusionary zoning” that would force developers to include affordable housing in their plans.
David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider