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Toronto Election 2010: Ward 14

October 17th, 2010 · 1 Comment

There are nine contenders vying for the Ward 14 seat:

Gord Perks: Incumbent, won the ward in 2006 with 30.1 per cent of the vote against 14 separate challengers. Former columnist for Eye Weekly. During his term he has worked on securing and developing affordable housing in the ward. Also focused on upgrading public space infrastructure, including a dozen parks upgrades. Says he works to protect the heterogeneous nature of Parkdale, a community dynamic he believes is unique in the city. votegordperks.ca

Michael Erickson: A Parkdale resident, Erickson currently works as a high school teacher. His platform focuses on youth, “democratizing democracy” and the arts. “I find it most meaningful when I’m doing the work others are too scared to do.” www.michaelerickson.org

Ryan Hobson: Involved in the Liberal party, has worked on campaigns for all levels of government. He wants to empower tenants and create a city-wide plan to eradicate bedbugs. “It’s the municipal politician that can do the most to help the federal and provincial politicians, not the other way around. As a federal MP there’s not a lot you can actually do for your riding specifically.” www.ryanhobson.ca

Barry Hubick: Queen Street West Internet cafe owner. Wants to bring business to Parkdale, reduce crime, and focus on building and repairing roads and housing. barryphp14.ca

Jules- José Kerlinger: Currently works in insurance industry. Is critical of Perks’ voting record at City Hall, and thinks Perks has “rubber stamped everything Miller has done without question.” www.julesjosekerlinger.ca

Gus Koutoumanos: Bar owner in the Junction area. Says he would bring his expertise in running a business to his role as a councillor. www.gusforward14.ca

Cullen Simpson: Born in Parkdale, believes the community needs to work together to get better, and an increased police presence is needed. www.simpsonforcouncil.com

Jimmy Talpa: Has been running for councillor for the last thirty years. Says there are crime and drugs in Parkdale. “People like you should help ourselves.”

István Tar: Came from Hungary in 1980 as a political refugee. Believes council needs a department of autism, based on his experience with his 30-year-old autistic son. taristvan.webs.com

Bill Vrebosch: Works as a quality assurance analyst; his father and sister are both municipal politicians in Northern Ontario. Aims to create a better working relationship between the councillor and the ward through increased access. “When you look at these party-driven candidates who say they have no affiliation, there’s somebody driving their ideas and it’s not their own.” www.votebill.ca

—Compiled by Rebecca Payne

Crowded house: Candidates challenge Ward 14 incumbent

This article, about the Ward 14 candidates, was published in the Summer 2010 edition of the Liberty Gleaner.

By Jacob Arnfield

Incumbent councillors are rarely defeated in elections, which may explain the low level of competition for the position in wards that already have one.

Ward 14 (Parkdale-High Park) seems to be an exception, with eight candidates signed up as of press date. The Gleaner was able to speak to half of them: Councillor Gord Perks,  Jules-José Kerlinger, Ryan Hobson, and Bill Vrebosch.

Perks won the ward in 2006 after Silvia Watson left the position to run provincially. He won the election with 30.1 per cent of the vote against 14 separate challengers. Before working as a councillor, he was a well-known environmental and transportation activist, and a columnist for Eye Weekly.

In his first term, Perks said his focus was to upgrade public space infrastructure, including a dozen parks upgrades and several major street renovations. He credited the success of those projects to increased community input.

Securing and developing affordable housing in the ward was another issue he worked on. As examples, he offered the Affordable Homeownership Program and the Edmond Place development of 29 supportive housing units for people with mental health issues. He said he works to protect the heterogeneous nature of Parkdale, a community dynamic he believes is unique in the city.

Perks wants to continue working on several projects that started during his tenure. For one, the city has implemented several new environmental programs, “But it’s time to deliver them full-scale so that we become the most sustainable city in the world. I don’t think we should settle for anything less than that.”

Community-led design work for the western waterfront has been completed and he wants to “work with the community to get it implemented, so that we have a waterfront that’s every bit as lively and exciting and beautiful and accessible to local people as the eastern waterfront.”

Kerlinger’s decision to run for city council came during the Toronto garbage strike of 2009. He was working in Ottawa as an intern in the House of Commons, and said that watching the situation unfold made him feel powerless and frustrated.

Kerlinger currently works in the insurance industry. He said his background—raised in a single parent household and working since the age of nine—will help bring a different perspective to the job. “I definitely have a sharply diverging view on things than per-
haps some of the other city councillors that may have come from middle class families.”

He hopes to “shift the agenda a little bit. It would be nice to get a fresh group of people in there.”

Kerlinger said the complaint he heard most often from residents was that Perks’ office failed to return phone calls. He was also critical of Perks’ voting record, specifically his relationship to Mayor David Miller. “There are going to be times where the Mayor’s agenda is going to go against the best interests of residents of Ward 14, and Perks has,
unfortunately, always rubber stamped everything Miller has done without question.”

Hobson is a commercial banker who moved to Toronto from Calgary six years ago. He became involved in the Liberal party and worked on several campaigns for all levels of government, which he said helped him get to know the city and the people. He said he
wants to make sure the right infrastructure investments are made now so that when his son grows up he will want to live in Toronto.

Hobson said that growing up in conservative Calgary helped him to work with people of all political stripes. He also wants to help bring the different levels of government in the ward together working collaboratively, rather than antagonistically. “It’s the municipal politician that can do the most to help the federal and provincial politicians, not the other way around. As a federal MP there’s not a lot you can actually do for your riding specifically.”

Hobson said that collaborative approach must also be fully embraced in the city’s dealings with its residents. “If you do something that discourages [constituents] from being involved again, you’re not doing your job as a politician, as a city councillor. You’ve done the exact opposite of what you should be doing.”

Like Hobson, Vrebosch moved to Toronto six years ago. He works as a quality assurance analyst in Toronto, and decided to run after having difficulties dealing with city hall. He grew up in a politically active family: his father and sister are both municipal politicians in Northern Ontario.

Vrebosch said he wants to bring the political know-how he learned from his father to Toronto to create a better working relationship between the councillor and the ward
through increased access. Unlike current municipal politicians he wants to “represent the people to city hall rather than representing city hall to the people,” he said.

Vrebosch said he is proud to be conducting his campaign independently, rather than working with any party machinery. “When you look at these party-driven candidates who say they have no affiliation, there’s somebody driving their ideas and it’s not their own. So how can you really take a neighbourhood and what it requires when you are being pushed and driven by party idealism? They’re basically steering you.”

One final topic, on which all the candidates agreed, was the need to continue to push Metrolinx and the provincial government for electrification of the Georgetown rail corridor on the ward’s eastern border.

Meet Michael Erickson: A teacher campaigning on an arts and youth platform

By Noel Grzetic

Michael Erickson entered the race for Ward 14 (Parkdale-High Park) on July 2 despite being advised against it.

“People told me that I shouldn’t run in Ward 14—that I couldn’t win against Gord Perks,” said the 35 year-old teacher. But as a Parkdale homeowner, he felt too connected with the neighbourhood to run anywhere else.

“Our area has a reputation as being one of the most socially active communities in Canada, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

Growing up in what he calls the projects of Ottawa, Erickson says he has a heart for youth and those in poverty. He says he worked most of his life to put himself through school, and laughs as he remembers the shock of having weekends free for the first time when he began teaching. True to his energetic nature, he’s found plenty of ways to fill the time, both through arts (he spent last summer teaching himself photography on a manual camera and building his own website) and activism.

“I find it most meaningful when I’m doing the work others are too scared to do,” says Erickson, who is on the board of directors for the Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line.

He does not belong to any political party, but describes himself as progressive.

“Leadership is service—it’s not necessarily governance. To be progressive means not to put the needs or wants of one small groups ahead of the larger group.”

A self-described activist, artist, and poet, he says he decided to run because he was disappointed with the other candidates.

“I felt that things were uninspiring and unimpressive,” said Erickson. “There was a lot that wasn’t on the table, like the arts community and youth.”

Erickson is a high school teacher at Harbord Collegiate Institute (286 Harbord St.), where he splits his time between English classes and programs to help those youth most at risk of dropping out. He has pioneered programs aimed at sexual and gender identity for young men. He has also been recognized for starting school trips to Ghana. His work has won him several awards.

“It’s quite amazing work—I blinked and it’s been ten years!” said Erickson.

He says he believes his experience as a teacher has prepared him for city hall. “As a teacher you have this relationship between the classroom and the system, and I think as councillor you have relationship between your neighbourhood and the city,” he said. “I think that I’ve been exceptional in trying to create things that have a system wide impact and the same time not abandoning the needs of your classroom or community.”

He says Ward 14 has been neglected by those in office, and he wants to spend more time at a local level addressing the needs of the people. He wants more ways for youth to tap into the arts community. He wants to encourage small businesses to share skills and grow together. He wants to fight the Metrolinx diesel train proposal, while protecting Transit City.

If elected, he plans to focus on children and youth programs, supporting small business, transit and “democratizing democracy”—in his words, making the issues in city hall accessible to the socially conscious people of Ward 14.

“The key is spending your time on battles you can win,” said Erickson. “It’s very simple for a city councillor to offer a few workshops in a year for small business—a lot of people can’t afford accountants.”

He’s already had much experience with similar programs in the community. He founded the Toronto Etsy Street Team, helping those who can’t work full time to make a living through online arts and crafts sales.

“I think the other candidates come from more traditional models of thinking,” said Erickson. “I think our area needs people who are willing to try things that work for the 21st century.”

Tags: News

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Megan // Oct 19, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Michael Erickson taught me grade 11 Intro to Anthro/Socio/Phyc at Ursula Franklin Academy. He was by far the greatest teacher I’ve had and inspires students to do their best. He knows what Toronto needs to become a strong city. If my 18th birthday wasn’t 2 weeks after election he’d have my vote.