Making sure the vulnerable are not forgotten
By Rosario Marchese
It all started at Harbord Collegiate. That’s where I met my lifelong friend Joe Pantalone, who would pull me into the NDP and later persuade me to run for public office.
My father was a construction worker, and my mother worked at home, raising me and my brothers while caring for our house on Shaw Street. “Left” and “Right” meant nothing to them. The only thing that mattered was the day-to-day struggle of keeping a roof over our heads and ensuring a better future for the kids. This was the political sensibility I grew up with.
The NDP was full of energetic and engaged young people who wanted to change the world, and who loved to debate political theories and policies. I loved those debates too, and my love of the debate would remain my greatest joy at Queen’s Park.
But above the debates and the idealism, I saw that the NDP was the party that would fight for people like my Mom and Dad. This was the party that made sure working people and the vulnerable would not be forgotten.
This is the perspective I tried to maintain during my 24 years representing the people of Trinity-Spadina as their MPP.
Trinity-Spadina is a very different place today than it was when I first became an MPP. Its growth and success have been exciting to observe, and should be celebrated. But it is also clear this success is leaving many people behind.
For example, the condo boom has radically changed the nature of home ownership and tenancy, but our laws have not kept up. Condo owners and tenants need new protections.
And while growth and development have increased the overall supply of housing in Trinity-Spadina, this has not translated into affordable housing.
Ensuring that Toronto can remain an inclusive place that all of us can call home is one of the city’s greatest challenges. It is critical that the province get back into the business of providing affordable housing.
Trinity-Spadina’s success has also created new incentives for powerful private interests to threaten the long-term public good.
I have seen how developers routinely ignore local communities and ask the OMB to overrule democratically-enacted planning rules. And I have seen how well-connected private interests covet our waterfront in order to build Ferris Wheels, mega-casinos, and expanded runways for jets.
This has raised the stakes dramatically when it comes to local politics.
Happily, a new generation of engaged and energetic young people is standing up to defend the public interest when it comes to planning and development, our waterfront, transit, housing, social justice, and the environment.
This gives me incredible hope. For while I am disappointed in the results of the last election, I believe the health of our democracies depends not so much on politicians like me, but on the willingness of engaged communities to organize and create movements to hold politicians and governments accountable.
Engaged communities ensure that elite interests do not squeeze out the public interest. Engaged communities revitalize politics and political parties. Engaged communities ensure that we do not forget the needs of the marginalized, the vulnerable and working people like my Mom and Dad.
Engaged communities are what make Trinity-Spadina the best riding in Ontario.
It has been an honour to serve you, the people of Trinity-Spadina, for 32 years as your school trustee and your Member of Provincial Parliament.