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Inspired by a small act of help

September 9th, 2014 · No Comments

New MPP focused on transit, development, and services for seniors

By Annemarie Brissenden

There is an oddly poetic quality to Han Dong’s defeat of Rosario Marchese in the recent provincial election. Dong, the newly elected Liberal member of provincial par- liament for Trinity-Spadina, was inspired to seek office by Bob Wong, the Liberal MPP who lost his seat to NDP Marchese in the 1990 Ontario election.

Shortly after Dong, at age 13, and his family immigrated to Toronto from mainland China, his father, who was having trouble get- ting citizenship for the family, ran into Wong. Although the matter was a federal problem, explained Dong, Wong was able to help the family, something that has stayed with the new MPP ever since.

“It was inspiring to learn what little things an elected official can do to change a life, or a family’s life,” he said. And now, he is “satisfied to be in a position to help people.” Dong, who has been appointed

parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Uni- versities, brings a diverse mixture of public, not-for-profit, and private experience to the role. He previously spent nine years at Queen’s Park as a community organizer, prior to which he was the market- ing director for Chianti Foods. A resident of Trinity-Spadina, also home to his parents, for the past 15 years, he has volunteered with the Philippines Independence Day Council, the Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival, and at many local centres for seniors.

Although he’s encouraged by the Liberal government’s pledge to in- crease funding for senior community grants, he wants to draw more attention to the challenges faced by seniors locally and across the province.

“This community is one of the most popular destinations for im- migrants, who settle here and develop a network of friends,” said Dong. But seniors are “finding it harder to continue living in this community, and it shouldn’t be this way.”

He believes part of this is because services, which haven’t kept pace with the growth and demographic shifts in Trinity-Spadina, aren’t consistent across the riding.

While some neighbourhoods have access to new community centres and libraries, for example, there are other “areas where buying groceries is a problem, and residents are competing for parking space.”

“This is no longer a transition place for young professionals,” said Dong, “but a place to form and raise a family…to stay around for years.”

It’s partly why residents, he added, are increasingly concerned about the future of the area, some- thing he heard over and over again while knocking on doors during the campaign. “Development decisions have to stay local. The community should get their say about how the neighbourhood will look in 10 to 15 years.”

He’s scheduled a meeting with local councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) as he wants to be a part of that discussion and work to find a “practical tool” to govern such a process.

The MPP is also keenly aware that transit is “by far the number one issue in the riding,” and that “we need to get people from home to work” and back again more efficiently.

He’s focused on improving pub- lic transit, but also wants to ad- dress the other challenges he sees on his daily walk to work: congestion and the need to accommodate alternative methods of transporta- tion, like bike lanes.

It all comes down to “fighting for more resources, and speaking up for the community,” said Dong. “After you become a parent, you look at the community in a different way. You shift from looking at the entertainment and fun side to the future for your kids, your parents, who are on a fixed income, and look at what services [are avail- able].”

A frequent visitor to the restaurants on the Ossington Street strip, he loves how an area as vibrant and diverse as Trinity-Spadina still manages to retain a sense of small community.

“I feel extremely fortunate to be able to raise a family [here],” said Dong, “and I want to make sure other newcomers to this riding will have the same opportunities. I want to make sure Trinity-Spadina remains a family-friendly community.”



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