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Twenty-two’s a crowd in Ward 20

October 25th, 2014 · No Comments

Vaughan’s vacancy creates competition

By Madeline Smith

Ward 20 is one of the toughest races in this year’s municipal election. Without an incumbent, the ward has attracted a huge selection of candidates—the most city council hopefuls in all the ward races— with 22 currently in the running.

Running from Dupont Street to the waterfront, Ward 20 is bounded by University Avenue to the east and Bathurst Street to the west, with the northernmost part of the ward stretching west beyond Bathurst Street to Christie Street.

Former city councillor Adam Vaughan held the Ward 20 seat for nearly two terms after being elected in 2006. But he resigned in June to run in a federal by-election, which he won. Ceta Ramkhalawansingh was named his interim replacement in July, but she is not running for re-election, leaving the seat truly up for grabs.

Determining the best approach to new development is the most prevalent and contentious issue throughout Ward 20.

Many of the communities are concerned with preserving the original character of their core neighbourhoods and avoiding intensification of residential areas. “Part of the problem is that most of Ward 20 is zoned as downtown,” Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) chair Tim Grant says. “Therefore, when developers are looking at a map, they think, ‘Why can’t we put a 40-storey building at Spadina and College?’ But buildings like that would overwhelm the nearby neighbourhoods.” The approval of a 24-storey residence building at 245 College St. for U of T students is one such building, which the HVRA and the Grange Community Association both opposed.

Development that leads to gentrification is also seen as problematic in some Ward 20 neighbourhoods.

In Kensington Market, residents mobilized to protest plans to build a Loblaws store, and they most recently fought against plans to build a big-box retail complex with a Walmart. Kensington Market resident Dominique Russell says the issues in her neighbourhood point to Toronto’s overall development challenges. “All the issues that face Toronto are really writ large in Kensington Market,” she says, noting the trends of longtime residents being pushed out by unaffordable housing and increasing gentrification driven by developers bringing chain stores to main streets. “A true mixed income neighbourhood is becoming less and less of a reality.”

Robert Lunney, Director of Condo Relations for the Toronto Entertainment District Residents’ Association, is also in favour of mixed-use proposals—something not always on the table at first—in a neighbourhood where 18 condo buildings are currently in development. “We coexist well with the people who work in the offices here. The residents want to come out on the street to go to restaurants and use the public spaces, and people who work in those buildings want to live close by, so the property values increase.”

Making room for pedestrians, cyclists, streetcars, and cars alike on Ward 20’s main streets is a challenge. Brian Burchell, chair of the Bloor Annex BIA and publisher of the Annex Gleaner, says the stretch of Bloor Street between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street is especially dangerous for cyclists. “We want to slow the street down. The cars that come through on Bloor Street are not necessarily our customers — they’re commuters,” he says.

“There’s a tension between city building and community building. Maintaining main street business tracts is important to both goals. We may need fewer cars on Bloor and more transit options.” In the southern part of the ward, Lunney says King Street is “a mess,” and echoes Burchell’s hope that commuter traffic travelling through the neighbourhood can be significantly slowed down or diverted elsewhere.

There is a lack of green space in Ward 20, which is also a concern linked to development—once completed, new condo buildings will increase the ward’s dog population despite the lack of space to exercise them.

The need for green space is a major factor in the battle over the planned redevelopment of the Central Technical School field.

Perhaps Joe Cressy likely has the best name recognition in Ward 20 out of the 22 candidates on the ballot. He has already been campaigning in the Trinity-Spadina community for months, after running unsuccessfully for the NDP in the federal by-election for Olivia Chow’s seat — which he lost to former Ward 20 city councillor Adam Vaughan. He has aligned himself with Ward 19 incumbent Mike Layton as well as with Chow’s mayoral campaign.

Terri Chu is an engineer and community activist from the Annex, and authors a monthly column for the Annex Gleaner. She is the founder of Why Should I Care?, a non-profit group that hosts meetings to discuss political issues and encourages citizens to get involved in community affairs.

While this is Chu’s first time running for political office, she has the support of former councillor Adam Vaughan’s campaign team, and four Ward 20 candidates dropped out of the race and endorsed her in the days leading up to the nomination deadline.

Candidate Graham Hollings is an ESL teacher and community activist from Kensington Market. He is best known for his work with the group Friends of Kensington Market and their successful campaign against development company RioCan’s plan to build a big-box retail development, including a Walmart store, next to Kensington Market.

Hollings’s platform focuses on promoting mixed-use development and overhauling transit and cycling infrastructure.

Anshul Kapoor worked as a digital communications specialist for Rogers before entering the Toronto political scene as the founder of the organization No Jets T.O., which gave him a platform to speak out against the expansion of Toronto’s Island Airport. He believes introducing jets at the airport will jeopardize the revitalization of the waterfront.

Annex Residents’ Association board member and environmental lawyer Albert Koehel works for a non-profit environmental law organization and is a 25-year resident of the Annex. He is a founder of Bells on Bloor, an event that calls for better safety for residents and cyclists.

Koehel also advocates to protect migratory birds from collisions with windows of downtown high-rises and has won precedent-setting cases against landlords under the Environmental Protectional Act and Species at Risk Act.

Among the aforementioned notable candidates is Sarah Thomson. Thomson entered the Ward 20 race less than a week before the nomination deadline after abandoning her mayoral campaign. She also previously ran for mayor in 2010 and campaigned for a provincial seat for the Liberal party in 2011. Thomson has earned significant media attention in the past for what some consider to be publicity stunts, which include claiming to have the Rob Ford “crack video,” only to release a promotion for her transit plan instead.

A full list of candidates is available by ward at app.toronto.ca/vote/ wardList.do.

 

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