With election day fast approaching and Toronto city boundaries settled, The Varsity spoke to four of the seven candidates running in University—Rosedale about their plans for office.
Mike Layton, the incumbent councillor for Ward 19 Trinity—Spadina, believes that local government needs to “get back in the business of building affordable housing.”
“Sometimes we call things affordable that really aren’t because our definition of affordable is average market rent across the city,” said Layton.
“Around the St. George campus in particular, I would challenge you to find somewhere that’s actually affordable, in the actual definition of what we would think of affordable.”
Layton is running for re-election in the larger ward of University—Rosedale, which represents part of Layton’s current electoral district. The new borders align with provincial and federal ridings, as mandated in recent legislation from the government of Premier Doug Ford.
Layton studied at U of T, and he recalled cycling around the city growing up and recognizing the lack of resources for bike users. He championed his achievements on council.
“In the last term of council, Councillor [Joe] Cressy and I, through working extremely hard with local residents’ associations… were able to shepherd [bike paths] through a largely suburban, largely conservative city council,” he said.
In response to the death of a UTSC student in a fire at a private residence, Layton said that the city needs to recognize that there are illegal rooming houses and should address the issue.
“We need to ensure that our rooming house bylaw is living up to what it should be and that’s to ensure that spaces are safe across the city,” he said. “While we can’t be afraid of ensuring people’s public safety or people’s safety in their homes, we can’t be afraid of the political ramifications of that.”
He also said that the city should take a look at short-term rentals, like Airbnb. “It’s actually taking units off the market and I can tell you firsthand now, knocking on the doors across University—Rosedale, that far too many multi-unit residential houses… are actually entirely off the market,” he said.
Nicki Ward, a board member of The 519, a community centre in the Church and Wellesley Village, is advocating for intergenerational methods to help ease students’ worries about post-graduation job availability, namely “interning/mentoring opportunities between older and younger groups.”
Ward explained that “there are a number of older groups, for example, people in their 50s and 60s, who are looking to transfer their skill set to younger people who are entering the community.”
Her campaign slogan is “Common Sense and Compassion,” highlighting her background in business, human rights, and social justice activism — the latter of which she argues is “above reproach.”
“I’ve been directly involved in human rights activity in the LGBT community, specifically around gender identity roles,” she said. “I’ve been at the forefront of making sure that we live in an inclusive society.”
Ward also emphasized her experience in managing large groups, saying it was increasingly critical in a rapidly enlarging world.
Marc Albert Cormier
Marc Albert Cormier teaches math and science to seventh and eighth graders in Toronto. He is running on making Kensington Market a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Now I know that’s a bit of a long shot,” he said, “but when you consider that downtown Lunenberg in Nova Scotia was recognized as world heritage, I believe that Kensington, the most unique neighbourhood in the entire city, should be protected.”
On student issues, Cormier believes that City Council should look into asking the TTC to possibly extend youth transportation pricing to postsecondary students. “If that could be extended to the university level, I would definitely support that option,” he said.
Cormier also said that housing has become a crisis in the city, and supported further developing laneway housing, which are usually small detached homes in pre-existing lots next to alleyways.
“I think we need to be much more aggressive in developing these,” he said. “Rental prices are through the roof and we absolutely have to look at these different options.”
Joyce Rowlands has worked as an occupational health nurse, a writer, and as a public policy consultant in the regulatory sector. She’s also the daughter of the late June Rowlands, the former Mayor of Toronto, and previously ran for the Ontario legislature in Toronto—Danforth in 2007 under the Liberal banner but lost to incumbent MPP Peter Tabuns of the New Democratic Party.
Despite having a long track record in different career areas, Rowlands said she’s “not a career politician or an activist or an entrenched partisan of any stripe, and I won’t be wedded to any particular faction on council or voting bloc at City Hall.”
She considers herself a “progressive centrist” and vowed to work with city councillors across the board.
“I’ll work with community groups and student groups and individuals in the community and in the student body to identify realistic, affordable solutions so that we can get on… these critical issues that are facing this city,” said Rowlands.
Rowlands added that she intends to collaborate with students on issues like public transit. She referenced the failed U-Pass referendum at St. George, which would have provided unlimited transit on the TTC for a semesterly cost of $280, but did not have the option to opt out. “I think it would be better to have an opt-out option for students that don’t use the TTC, if that is in any way realistically possible, given the various parties that would have to come to the table and agree on a plan,” she said.
Seven candidates are running for University—Rosedale: Michael Borrelli, Cormier, Layton, Rowlands, George Sawision, Michael Shaw, and Ward. Election day is on October 22, and advance voting begins October 10 and runs until October 14. Voters in the ward can either go to Rosedale United Church at 159 Roxborough Drive or Cecil Community Centre at 58 Cecil Street to cast their ballot.