Here are your Scarborough—Rouge Park municipal candidates

Incumbent councillor facing crowd of challengers

Here are your Scarborough—Rouge Park municipal candidates

Toronto is just a few days away from electing a mayor and a 25-seat city council, along with school board trustees. In advance of October 22, The Varsity spoke with some candidates for Ward 25 Scarborough—Rouge Park — the most contested U of T electoral district and the one that contains UTSC — about their platforms, policies, and visions for students.

PHOTO COURTESY OF NEETHAN SHAN CAMPAIGN

Neethan Shan

Neethan Shan, the incumbent councillor for Ward 42 Scarborough—Rouge River, which is now a part of Ward 25, has a long history of community and public service. Born in Sri Lanka, Shan came to Canada as a refugee when he was 16, and went on to work in youth programs with various social services agencies.

He served on the York Region District School Board from 2006–2010, and was elected to the Toronto District School Board in a 2016 by-election. Shan also later successfully contested a 2017 by-election for city council to become the body’s second Tamil Canadian representative.

“Postsecondary institutions, including the University of Toronto, need to work together with the City of Toronto, to build affordable housing options for students that are close to campus,” said Shan. He noted that current and future rooming houses need to be regulated in order to ensure students’ safety, and encouraged a partnership between U of T and the city.

On road safety, Shan said he supports increased regulations near educational institutions, such as speed reductions, stop signs, and improved traffic lights. He also said that the city needs to enhance the enforcement of existing rules by holding those who break traffic rules around educational facilities accountable.

Shan pointed to his vote for the Scarborough subway as a hallmark of his dedication to public transit, and writes on his website that he “successfully campaigned to extend the Eglinton East LRT [Light Rail Transit] to Malvern.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF JENNIFER MCKELVIE CAMPAIGN

Jennifer McKelvie

Jennifer McKelvie is an environmental ecoscientist who headed the Scarborough Community Renewal Organization and served as a board member on the UTSC Campus Council. She was also a member of both the Toronto Region Conservation Authority and the Scarborough Women of Philanthropy.

McKelvie advocates for safe school zones and new housing options for seniors, among many other issues. On transit, she hopes to focus on an integrated Scarborough transit system, which would include an extension to the current subway system, the Eglinton East LRT, and improved bus services.

Drawing from her work prior to and as the inaugural president of the Scarborough Community Renewal Organization, a non-profit that works to help develop a “bold vision for Scarborough,” McKelvie said she also wants to develop an arts centre to showcase the cultural diversity of her ward and help stimulate the regional economy.

She also intends to work toward developing “trade-training” centres in preparation for the various infrastructure development coming to Scarborough.

On student issues, McKelvie emphasized creating safe and affordable housing for students, particularly by enacting regulations for rooming houses in consultation with students, residents, and rooming house owners.

“Scarborough deserves better,” she said.

McKelvie emphasized her commitment and experience as her strengths. “I live here, I volunteer here, and I was the first person to sign-up… to represent our community.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL COOKSON

Paul Cookson

Paul Cookson, the founder of a Toronto-based advertising agency, believes that the key to strengthening students’ job prospects after graduation is to prop up local businesses.

“I’m pro-business and the reason I’m pro-business is… the stronger our local businesses are, the more people that are going to hire. It’s just common sense, right?” said Cookson. “Nobody’s really doing anything to help local business and I think that’s short-sighted.”

Cookson also commented on the lack of affordable and safe housing for students. To address high costs in Ward 25, he started the website 25housing.ca where homeowners can list rooms in their homes and residents can live there in exchange for helping with chores.

“It’d be a case-by-case situation,” he said. “Maybe one person wanted somebody to be in charge of the place in the winter… and maybe once a week they want the students to go to the grocery store for them.”

Cookson added that rooming houses should be legalized so that they won’t fly under the radar anymore.

“We can try to police where exactly these rooming houses are and ensure that they’re safe.”

Cookson said that what sets him apart from other candidates is his focus on housing and local small businesses, and the initiatives that he has already started.

“I’m not even in office yet and I’ve started,” he noted. “And that’s because I’m not a guy that sits around waiting, I’m an action person. If there’s a problem, I attack it. There’s nobody else [here who] has already started on initiatives that are actually live.”

PHOTO BY G & D CUBELLIS

Daniel Cubellis

Daniel Cubellis, a graduate of U of T’s civil engineering program and an infrastructure specialist, is running on a platform of efficient public transit, affordable housing for seniors and the vul and engagement with local communities.

“I think that you need more of a revolution in terms of the technology that is used,” said Cubellis in regards to engaging students with public life. “Being younger, I know what most people do on social media.”

Cubellis said that more social engagement is needed “so that people have an idea of what is going on in the wards.”

Regarding public transit, Cubellis is strongly in favour of expanding the proposed Scarborough subway. “I want a three-stop subway to Scarborough instead of the one stop they’re proposing,” he said. “I want the original three stop between STC — to McCowan and Sheppard — because it allows more accessibility for transit users because there are other points of access.”

Cubellis noted that the three-stop system will also allow for increased development in the area because they’re already hubs. He also wants the city to look into creating more express bus lines.

On affordable housing, Cubellis referenced the fire that killed a UTSC student in May, asserting that the city needs to regulate rooming houses while having spaces available for students.

“I’d also be interested in… the student-senior rooming program if they don’t already have it, where a student lives in a senior residence so there’s a relationship where both parties benefit. With senior-student living arrangements, the student can help with chores around the house, cheap rent while the senior also helps. There’s duality for both.”

PHOTO BY ALI JAFARDAZEH/AJ PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY (Photo also featured by The Toronto Star)

Jasper Ghori

Jasper Ghori — a marine trained engineer who has worked with Bombardier, Celestica, Canada Steamship Lines, and Owen Sound Transportation Company — is running to empower local communities.

When asked what UTSC students should look forward to from his platform, Ghori wanted students to know that he will be pushing for the improvement of two key issues that currently affect UTSC students: transit and mobility on campus.

To the latter, Ghori refers to improving mobility between buildings at UTSC, specifically between the Instructional Centre (IC) building that lies on the corner of Military Trail and Ellesmere Road and the rest of the UTSC campus, as IC is detached from the main campus site.

“If there was a bridge, they wouldn’t have to wait for the traffic light [at the Military-Ellesmere intersection].”

Another issue pertaining not just to U of T students, but younger demographics in general, and that has caught the attention of many city-councillor candidates is the legalization of marijuana.

As the October 17 date draws nearer, residents of Ward 25 want to be clear on their candidate’s views. Ghori feels that “it’s going to be very difficult for the city to handle [marijuana] if this gets into private hands. The last date to vote against [retail locations in your ward] is January 22 of 2019. If you don’t [vote] no, it will go into private hands. Some communities have already said no, they have the legal right to do so. This will be a big priority in council. It should be dealt with [by] experts, in my opinion.”

Scarborough is no stranger to fatal shootings. Just last Wednesday, 18-year-old Elliott Reid-Doyle died the in hospital after being shot in a plaza near Birchmount Road and Sheppard Avenue in Ward 22, marking the 83rd homicide in Toronto this year.

In relation to violence within his own ward, Ghori advocates for intervention over arrests.

“I believe issues like gun violence — an issue that continually comes up in our city — when they involve young people, arise from poverty. I believe that when you consider unemployment, a lack of motivation for the future, drugs and gang involvement, things like gun violence arise. I think [by] that taking precautionary steps like pushing for early interventions instead of early arrests, we will be able to prevent such terrible things from happening.”

Eleven candidates are running in Scarborough—Rouge Park: Amanda Cain, Paul Cookson, Daniel Cubellis, Jasper Ghori, Reza Khoshdel, Cheryl Lewis-Thurab, Dave Madder, McKelvie, Christopher Riley, Shan, and Joseph Thomas. Election day is on October 22, and advance voting ran October 10–14.

Voters in the ward can either go to Malvern Recreation Centre at 30 Sewells Road or Heron Park Community Centre at 292 Manse Road to cast their ballot.

Mississauga mayoral candidates bump heads in UTM debate

Debate focuses on transparency, Ford government, diversity initiatives

Mississauga mayoral candidates bump heads in UTM debate

Five Mississauga mayoral candidates contended at a debate organized by the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) on October 4 at the UTM Innovation Complex atrium. The candidates debated on a wide range of topics, from opinions on Premier Doug Ford’s government to how Mississauga could be more equitable.

Of the eight total candidates, incumbent mayor Bonnie Crombie, Yasmin Pouragheli, Scott Chapman, Syed Qumber Rizvi, and Andrew Lee attended.

Mohsin Khan and Tiger Meng Wu were not present, and controversial candidate Kevin Johnston was not invited, according to the UTMSU. Johnston was charged with promoting hate in an earlier incident in March.

The debate began with opening statements and included a question period.

Opening statements

Crombie spoke about her work in office, highlighting the success of initiatives such as ‘Making Room for the Middle,’ which aims to keep housing affordable for middle-class families and create a safer city.

Rizvi, a second-time candidate in the Mississauga elections, held a similar sentiment to Crombie’s, proposing affordable housing projects for single-parent households and low-income families.

Chapman, another second-time candidate, spoke of an initiative to compensate residents for using solar panels in an effort to encourage sustainability and environmental consciousness.

Pouragheli, a 26-year-old law school graduate, presented her plan for legislative reform and said that she intends to help municipalities raise revenue.

Lee, a retired engineer, has a platform that advocates for seniors and students alike, drawing from his experiences as a senior citizen in Mississauga.

Question period

The panel consisted of questions from the UTMSU on transit, student housing, immigration, and child care, as well as questions submitted from the audience on community engagement and diversity initiatives.

One Mississauga resident was concerned about transparency between the city council and residents, asking candidates about initiatives the city could undertake to facilitate communication and address unheard complaints.

“Call 3-1-1,” suggested Crombie, referring to the city’s hotline connecting residents to city services and information.

Chapman proposed a direct line to the mayor’s office, encouraging transparency and open communication between residents and the council.

Candidates were also asked questions regarding recent issues such as the changes to the Ontario sexual education curriculum and the increase in minimum wage.

Most of the candidates present looked unfavourably on the provincial government’s decision to revert to an older version of the curriculum.

Chapman said that he was “disappointed” in Ford’s decision as it would impact the quality of education in Mississauga schools.

“I feel that our students should be taught in the schools, not by people their own age and misinformed.”

Pouragheli expressed her support for the 2015 curriculum implemented by the previous provincial government, commenting that “there needs to be a dialogue regarding sensitive topics,” as children are being exposed to sensitive information at a much younger age from the prevalence of social media and the internet.

Crombie also expressed her support for the 2015 curriculum, especially as it taught students about topics such as cyberbullying, gender identity, and consent. She noted that parental consultation is needed to put forward an updated curriculum and allow transparency between school boards and parents.

Lee shared Crombie’s view, calling for a proper curriculum that involves both school board officials and parents.

“Sex education should have two parts,” he said. “One: knowledge education, and two: behaviour education.”

Candidates also expressed strong support for the minimum wage increase.

Chapman said that he is a strong believer in the minimum wage increase as it provides a larger disposable income for families in need.

Echoing that, Crombie said that “people have to have a minimum income to succeed.”

When asked about a possible $15 minimum wage, Pouragheli said, “I think we should keep it as it is and see what happens to the economy in a few years.”

On top of minimum wage, she suggested adding additional services for families in need.

While Lee supported the minimum wage increase, he also acknowledged that wages should be set according to standards of living and need to be balanced.

Toward the end of the debate, an audience member asked about diversity and equity initiatives in employment and what candidates would do to encourage inclusion.

Crombie suggested removing names on résumés, a practice used by employers to prevent bias and focus on merit. She added that jobs serving the community, such as police services and firefighting, should reflect the diverse community that they serve and suggested advertising jobs in cultural newspapers.

Pouragheli agreed with Crombie on removing names on applications, although she said that there could still be small indicators and leeway for bias. Chapman noted that, on top of removing names in job applications, gender also should be removed to address further bias.

Recalling his experience seeking employment in 1973, Lee agreed with merit-based applications and called for greater equity initiatives. Rizvi said that the mayor of Mississauga would look past bias and take opinions, regardless of race.

Advance voting for UTM students happened from October 13–14 at all community centres and elementary and secondary schools in the Ward 8 area.

On October 22, UTM students will have access to various voting locations near campus. St. Mark Separate School, South Common Community Centre, Holy Name of Mary College School, Erindale Secondary School, Oakridge Public School, St. Margaret of Scotland Elementary School, and St. Clare Separate School in Mississauga all offer polling booths close to their classrooms.

Jennifer Keesmaat speaks at Innis Town Hall

Mayoral candidate talks affordable housing, public transit, local democracy

Jennifer Keesmaat speaks at Innis Town Hall

Mayoral candidate and former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat spoke at a student-led discussion hosted by the Urban Studies Student Union on September 24 at Innis Town Hall.

The event, titled “Our City, Our Future: Students in Conversation with Jennifer Keesmaat” aimed at discussing pressing Toronto issues, including public transit, affordable housing, local arts and culture initiatives, and the importance of local democracy and community engagement.

The discussion was moderated by Anjuli Solanki, an artist and the Director of Community Programs at the Sustainable Thinking and Expression on Public Space Initiative, which provides a creative space for public engagement and community building projects in developing neighbourhoods.

“It takes 20 seconds to get a young person engaged in community politics,” said Keesmaat on student civic engagement. “Mention: one, affordable housing and two, public transit.”

Affordable housing

When addressed with the issue of affordable housing, Keesmaat put forward her strategy of creating 100,000 affordable units on city-owned land, which she said would target both working- and middle-class families.

She also criticized incumbent Mayor John Tory’s housing strategy, saying that during his tenure as mayor, he sold city-owned land to developers to build luxury condominiums, which contributed to the already-skyrocketing real estate market.

Public transit

Keesmaat’s public transit plan was a prominent topic of discussion, especially her focus on Relief Line transit and the development of Line 3 Scarborough.

She added that she wants to develop a long-term transit plan to fix what she sees as the failure of the current state of Toronto public transit.

Keesmaat noted that property closest to transit is the most expensive for families, thus making it inconvenient to find an affordable home with a reliable transit route.

Additionally, she pointed to the overcrowding of Line 1 Yonge-University during rush hour leading to issues such as long waiting times and insufficient subway infrastructure.

Keesmaat was critical of Tory’s SMARTtrack plan, which she said has taken four years to build since Tory’s 2014 mayoral campaign and costs nearly $1.46 billion.

She plans to fund the cost of her transit plan through responsible funding and affordable fares.

The province has granted the city $5 billion for subway development, committing to cover one-third of the costs.

In her transit network plan, Keesmaat plans to reach out to marginalized communities and ensure a reliable transit network, specifically referring to the proposed Jane light rail.

Arts and culture in Toronto

When discussing the local Toronto arts and culture scene, Keesmaat encouraged the expansion of growing cultural hubs and programs.

She referenced the Artscape Weston Cultural Hub, a public space partnered with Artscape and Metrolink providing a creative space for artists and aimed at revitalizing an area in need of renewal. She emphasized that local arts employ 11 million people annually, though it often faces major budget cuts from the provincial government.

Keesmaat stresses that accessing the arts strengthens connections between and within neighbourhoods.

“Arts and culture are a way we build our identity, tell stories, and make sense of who we are as a society,” said Keesmaat.

City Council cuts

When asked about Premier Doug Ford’s decision to cut the number of city council wards from 47 to 25, Keesmaat responded that she “would not have traded democracy,” and emphasized the need for a strong mayor to stand up to the premier. She added that local democracy matters and that Ford needs to “mind his own business,” pointing to the $15 billion provincial deficit.

“Voting matters. Leadership has an impact on the quality of our lives.”

Mayoral debate at Scarborough campus focuses on transit issues

Candidates discuss uploading TTC, transit affordability

Mayoral debate at Scarborough campus focuses on transit issues

TTCriders, an organization of transit users, and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) hosted a mayoral debate focused on transit on September 26.

Three candidates — former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, lawyer and activist Saron Gebresellassi, and safe streets activist Sarah Climenhaga — took the stage at the Scarborough campus. The debate was moderated by The Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee.

John Tory, the incumbent mayoral candidate, was invited but did not attend. At the end of the debate, candidate Dionee Renée, who spells her name D!ONEE Renée, ­was invited to give a two-minute speech. She claimed ownership of the idea of free transit and underscored accessibility needs, which she felt had been lacking during the debate.

A Mainstreet Research poll released on September 26 put Keesmaat at 20.3 per cent, nearly 30 points behind Tory, who remains in the lead. Gebresellassi and Climenhaga both polled at around one per cent and undecided voters made up 27.4 per cent of the survey. The same poll found transit to be the most pressing issue in the mayoral election — overtaking concerns of housing affordability, crime and safety, and accountability.

Uploading the TTC to the province

All three candidates were asked about their stance on the provincial governments’ moves to take over Toronto’s subway system.

The proposal, made by the Progressive Conservatives during the provincial election, aims for the province to adopt major capital maintenance fees and control any expansion planning. Tory showed slight interest in the plan, however City Council voted 30–6 in favor of maintaining public ownership of the TTC. Premier Doug Ford, who campaigned on uploading the TTC to the province and whose party guaranteed the upload under a majority, became the centre of the candidates’ discussion.

Keesmaat proposed that any projects to upload the TTC should go through the mayor and the city council. She also emphasized the need for the TTC to remain a “public asset,” refuting any claims that turning the TTC private would raise capital funds or improve the transit system.

Agreeing with Keesmaat, Climenhaga commented on Ford’s ability to “do things even if we don’t agree with them” and supported the need to work with the premier on this issue.

Gebresellassi criticized Tory for his lack of strong leadership and underscored the need for mayoral leadership that would “stand up against Doug Ford,” particularly on the issue of uploading the subway to the provincial government.

ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY

Free transit

The first candidate to mention free transit was Gebresellassi, whose campaign is largely based on the idea of making Toronto the first metropolis in Canada to maintain a free public transit system.

Placing heavy emphasis on the idea of “transit as a fundamental human right,” Gebresellassi proposed eliminating corporate loopholes and using federal funding to finance her proposal.

Climenhaga took a moderate stance on the issue ­— labeling it a goal to be achieved through long-term investment in the transit system and a gradual reduction of fares.

Keesmaat heavily opposed the idea of free transit, criticizing not only Gebresellassi’s funding plans for the proposal, but also pointing out the resulting issues of overcrowding and the loss of the TTC’s operating revenue. She further underscored the need for more investment to develop transit expansion over the development of free transit.

“I thank [Gebresellassi] for putting the idea of free transit on the table, and I have to say it is a ridiculous idea that would ruin our transit system.”

During an interview with The Varsity, Gebresellassi pushed back.

“I think her position says it all. This is why we keep saying Jennifer Keesmaat is not a champion for working-class people,” a sentiment that was not brought up during the debate.

Additionally, Gebresellassi argued against claims that the plan would be difficult to fund: “As the 13th wealthiest city in the world, we could have free transit if we wanted to.”

Transit affordability for students

After the failure of the U-Pass referendum last year, postsecondary student fares for transit and the development of a student pass has been the focus of the debate on transit affordability for university students.

SCSU President Nicole Brayiannis opened the question portion of the debate by asking about affordable transit for students, especially those who commute long distances.

Keesmaat responded to the question by calling out the provincial government for stalling fare integration with GO, which would allow transferring from the TTC to GO without having to pay multiple fares. Inter-municipal fare integration as well as transferable regional fares were proposed for commuting students.

Taking a similar stance, Climenhaga agreed on the need for fare integration but also emphasized the need to work with the province on affordable student housing, zoning to make student housing development easier, and increased employment opportunities.

In her response, Gebresellassi proposed expanding the low-income transit pass, also known as the Fair Fare Pass, universally. Differing from the other candidates, she also highlighted the need for job opportunities and engagement outside of the downtown core and called for a multitude of plans that would encourage local hiring and youth training.

ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY

Protesters

In the middle of Climenhaga’s opening statement, protesters in the audience began shouting, “Where is Faith Goldy?” Picketers with signs that read, “Let Faith Speak,” stood in the back of the room.

Faith Goldy, a controversial mayoral candidate associated with white nationalists, was not invited to speak at the event.

The commotion prompted multiple audience members to stand up, resulting in loud protests both against and in support of Goldy.

A chant began from the protesters demanding: “We want Faith.”

The protesters were eventually asked to leave and were escorted out of the room. Goldy herself interrupted a debate just two days earlier, where she was escorted off stage by police officers.

The Toronto municipal elections will be held on October 22, and advance voting will take place from October 10–14.

Keesmaat brings little substance, her audience little scrutiny

Recent Innis Town Hall exposes mayoral candidate’s shortcomings, particularly regarding housing, transit issues

Keesmaat brings little substance, her audience little scrutiny

Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat spoke at an event organized by the Urban Studies Student Union at Innis Town Hall on September 24, discussing her platform and answering questions. Standing ahead of me in line to meet her, some Urban Studies students conversed: “One would think an urban planner is suited to govern a major city… unless you’re Robert Moses.”

In comparison with the legendary, brash, and successful New York City ‘master planner,’ Keesmaat could not be more similar and yet more different. If elected, there would be an equal level of risk and markedly less reward.

To put this in context, Keesmaat began the evening as one would expect from the typecast municipal politician: smiling widely, acting down-to-earth, encouraging participation, and showing high-pitched enthusiasm on local issues. Some prepared questions from the moderator only complemented this theme as they essentially allowed Keesmaat to reiterate her stump-speech talking points. The open Q&A session thereafter, however, proved slightly more eventful.

Forum Research recently reported that public transit was the top issue for 70 per cent of Toronto voters. It was therefore not a surprise when Keesmaat was asked about her transit plan for revamping the TTC. Seeking to expand light rail corridors and keep the controversial Scarborough subway, Keesmaat’s plan is estimated to cost $50 billion — over four times the city’s annual budget. Keesmaat was pressed on how she would pay for it and ensure that deficits would be stable and fares would not go up.

Keesmaat did not respond well. She pivoted the subway issue to the province, which has agreed to pay its $6.8 billion cost, and launched into platitudes on the importance of transit for communities — while making time to criticize Mayor John Tory for his SmartTrack station-expansion plan. Oft-labelled by her as drafted “on the back of a napkin,” her plan happens to be one that she worked on for three years as Chief Urban Planner in Tory’s government. A follow-up question was denied, leaving her relieved of further scrutiny.

Other questions pertained to the issue of public housing, which Keesmaat identified as an area that young people can get most involved, alongside transit. In seeking to address concerns raised about rising property prices, which particularly hurt minorities and middle-low income groups, Keesmaat’s response was better than on transit. She touted a generic plan to build 100,000 more homes.

However, she still did little to address core issues. Indeed, the purchase of land for luxury developments has sent housing prices and living costs soaring across Toronto, particularly downtown, over the last several years. Keesmat’s avoidance of this issue means little promise of change for vulnerable working-class Torontonians, all while her own platform, according to the Toronto Star, offers developers incentives to build on city land and gives no details on property taxes.

To be fair, Keesmaat’s answers to less challenging questions were appreciable, particularly on consensus issues of public safety and community engagement. But those predictable responses are of little value when compared to the relevant issues left unaddressed, especially by a candidate headed to the polls in less than a month.

That being said, this dearth isn’t entirely Keesmaat’s fault. The audience present could have asked far more critical questions and pressed Keesmaat on controversial issues: the rising homicide rate and the City Council size reduction, among others.

A society will only lose and politicians will only gain from citizens not being appropriately and vigorously critical where most relevant. Doing so is our civic duty. This may truly be, to cite Keesmaat’s words, the kind of “community engagement” that we need to improve our city.

Arjun Singh is a first-year Political Science student at New College.

Former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat to run for mayor

Move comes after Premier Ford announces intention to cut size of city council

Former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat to run for mayor

Former chief planner of Toronto Jennifer Keesmaat has joined the race to replace incumbent Mayor John Tory.

Keesmaat confirmed to the Toronto Star on Friday that she was running as she joined a line of people queued up to register for council elections at city hall.

“There are times that we need to stand up for our city,” Keesmaat told reporters after registering. “I am running for mayor because I believe we need bold ideas in this city. We need bold leadership.”

“Bold ideas can make our city even more livable.”

The move comes shortly after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that he will be slashing the size of city council from 47 to 25 seats. The change — if the requisite legislation passes at Queen’s Park next week — is intended to reflect federal and provincial riding boundaries.

Tory is calling for a referendum to be held before the October 22 election to ask if voters want to cut the size of council. The deadline for a referendum question to be put on this year’s ballot has already passed, according to provincial rules.

In the aftermath of Ford’s decision and Tory’s statement, Keesmaat tweeted, “The public was asked. The city ran an extensive public consultation process before realigning Ward boundaries – a process that was challenged and upheld by the courts. Ignoring this outcome is inherently anti-democratic.”

She also publicly mused about Toronto seceding from the rest of the province on social media, tweeting, “Why should a city of 2.8 million not have self governance?”

Keesmaat is the first major challenger to Tory in the race, after Blayne Lastman, the son of former mayor Mel Lastman, decided not to run earlier this week.

Keesmaat resigned her post as chief planner in August 2017 because of disagreements with Tory. Since then, she joined the University of Toronto for part of the academic year as a graduate lecturer in the geography department.

Since March 2018, she has also served as the chief executive officer of the Creative Housing Society, an independent non-profit group focusing on affordable housing projects.