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.”

Meet the people running for office in University—Rosedale

Candidates champion progressive solutions to student issues

Meet the people running for office in University—Rosedale

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.

PHOTO BY MARC DEMOUY/CC FLICKR

Mike Layton

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.

COURTESY OF NICKI WARD

Nicki Ward

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.

PHOTO BY HANI JAJEH

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.”

PHOTO BY NORM BETTS

Joyce Rowlands

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.

Ford’s handling of Toronto city politics, while reckless, is justified

The premier’s determination reflects a new approach to governance which should not be prematurely dismissed

Ford’s handling of Toronto city politics, while reckless, is justified

Premier Doug Ford’s government has proven to be unusual in the tradition of Ontarian politics. Past premiers have tended to err on the side of caution, operating on a moderate, consensus-based program. They have typically prioritized competent and pragmatic governance over grand ideals and purposes. Ford’s firm, populist, “for the people” style, in contrast, translates to an aggressive, uncompromising decision-making process.

Ford’s decision to cut the size of Toronto City Council — and invoke the notwithstanding clause to defend it — is the most recent example of this novel approach to governance. Objectively, the proposal is a justified one: City Council is far from the most efficient and agile institution it could be. While his headstrong pursuit of this quest is reckless, he is fully exercising the government’s legal rights. He is simply pushing the boundaries that no premier has ever thought to go near.

The Better Local Government Act, also known as Bill 5, which passed in August, began the process to cut City Council from 47 members to 25. Ford argues that the measure sought to end the “culture of waste and mismanagement” around the council. He believes that the high number of members entails a redundant and ineffective process, and by reducing its size, it will be “easier to get things done.”

As an idea, this claim is inherently reasonable. City Council is notorious for its inefficiencies. There is an inherent difficulty in having an efficient decision-making process with 47 independent, outspoken voices. When Toronto is compared with other major cities, the council’s size seems excessive. Los Angeles, for instance, has only 15. Philadelphia has 17, Houston has 16, and Vancouver has 10. These cities have established that effective, capable, and democratic local governments can exist in smaller sizes.

Critics argue that the decision is, at best, reckless and, at worst, anti-democratic. Although less efficient, more voices may be more effective in providing representation. For the average citizen, it is much easier to influence a representative of 60,000 than one of 100,000 people.

The strongest critics challenge the legality of the law, accusing Ford of having sinister intentions. In this view, the decision is an autocratic intervention into Toronto’s affairs that compromises the city’s democracy and silences its citizens, and it is also a vendetta against the council for his own negative experiences as a councillor.

These concerns about effective representation come down to a matter of balance. Of course, the city needs several councillors to ensure representation. But with that being said, it surely should not have too many. The claims about Ford’s intentions seem somewhat far-fetched. This decision is simply the result of Ford’s long-held values of smaller and less costly government.

It would also be an exaggeration to call the general proposal an attack on democracy. Municipal governments are well understood to be under the ‘constitutional authority’ of the provinces, thereby justifying provincial jurisdiction over municipal functions, finance, and governing structure.

Critics, however, are right in pointing out that the particular timing and conduct of the decision is reckless. With the municipal election coming up in October, this decision throws the process into a chaotic situation. There is no reason why the decision had to be made now. The move was also done in a very top-down and unrespectable fashion. Mayor John Tory and the council were given no consultation, let alone any warning, that this was coming. It would have been better to propose this policy first as part of a broader, public consultation with the municipality on the various ways City Council could be improved.

This quick, reckless decision also overlooked the potential illegality of the decision, made clear by the Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba’s ruling, which found that Ford’s decision to “suddenly and in the middle of this electoral process impose new rules” compromised both candidates’ and citizens’ freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, Belobaba bases his ruling only on the timing of Ford’s decision, therefore leaving open the possibility that, if done at a latter and more reasonable point, the cuts to the council would be legal and receive no objection from the judiciary.

Ford’s response was unprecedented: the invocation of the notwithstanding clause. As Section 33 of the Charter, this allows the provincial government to overrule certain portions of the Charter. This initially seems to be an overreaction. Although the courts have brought all governments grief, no previous premier has felt Section 33 to be necessary. The clause does have negative connotations, suggesting a disdain for the judicial system and for the Charter itself. The fact that it could be theoretically used to compromise various rights and freedoms has made premiers regard it as too dangerous.

Regardless of the unorthodoxy and recklessness of Ford’s approach, he has the full legal right to follow his course. Section 33 of the Charter was put in place for the exact situation Ford is claiming this to be. The clause, as requested by several provinces, was designed to be an accountability mechanism to the substantial amount of power granted to the courts by the Charter. It also ensures that the legislature, as a democratic and representative assembly, had the final say. Regardless of whether or not this is actually an overreach, the clause allows the Progessive Conservative government to make that determination.

This ability to shrug off convention is consistent with Ford’s ideology and aggressive, populist style — the very thing he promised he would bring to Queen’s Park. Ford is claiming that the good of ‘the people,’ from whom he has, in his own view, received a universal mandate, justifies an aggressive push to get things done regardless of the obstacles in the way. Thus, it is likely that we will continue to see more convention-breaking actions in the future. 

Given that the Ontario Court of Appeal has recently overturned Belobaba’s ruling, the notwithstanding clause has not been used. Nevertheless, the premier’s willingness to do so indicates a new approach to governance in Ontario. 

Sam Routley is a fourth-year Political Science, Philosophy, and History student at St. Michael’s College.

A students’ guide to the municipal elections

Confusion remains over Premier Doug Ford’s decision to cut size of Toronto City Council, notwithstanding clause

A students’ guide to the municipal elections

Municipalities across Ontario will be holding elections for mayors, local councillors, and school board trustees on October 22. However, the elections have been muddled in the wake of Premier Doug Ford’s plan to cut down the size of Toronto City Council, as well as his decision to cancel various other elections. To help you sort through the news, The Varsity has created a guide to help students vote.

UTSG

Students in Toronto will have 35 choices for mayor, including incumbent John Tory. Other notable candidates include former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, safe streets advocate Sarah Climenhaga, “people’s” lawyer Saron Gebresellassi, and far-right commentator Faith Goldy.

The elections for city councillors are less straightforward.

In November 2016, City Council approved a recommendation to increase the number of Toronto wards from 44 to 47 for the 2018 municipal elections. This recommendation was part of a three-year review, which concluded that Toronto needed to increase representation to keep up with its growing population.

In July 2018, Ford introduced unprecedented legislation to cut the size of the city council from 47 wards down to 25 in order to match federal and provincial ridings.

Speaking to reporters after the story broke, Ford said, “People tell me that we have too many politicians making it harder to get things done, making it harder to get things built, making it harder to deal with the real problems we face.”

“It’s clear that the size of government is just too large.”

In the aftermath of Ford’s announcement, critics immediately voiced their opposition to the plan, in particular denouncing the lack of consultation. Ford’s plan was brought to court, where, on September 10, a Superior Court justice struck down the bill as unconstitutional.

However, hours later, Ford made another surprise announcement, saying that he plans to use the notwithstanding clause from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is a part of the Constitution.

The clause allows the legislature to override parts of the Charter in cases where the courts might be interfering with the elected government’s decisions.

In order for this to work, Ford has come up with an entirely new bill, since the clause cannot be applied retroactively. Although the Tories attempted to push revised Bill 31 through on Saturday, resistance to discussion meant that talks will resume at 12:01 am on Monday.

As this is an ongoing development, it remains unclear whether the municipal elections will go forward with 47 or 25 wards.

Under the 44-ward system, the St. George campus is currently represented by Joe Cressy of Ward 20 Trinity—Spadina on the west side and Kristyn Wong-Tam of Ward 27 Toronto Centre—Rosedale on the east side.

If elections proceed with 47 wards, UTSG will continue to be split in two: the east side as a part of Ward 24 and the west side as a part of Ward 25.

Running in Ward 24 would be Cressy, alongside Michael Barcelos, Michael Borrelli, Marc Cormier, Pedro Marques, and Andrew Massey.

The listed candidates for the new Ward 25 under the 47-ward system are Chris Moise, who joined the court battle against Ford’s council-cutting legislation, as well as John Jeffery, Dan King, Ryan Lester, Kyle McNally, Jules Monteyne, Nicki Ward, Kevin Wiener, and Rob Wolvin.

However, if elections proceed under the 25-ward model, UTSG would be brought together under one ward, University—Rosedale. At this stage, City Clerk Ulli Watkiss is still operating under the 47-ward model until Ford finalizes his use of the notwithstanding clause, although Watkiss has warned that reorganizing a fair election is close to becoming a logistical impossibility.

There is no official list of candidates yet, however, a number of people have already announced their intentions to run.

Incumbent Ward 19 Trinity—Spadina councillor Mike Layton has announced that he would run in University—Rosedale. Cressy has said that he would compete in the neighbouring ward of Spadina—Fort York. Wong-Tam would compete in Toronto Centre.

“After discussions with members of the community and much personal reflection, I have decided that IF Ford is successful, and we are forced to run in a 25 seat race, I will be running to represent the ward of University-Rosedale,” Layton wrote in a statement on September 14.

“I grew up in the Annex and have lived in the Little Italy, Chinatown, and Christie Pitts neighbourhoods my entire adult life. The issues facing this community hit close to home, and are issues I have worked closely on for many years.”

No specific voting places have been released as of September 16. According to the City of Toronto website, “Currently the 2018 Voting places are under review.”

UTSC

Scarborough campus will continue to be contained in one ward in both models. It’s currently represented by Jim Hart of Ward 44 Scarborough East, a former city staffer who was appointed in 2017 following the death of Ron Moeser. Hart is not running in the October 22 election.

Candidates registered under the 47-ward model are Corneliu Chisu, the former MP for Pickering—Scarborough East, who was defeated for re-election; Jennifer McKelvie, a failed candidate in the 2014 election and a former member of the UTSC Campus Council; Paul Cookson; Daniel Cubellis; Reza Khoshdel; Dave Madder; Christopher Riley; Joseph Thomas; and Emery Warner.

If Ford is successful with the notwithstanding clause, the ward will be simply named Ward 47. Under the 25-ward system, it will align with the boundaries of Scarborough—Rouge Park.

As with the downtown wards, the locations of the polls haven’t been specified yet.

UTM

Mississauga will not be affected by the Ford government’s plans, as it is a separate municipality. Elections for mayor, councillors, and school board trustees will be held on October 22, in line with the Toronto municipal elections.

UTM, like UTSC, is contained in a single ward, Ward 8.

Incumbent Bonnie Crombie, who took over the chief executive position from longtime Mayor Hazel McCallion, is running for re-election against Kevin J. Johnston, who was charged in 2017 by Peel Region police for allegedly promoting a hate crime.

There are six people running for councillor in Ward 8. Matt Mahoney, the incumbent, is running for re-election. The other candidates are Grzegorz Nowacki, Amadeus Blazys, Adam Etwell, Tariq Ali Shah, and Abdul Azeem Baig.

Students in Mississauga can take part in advance voting from October 5–6 at Mississauga Civic Centre, and October 13–14 at all community centres, and elementary and secondary schools in the Ward 8 area.

On Election Day, UTM students 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.

City of Toronto releases updated St. George Secondary Plan report

Councillor Joe Cressy proposes amendments to enforce conformity with zoning laws

City of Toronto releases updated St. George Secondary Plan report

A municipal staff status report to City Council is recommending that new developments within UTSG prioritize pedestrians and cyclists, adhere to distinct attributes of newly proposed “Character Areas,” and preserve existing heritage buildings while expanding open and public spaces.

The report is a part of the City of Toronto’s Secondary Plan for UTSG, which provides a planning framework to manage changes and new developments on campus. It outlines specific policies on how the land can be used and how future projects should be laid out.

Two amendments to the status report proposed by Councillor Joe Cressy of Ward 20 Trinity—Spadina were also passed at the Toronto and East York Community Council, which represents the area that UTSG is located in. The amendments were passed without discussion on July 4.

One of the changes requested that city staff report on U of T properties adjacent to the campus, and to report “on the controls that are necessary to ensure conformity with existing Neighbourhood zoning.”

Cressy’s second amendment also requested city staff report on ways to enforce zoning rules, and it stated that “if/when the University acquires property in adjacent neighbourhoods that any exemptions… are not transferred with the University’s title to their off-campus neighbourhood holdings.”

This amendment effectively means that any exemptions U of T currently has with regards to zoning will not be applied to any future developments outside of existing UTSG boundaries.

The status report is the second preliminary report completed by city officials. The Toronto and East York Community Council initially adopted a motion to begin public consultation on the Secondary Plan in early 2017.

The new Secondary Plan was proposed with the goal of developing the areas in and around the university with flexibility — in other words, preserving historically significant buildings while adapting to the institution’s growing needs.

Community responses

When contacted by The Varsity, Cressy said the Secondary Plan was still in its preliminary stages and the final report has not yet been submitted, with consultations still ongoing.

“The Secondary Plan and all the details will be coming back in the new year and so there are questions outstanding related to properties outside of the Secondary Plan area,” he said. “As part of the Secondary Plan review, we want staff to report on whether those mechanisms are needed or not.”

Cressy said that he’s met with the university to consult on the plan approximately 20 times, and that the plan has undergone an “extensive process.”

“I think there were vast, vast improvements in how the university is considering issues like heritage protection, public realm, movements, and walkability,” said Cressy. “In many ways the St. George campus holds some of the best public realm and green spaces in all of the city and it’s a jewel.”

Christine Burke, U of T Director of Campus and Facilities Planning, said that the university wasn’t consulted on the amendments.

“We haven’t responded because those are items that will come up in the next few months and when it comes before [the Toronto and East York Community Council] and council,” said Burke. “But no, the university wasn’t consulted on the amendments and we haven’t discussed them with the city at this time, but we’re happy to do so. We don’t anticipate any impact whatsoever from these additional resolutions.”

Cressy added, “We want to ensure that as the city continues to grow, that collectively the university and the city can benefit from this historic campus.”

According to Burke, the next step for U of T is to start receiving details about the plan from city planning staff. The final report is expected in early 2019.

City Council approves one-year freeze on building demolitions in Kensington Market

Surprise move intended to prevent destruction of heritage buildings

City Council approves one-year freeze on building demolitions in Kensington Market

Demolitions in Kensington Market have been halted for one year in a surprise move by Toronto City Council.

According to Joe Cressy, Ward 20 Trinity—Spadina Councillor, the freeze was put in place at the end of July in order to give city staff more time to designate Kensington as a heritage conservation district.

Cressy told The Varsity that he wants city staff to study the area before developers make any more decisions.

“There was a real risk that we would see a rush to demolish properties within Kensington Market in advance of that new conservation district coming in,” said Cressy. “And so the demolition freeze, which is a heritage conservation district bylaw, was put in place to put a pause on demolitions for one year until the completion of the district.”

He added that freezes were “a common and an effective tool that the city frequently uses when we’re reaching the final stages of heritage conservation districts.”

Cressy claimed that the freeze will not affect housing supply at all, and that there could still be development projects in the future.

However, because of the freeze, he said that it’s unlikely that there will be any new buildings in the next year until it’s decided whether or not to give Kensington a heritage designation.

“The city of Toronto has more than 20 heritage conservation districts,” said Cressy. “Heritage conservation districts are designed to protect the unique character of special areas within the city of Toronto, whether that’s a historic neighborhood like parts of the Annex or whether it’s Queen Street West, and ensuring that it retains its vibrant, independent retail fronts as opposed to big box.”

In the past, there have been cases when developers tore down buildings with historical significance despite pushback from heritage preservation supporters. City Council wanted to ensure that this would not be the case in Kensington.

Getting a building protected under the Ontario Heritage Act is a long process, and in some instances, the developers start demolition before it can be implemented. This is what happened when a 110-year-old Bank of Montreal building was torn down in January 2017, despite public outcry.

In 2015, Kensington Market was designated for consideration under the Ontario Heritage Act. Since then, four of six applicants for demolition were permitted.

In the past year, these heritage preservation groups have seen great success. This August, the Toronto Preservation Board approved a “midtown focus plan,” which, in an unprecedented move, added 258 buildings to the heritage registry.

When asked what he hopes will come of the demolition freeze, Cressy responded, “To ensure that as we are completing a heritage conservation district, we don’t see our rush to demolish our heritage before we have a chance to protect it.”

City proposes solutions for conflict between Greek life community, residence associations

Executive Council poised for decision on Greek house licensing

City proposes solutions for conflict between Greek life community, residence associations

The city’s review of multi-tenant housing regulations, which encompasses fraternity and sorority houses surrounding U of T, has opened up a rift between the residences of these houses and the communities that surround them. The outcome has been a six-month-long deliberation process at City Hall between students in Greek life housing and their neighbours regarding changes to the way these multi-tenant houses are licensed.

Issues of excessive partying, lewd behaviour, and improper garbage disposal have been raised by members of housing associations around the U of T campus, with local residents citing problems such as “numerous fires” and “numerous sexual assaults” occurring at nearby fraternities.

In a recent public meeting, city staff presented six possible solutions to provide the public with a general idea of what could be suggested in January and then voted upon in February, when the Executive Council meets.

The six solutions

The first solution is one that was initially proposed in a letter from Ward 20 Councilor Joe Cressy in early June: that fraternities and sororities should no longer be exempted from the housing regulations that all other multi-tenant buildings are required to follow. This suggestion is what first sparked the debate over the status of these houses in September. It is believed that for fraternity and sorority houses to be fully compliant with multi-tenant housing regulations, they would have to fundamentally change their operations, putting their continued existence in jeopardy.

Decades of tension between fraternities — more so than sororities — and surrounding residents have come to light from residences in the neighbourhoods that surround frats and sororities in the wake of Cressy’s letter.

This tension has spawned a few of the proposed solutions, which directly target the relationship between Greek life residences and their neighbours. Three of these solutions are community-led meet and greets with Greek house residents, proactive community outreach to fraternities and sororities before school starts, and the establishment of a community working group consisting of both Greek and non-Greek residents to help bridge the gap and improve communication between the two groups.

Along the lines of communication, another proposed solution is creating a contact list within the neighbourhood so that residents have a number to call to voice their complaints.

The last of the solutions is the establishment of proactive enforcement of bylaws within the area during peak times of activity. One major concern for this solution is that the city may lack the resources for full enforcement. In addition, according to a comment made during a public consultation reported by Toronto Community Houses, “many fraternities and sororities are dry and/or have education on alcohol and housing.”

Speaking to stakeholders

University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Vice-President External Anne Boucher was initially skeptical of Cressy’s original proposal, stating that it appeared to have the intention of slowly removing fraternity and sorority houses from the city. However, Boucher said she was repeatedly met with the assurance that the city is simply looking to ensure that Greek houses are safe and regulated.

Boucher said she was presented with a detailed presentation of the licensing change and is convinced that the proposal truly aims to improve the safety of Greek housing. She wrote that “this change specifically would not harm the operation of Greek houses.”

Boucher said that while some of the other solutions look to solve long-standing residential grievances such as noise complaints, they fail to really address how Greek houses could be made safer.

The Annex Residence Association’s David Harrison highlighted the long-standing tension between Greek houses and their neighbours, saying that “clearly, the Greek group didn’t see any need for change to their status or additional rules and regulations.” He insisted that the residents he represents find the enforcement of some form of regulation on Greek housing to be the most pressing solution.

City staff will develop a summary of consultations in a report to the Executive Committee in early 2018.

The Inter-Fraternity Council, which represents the majority of U of T fraternities, declined The Varsity’s request for comment.

The U of T Panhellenic Association, which represents the majority of U of T sororities, did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.