This is a summary of the October 16 debate at Mount Dennis Legion held in front of about 50 spectators.
Only two candidates were present, contender Dory Chalhoub and 26-year incumbent Frances Nunziata. The debate started with a bit of gamesmanship from Nunziata who delayed her opening statement to ask for a moment of silence for the victims of Hurricane Hazel. A more sincere approach might have been to involve the other candidate rather than using the anniversary to score points.
With the tone set, Ms. Nunziata proceeded with her opening statement. She feels that the ward deserves a dedicated councillor who puts the needs of constituents first. She has consulted on issues with residents over her 26 years of service. “There are lots of good things happening and it bothers me that all this negativity is there”. “York South-Weston is a good community and vibrant”.
Dory Chalhoub thanked his supporters and said his candidacy gives voters an option. He feels the area is neglected and dilapidated and the person responsible over the past quarter century has been Councillor Nunziata. It is time for a change – the abysmal status quo cannot go on with crime, the business exodus and so on.
Audience questions then explored further differences between the candidates. One obvious area is that of experience. This is Chalhoub’s first run at the job and naturally he’s vulnerable to the criticism that he’s not up to speed on local politics. The first question addressed to both candidates about the naming of and familiarity with resident groups seemed designed to trap the challenger and expose his novice status. While Nunziata was able to name them, Chalhoub confidently turned it around and said, “That’s her job and it’s expected of her”.
Both candidates did agree on the need for subways rather than other forms of transportation – Nunziata would find money through development charges while Chalhoub would find efficiencies. Both are coy about their choice for mayor, would have liked to have seen a casino; both like privatization within limits and are opposed to tax increases.
Another bone of contention between the two was the lighting art installation at Weston Road and Dennis Avenue. Chalhoub feels the money could have been spent more wisely while Nunziata defended the project.
With regard to priorities, Chalhoub would like to see the area cleaned up and aesthetics improved. He would like to see incentives for businesses to open and create jobs; access grants and put the money back into the community. In response to criticism of him being negative, his answer was, “Step outside and see what’s going on. I don’t see this ‘vibrant community'”.
Nunziata outlined a number of projects that are ongoing thanks to her involvement – the Humber Hospital Church Street site, the mobility hub at Eglinton and Weston – “Once the mobility hub comes in, stores will open”. “How can you be negative about our community?” On the subject of a YMCA at Weston and Lawrence, unlike during the televised debate where she claimed it was happening, now she says that negotiations are taking place with YMCA and the church (Weston Park Baptist). (I could be wrong but I believe those negotiations fell through a couple of years ago.)
In closing, Chalhoub stated that his decision to run is personal rather than political. He will work hard to provide better direction and leadership. He said that if insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the results to be different, that’s similar to people who think somehow the next four years are going to be better with more of the same.
Nunziata ended by saying that she represents all of Ward 11. In the past 26 years and in particular the last four, she has spearheaded projects such as the York Recreation Centre, obtained $1.5 million from Metrolinx to go towards a cultural Hub on the site of the Farmers Market and is working to change the proposed use of the Kodak Lands from a rail yard to a more mixed use. She has established an off-leash dog park in the Hydro corridor in the south of the Ward and is working towards another on King Street. She feels she has gained the respect of her constituents.
While there is no love lost between these two candidates, their platforms are both quite similar and somewhat on the right of the political spectrum. Where they differ is in their perception of what is happening in Ward 11 and in particular the Weston / Mount Dennis / Rockcliffe Smythe communities. Ms Nunziata would have us believe that things aren’t so bad under her leadership and tomorrow will be better. Mr. Chalhoub thinks a lot more work needs to be done; it’s time for a change and he can do better.
We’ll find out on October 27. Let’s hope for a good turnout.