Here’s a report and summary of the responses at last night’s all-candidates’ debate organized by Weston Resident and Mount Dennis Community Associations.
The seven candidates who attended the meeting were arranged by the organizers alphabetically by first name: I have kept this arrangement and grouped candidates’ responses together for clarity.
Scroll to the end for commentary and a link to a video of the debate.
Opening pitch: I am part of a family electrical business. I am tired of poor bus service and ineffective city services. Tired of seeing residents struggling with issues. Looking for more that will only come with a change. I’m an individual who can get things done.
What makes each of you qualified to represent a larger ward? We need a councillor who doesn’t ignore people and a team that understands community needs. I would hold Weston Wednesdays to gather feedback from the community.
The most important issue? Safety is a big issue but respect needs to come back. A lot of issues can be solved on the ground by talking to engaged residents. I will collaborate with other councillors.
Accessibility: Accessibility issues all comes down to respect. We should work with communities to help organizations provide access.
What are some creative solutions that you have found to youth violence problems: We need more organizations working as a network. Allocation of money and incumbents has contributed to the poor state we are in today.
How will you ensure development guidelines are followed and local residents not displaced? The ward needs growth not gentrification. We need rent controls. Developers need to give something better than section 37 money which is inadequate. We can do better than that.
What have you done to prevent flooding along the YSW corridor? The flood mitigation plan was tabled by Tory. Residents shouldn’t have to pay twice through taxes and then have to clean up after flooding.
What steps would you take to improve bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian safety? We live in a transit desert and need more frequent and larger buses on weekends and rush hours. Need to bring the plan back.
Will you commit to increasing TTC funding and will you commit to keeping transit public? Transit is a great equalizer, you can’t privatize that. It’s ours. We need to put pressure on the mayor and councillors to invest in transit. We can’t have bad transit like this and say it’s a priority at the same time.
What big ideas do you have to address climate change and to address Transform TO? Not all of us are willing to pay the costs. We need to find ways to export the green that we have here. We have the Humber River and the Flats.
If not elected how will you continue to build up YSW? It’s not a zero sum game. I will continue to be engaged with community and residents. I will offer guidance and engage with community like they are family.
Elevator Pitch: I’ve heard a lot of ‘me and I’. I’m here for us. We need someone who respects you and the community.
Opening pitch: York South Weston has always been my home. Grandparents came to YSW. I’m a social worker in the community. YSW has been neglected for decades. There are high child poverty rates here. It doesn’t have to be this way. We deserve better.
What makes each of you qualified to represent a larger ward? I will put together a team and will open a constituency office in Ward 5. I have already helped people reduce rent and get rebates.
The most important issue? Addressing inequality and poverty. This is needed to solve many problems. We live in an unequal city. It’s easier to get a gun than a job. The current incumbents have voted to increase poverty.
Accessibility: How many wheelchair ramps could be built with money from the Scarborough subway that the incumbents voted for? I believe accessibility is important and I have a ramp outside my campaign office – the only candidate with an accessible office. (Loud applause.)
What are some creative solutions that you have found to youth violence problems: Our leaders haven’t been listening or providing solutions. 1 in 3 in the ward are living in poverty. I would expand public not private child care unlike the incumbents who voted against it.
How will you ensure development guidelines are followed and local residents not displaced? This is why I’m running. The current incumbents have given hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives to developers. Need to negotiate tougher agreements with developers. I will only be accountable to people. Unlike the incumbents, has turned down money from developers wishing to contribute to her campaign. I have already been standing up for people and organized a tenants’ association.
What have you done to prevent flooding along the YSW corridor? The incumbents voted against flood mitigation. Frances Nunziata voted to sell flood plain lands. I have mobilized the community around the issue. I have helped victims of recent flooding to apply for help and others to help with prevention. The two incumbent councillors have sat on their hands in terms of flood mitigation and I want to take action.
What steps would you take to improve bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian safety? Transit is the future. Some days takes the bus and some days rides a bike down Weston Road. Incumbents voted to cut service on the TTC. I want to get more people out on bikes but infrastructure and bike share is missing. Bike lanes needed on Weston Road and throughout YSW.
Will you commit to increasing TTC funding and will you commit to keeping transit public? Committed and have pledged to keep transit in public hands. It protects consumers and workers. Many TTC workers live in the community. Unlike the incumbents, not afraid to stand up to the premier. I will fight to keep our transit public.
What big ideas do you have to address climate change and to address Transform TO? The incumbents have forgotten that they voted against fully funding Transform TO. I’ve done international human rights work and a lot of things we’re fighting for globally aren’t happening locally. We need to make sure all future development is green. Proud that Mount Dennis is becoming a net zero community.
If not elected how will you continue to build up YSW? I will continue to stand up for the community and working with community organizations to make sure we are put back on the map. While not a city councillor yet, have had many victories already. Want to see big blue modern home display demolished. Have had many victories already and will continue.
Elevator Pitch: Fundamental decisions will be made over the next four years. Do we want to continue with failed incumbents? If you think it’s time for change, vote Chiara Padovani.
Opening pitch: I have represented the community for 30 years. I am an immigrant and was a single mom with a son who is now 44. At one time I worked 3 jobs. I have lived in York South-Weston since 1963.
What makes each of you qualified to represent a larger ward? I will not open a constituency office but I go to peoples homes instead. We have too many politicians. I would start an advisory neighbourhood council of residents as in Los Angeles.
The most important issue? Community safety is the most important issue. People don’t feel safe. Need to engage the community. We need a partnership with local police. Need to get the police back operating the way things were a few years ago.
Accessibility: I will be widening sidewalks along Weston Road. Forced slum landlords to clean up buildings. We could make accessibility mandatory and I will fight to do this.
What are some creative solutions that you have found to youth violence problems: Have to start when they’re very young through their schools. Educational system isn’t working. Need to create more jobs and hire local youth. Hammerheads. We need federal and provincial incentives to hire local youth.
How will you ensure development guidelines are followed and local residents not displaced? People need jobs but closing doors to developers closes the door to jobs in the community. Pointed to the Rockport John Street / Weston Hub as an accomplishment. UP Express and GO stations didn’t bring development. We got developers to give back to the community. Obviously they (other candidates) don’t understand development charges (applause).
What have you done to prevent flooding along the YSW corridor? I have actually gone and helped clean garbage from flooding and had it removed. I have advocated for funding through national disaster relief program. Have made commitment to relief. Waiting for the TRCA to do the design. City spent over $20 million in Ward 12 and basements still flooded. Somebody needs to be held accountable.
What steps would you take to improve bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian safety? I supported safety measures. Bike committee report brought forward recommendations including lower speeds and speed humps. Successfully advocated Metrolinx to reduce fare on GO Transit.
Will you commit to increasing TTC funding and will you commit to keeping transit public? I have never been afraid to stand up to the premier. (Laughter.) I also signed pledge to keep TTC public. I voted to put more money into the TTC budget. I didn’t support $20 million TTC increase that would have come out of the police budget.
What big ideas do you have to address climate change and to address Transform TO? Climate change is very real. I voted to fund Transform TO. Claims credit for making the province switch to battery storage rather than gas plant on the Kodak Lands.
If not elected how will you continue to build up YSW? I never saw any of the candidates before this election campaign. They didn’t attend meetings. I’ve never seen Lekan at a meeting. I got the water turned on at 5 Belleview – Chiara was only there for the publicity.
Elevator Pitch: There’s a lot of development going on. I have a proven record as mayor of York of handling both wards and there’s no choice but to vote Nunziata.
Frank Di Giorgio
Opening pitch: I have been a councillor with the City of York and Toronto. I’m an immigrant. I have experienced poverty. I had to pay back student loans. I perform two roles well; advocacy and accountability. I have an unparalleled knowledge of due process and policies.
What makes each of you qualified to represent a larger ward? I have a constituency office in an industrial area to save money. I will surround myself with a team. Bureaucracy needs to be held accountable.
The most important issue? A healthy and safe community is the most important issue. We have to get back to teamwork with all in the community. I will reach out to identified community groups.
Accessibility: Council has adopted policies to increase access for the disabled. Accessibility cannot be done overnight. Who’s going to pay to change all the buildings in town? (Heckled.)
What are some creative solutions that you have found to youth violence problems: Volunteerism. I was a teacher and football coach and knew Rob Ford. Ford was successful in reaching a number of students in his own special way as I was.
How will you ensure development guidelines are followed and local residents not displaced? Proactive development-Leon Lions (?) will create 9000 jobs on Wilson Avenue if it goes ahead. Some developers say ‘my way or the highway’. One developer did that and he may go bankrupt.
What have you done to prevent flooding along the YSW corridor? I took the heat and anger when my community was flooded. I relied on city engineers and was let down. I’m a supporter of storm water management through ponds.
What steps would you take to improve bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian safety? Reasonableness test. I voted against the Yonge Street cycle lanes because imagine what would have happened if there had been cyclists on the street during the van attack there (cries of, ‘oh; shame’).
Will you commit to increasing TTC funding and will you commit to keeping transit public? I didn’t support privatization of 407. I don’t like privatization. TTC funding should be increased. I believe major transit should be funded through debt.
What big ideas do you have to address climate change and to address Transform TO? Council supported climate change action unanimously. Ten years ago the city was under financial pressure from the province and introduced the land transfer tax. We need a new tax measure to address climate change.
If not elected how will you continue to build up YSW? If I’m not elected I will continue to be available to use my expertise. Any developer knows that they have to go through me and any developer that doesn’t know that gets a real stern lesson.
Elevator Pitch: All candidates share good intentions. Need to understand the process and constraints. I am the only candidate with the ability to insist on adherence to due process.
Opening pitch: I’m known as honest Fred. ‘This place is going to the crap’. It’s the most crime-ridden gang-infested community. I was born in Ghana, my family immigrated to Italy, then Montréal now Toronto. I know and want to help the community. I work for the TTC and the service is much better downtown compared to here.
What makes each of you qualified to represent a larger ward? Digiorgio has an office next to a legal massage parlour. I will give my personal number and you can give me a call if you need help.
The most important issue? 12 Division is set to close. This place is going to turn into another Chicago. Crime is going up. 19 shootings this year alone. There are panhandlers everywhere. What will happen when there are weed shops on every corner?
Accessibility: Critical of Frank Di Giorgio’s answer. Politicians control transit routing and accessibility and they don’t have a clue ( Fred is a streetcar driver).
What are some creative solutions that you have found to youth violence problems: No jobs leads to crimes. We need to give people options. Some people would rather sell drugs. The community is run down. Schools are closing.
How will you ensure development guidelines are followed and local residents not displaced? We need to support small businesses and shop local; support the little guy. Our infrastructure is crumbling because they want to gentrify the place by driving out businesses. Follow the money; developers want something when they contribute to a councillor.
What have you done to prevent flooding along the YSW corridor?Leadership is lacking. When you need help there’s no one to call. It’s simply basic stuff not to have flooded basements. I will lead on this subject.
What steps would you take to improve bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian safety? I don’t need to say anything; you see it in action (referring to Frank Di Giorgio’s answer to this question)(laughter). There is a disparity between what gets done downtown and here. The incumbents don’t use transit. There should be half price transit fares for seniors in non-rush hour periods.
Will you commit to increasing TTC funding and will you commit to keeping transit public? Privatization would kill the TTC. This has already happened to maintenance workers. There’s not enough operators. A lot have to go home because of overtime issues. We need to find and fix waste. Politicians should not be running the transit system.
What big ideas do you have to address climate change and to address Transform TO? We don’t need more taxes or tolls. We need to get more cars off the roads and better transit. If you take transit you’re going to be late. Our subway is horrendous compared to New York or Chicago.
If not elected how will you continue to build up YSW? (aside) Developers have to go through him (Di Giorgio). Look who funds his campaign – developers. I will advocate for the community and transit and the community. I will continue to support small business. I have a YouTube channel, Fred Fosu Vlogs.
Elevator Pitch: There has been no choice for 30 years. Don’t listen to what anybody says. If you think everything’s great vote for the incumbents because they’re responsible.
Opening pitch: I moved to Canada with a widowed mother. My father died when I was 1. I grew up in Rexdale. I’ve been an executive at FYI and Mars discovery. We have had 30 years of failed leadership in YSW. I live with my wife and 3 children at Keele and Lawrence. Looking for a fresh start.
What makes each of you qualified to represent a larger ward? I have years of experience and I will hire competent staff and respond within 24 hours. Will set up local councils of residents in every neighbourhood.
The most important issue? I have been impacted by gun violence and before I was 20, lost 20 friends to gun crime. Crime is up. I will create a community safety council and provide mentors for those who need one and new job opportunities.
Accessibility: It broke my heart to see a man unable to get into the debate. AODA is provincially mandated and should be done. Need a politician who will work hard for the community.
What are some creative solutions that you have found to youth violence problems: Need to provide real mentorship programs. Need good summer jobs. I helped ensure local jobs were provided on Eglinton LRT. We need to connect people to role models.
How will you ensure development guidelines are followed and local residents not displaced? Community needs to be at the centre of decisions and its history should not be erased. I will have a committee. Infrastructure is a vital part. I will be proactive in finding the right type of development.
What have you done to prevent flooding along the YSW corridor? Many neighbours are regularly flooded. People are scared to go on vacation. Frances voted against flood management and flow management system. I want a local planning committee to ensure a proactive approach to development. We need leadership that understands.
What steps would you take to improve bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian safety? We need better bus service. I take the 52 bus daily – it’s packed and often late. Bike infrastructure needs to connect to places such as fitness centre, GO transit etc. People should be able to ride a bike to downtown. We need proactive thinking.
Will you commit to increasing TTC funding and will you commit to keeping transit public? We need to keep transit public. The incumbents voted to decrease service in our community. We need more money for transit and need to hire locally.
What big ideas do you have to address climate change and to address Transform TO? I would make sure all city owned buildings are green. We need more green space that would also soak up flood waters. We need more options to get cars off the roads.
If not elected how will you continue to build up YSW? In 2014 I came within 1300 votes of winning. In the past I have pressured Metrolinx to keep the gas plant out of community. I fought with landlords to make sure that rent is affordable. Brought the City into flooded neighbourhoods. I made sure that 10 percent of LRT jobs went to local community.
Elevator Pitch: We have an opportunity to end 30 years of neglect in our community. I have experience in business and as a leader. We don’t have to put up with good enough.
Opening pitch: I work with an organization called Young Lives Matter. I have spent 25 years trying to get action from the city to do something.
What makes each of you qualified to represent a larger ward? I deal with a lot of problems in the community. Every 6 months I will have a town hall meeting to get ideas.
The most important issue? Jobs need to be safe. We need to teach trades – this would make community safe. We should not cut police budgets. We need more monitored surveillance cameras.
Accessibility: There should be a wheelchair inside every building. I will cut out red tape and make it easy to put in needed facilities.
What are some creative solutions that you have found to youth violence problems: Crime in this community is easily solved. I teach kids where to go to find good and safe jobs. I would help get a criminal record removed from young people and get them a job.
How will you ensure development guidelines are followed and local residents not displaced? People need to approve projects. There should be no more homelessness and poverty. Developers should follow the rules set up by them.
What have you done to prevent flooding along the YSW corridor? I Would go to the city planner. I would make a better drainage system.
What steps would you take to improve bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian safety? We need better leadership. Taxpayers should be listened to if they want better transit. There are lots of potholes. We need more frequent buses on Weston Road.
Will you commit to increasing TTC funding and will you commit to keeping transit public? The TTC should not be privatized or cut. A better TTC is better for the community. I will make certain the TTC will never be touched. Ford is a bully. I will stand up to him.
What big ideas do you have to address climate change and to address Transform TO? More trees. Tax polluters.
If not elected how will you continue to build up YSW? I will continue to work for the people of Ward 5. I will continue fighting for you folks against the slum landlords.
Elevator Pitch: Same old broken promises with the two incumbents. I’m fed up with the same old excuses.
Last night’s debate at the Mount Dennis Legion was a chance for voters in York South-Weston’s Ward 5 to see most candidates for council interacting with the public and occasionally with each other. A packed house watched and listened intently as candidates outlined their platforms and responded to audience questions. There were two surprises. One was the eloquence and clarity of many contenders and the other was the incumbents’ astonishingly empty trophy cases. There are no towering (pun intended) achievements that either could point to as the result of three decades of work as servants of the community. For a part of the city plagued by poverty, poor transportation, minimal bike lanes, a lack of infrastructure and a perception of high crime, Councillors Nunziata and Di Giorgio have a lot to answer for. The two incumbents also failed to dispel the notion that developers have had free rein in our community.
Bizarre moment 1: Frank Di Giorgio stating that he voted against bike lanes on Yonge because there would have been even more casualties had there been cyclists on the street during the van attack.
Bizarre moment 2: Frank Di Giorgio reaching back to before 1985 when he was a teacher and coach, comparing his ability to connect to students with the way that Rob Ford did.
One-upmanship Award: Frances Nunziata being the only person to read an acknowledgment of the meeting being held on native land.
Understated comedy comment of the night from moderator Judith Hayes as Dave Bennett wheeled extra chairs to the back of the hall, “This is Dave Bennett, Chair of Weston Village Residents’ Association and chair provider”.
For true political junkies, here’s a link to the video of the debate courtesy of Peter Muscat and the Jane Dundas Residents’ Association.