Nunziata acclaimed as Speaker.

Council Frances Nunziata thanks colleagues for her unanimous acclamation as Speaker at today’s city council meeting.

At today’s brief session of Toronto City Council, Frances Nunziata was the only nominee as Speaker and she was elected unanimously by her colleagues in a recorded vote. Similarly, Councillor Shelley Carroll was also the sole nominee and unanimous choice for Deputy Speaker.

Some random observations from today’s opening session:

Council opened with an acknowledgement that Treaty 13 granted settlement rights over the land that covers Toronto and lands to the north. The money paid for the quarter of a million acres or so? Ten shillings (nowadays 50p or 84 cents). Even taking inflation into account it’s less than $40.

Only four new councillors were elected in Toronto’s 25 wards.

Councillor Jim Karygiannis is a very tall man.

Mayor John Tory seemed to be nursing a bad back as he walked into the ceremony with some difficulty. In his opening day speech he mentioned:

  • We don’t need to be divisive to do our job – possibly a dig at the Premier.
  • Toronto is Ontario’s financial engine – a message for both the Premier and Prime Minister
  • We need to keep taxes low and spend money carefully  – more austerity coming
  • Land transfer tax revenues are falling – more austerity coming
  • Toronto needs to be a more liveable city (whatever that means).

Everyone was on their best behaviour today with lots of hugs, handshakes and nice words. We’ll see how long that lasts with the new, smaller and more intimate Council.

Toronto City Council kick-off tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be like the start of a new school year in Toronto’s council chambers. All 25 councillors and Mayor Tory will be present, freshly scrubbed and on their best behaviour to begin a new four-year term. This will mark the beginning of the new Ford-imposed slimline Council – according to Doug; fewer councillors means better government.

Work-wise, it will be a fairly light day that doesn’t officially get under way until 2:00 pm. The first order of business will be to formally introduce the Mayor and Councillors to the public and then they will recite the Declaration of Office.

Mayor Tory will then address Council and deliver a pep talk designed to motivate council. Tomorrow’s other important task will also set the tone of council meetings for the next four years. The mayor and councillors will elect a Speaker and Deputy who between them will adjudicate over Council’s affairs. According to the City website, the Speaker:

presides over meetings of Toronto City Council in place of the Mayor, although the Mayor may take the chair at any time he desires.

Unlike the Speakers of the provincial and federal legislatures, the City Council Speaker has no additional duties beyond presiding over meetings.

While most Ontario municipal councils are chaired by a Mayor, Warden or Reeve, the City of Toronto adopted a Speaker in 2006 on the recommendation of an expert governance panel. Having a Speaker chair meetings allows the Mayor to participate more freely in debate without worrying about the additional duties of running the meeting.

The selection of a speaker will be an open vote among the 26 council members. Ward 5 (formerly Ward 11) Councillor Francis Nunziata has held this post since 2010 and it will be interesting to see if she:

(a) still wants the job, or

(b) will be re-elected, or

(c) if a new candidate(s) will emerge.

In the past, the job has been a major chore thanks to the (then) larger council and the antics of a few whom Speaker Nunziata found particularly hard to rein in (the Ford brothers and Giorgio Mammoliti come to mind).

Tomorrow’s fun begins at 2:00 pm. To watch the action, tune in here.

It’s back to Ward 11 – for now.

From the Toronto Star.

Premier Doug Ford’s surprise re-alignment of city wards from 47 to 25 seats has been kicked into touch by a Superior Court judge this morning after a challenge by a group of concerned citizens. The judge cited the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and called  his legislation unconstitutional. He made it clear that Ford’s actions were unjustifiable. No doubt Mr. Ford will be railing at ‘elite’ judges this morning but he now finds himself in a serious quagmire with his latest legal setback. If he doesn’t appeal, there’s just enough time for the election to go ahead with 47 seats instead of Ford’s 25 that would have matched provincial ridings. These 47 seats were the result of much consultation and expense to better reflect increased populations in the downtown core. The 47 seat count is likely to produce several more left-wing councillors as downtowners tend to vote in that direction.

If Ford appeals, either the October 22 poll date will have to be delayed – a decision will take weeks – or we’ll keep the original date and hold a 25-seat election. Either way, an appeal will be a disruptive and constitutionally risky event.

What’s a premier to do? My guess is that he will forego the appeal but ask his lawyers to look for ways to sideline Council’s future decisions. One idea already floated is to expropriate important City assets such as our subway system.

Locally, Ward 11 Councillor Frances Nunziata will not be facing Ward 12’s Frank Di Giorgio and Ms. Nunziata’s main challenger, Chiara Padovani will now be able to focus her finances and resources on our section of York South-Weston.  On the other side of the water, in Greater Weston™, it’s back to being in Ward 2, most likely represented by (barring an apocalyctic event)  Premier Ford’s nephew Mike.

Possible flooding solution rejected in 2017.

A man walks under Weston’s Lawrence Avenue bridge the day after the floods of July 2013 (file).

One of the problems of living in a big city is that much of the surface is paved over. When it rains, water drains quickly and can raise river and stream levels as well as create flooding in low lying areas. The solution is well known. Plant trees, build green roofs and where possible create temporary holding tanks for sudden water flows. To pay for this, staff last year proposed charging homeowners for the amount of non-absorbing roof and parking surface on their property. These are the people creating the problem so it’s fair that they should help pay for the solution. When Toronto’s Executive Committee considered the matter, following the Mayor’s direction, they recommended voting against the charges.

Councillor Nunziata voted with the mayor when the matter came to a full meeting of council but today has issued a helpful email itemizing what to do if your basement floods. That will be of small comfort to the many people whose lives have been disrupted yet again.

Running a big city costs money. Without a mayor and council with the courage to do the right thing, ordinary people are left to suffer the consequences. Charging people for the runoff they create would encourage a reduction in stormwater runoff and help pay for larger-scale flood prevention measures.

Instead of following staff recommendations, Mayor Tory and Councillors Mammoliti, Nunziata and others seemed place their trust in the short memory of voters, believing their re-election chances are more important than flooded basements. Kindred spirit Giorgio Mammoliti framed the charge as a ‘roof tax’ that would not play well in the suburbs.

Are voters really that stupid?

Nunziata challenged to refuse corporate and developer donations

It’s well known that a small number of people finance the election campaigns of most councillors in this city, especially incumbents. In Ward 12, much of this money comes from outside the ward and is no doubt given in expectation of future considerations. Brave are candidates who refuse such money as it’s harder to collect small amounts from a larger number of people.

Strictly speaking, only individuals can donate to a councillor’s election campaign and the cap on such donations is $750. In effect though, wealthy business owners can exert an undue influence as very few people can afford to donate so generously – even with the rebates that the city gives to donors. Toronto keeps track of complete donation lists on this website.

Here is a list of $400+ and/or well known donors to Councillor Nunziata‘s 2014 campaign. Few of these people lived in the ward the time and in fact more than a third of her donors didn’t even live in Toronto. Ward 11 residents are marked in blue.

  • Constantine Alexiou, (Ward 11), $600
  • Palvinder Aujla, (Mississauga) $750
  • Pritpal Aujla, (Mississauga) $750
  • Alex  Bela, (Richmond Hill) and Jack Matrosov (North York) $2000 – Checker Taxi
  • Maurizio Bicci, (Ward 17) $400
  • Gloria Bielak, (Forest Hill) $750 – St Helens Meat Packers
  • Adam Brown, (Yonge/Sheppard) $500
  • Roslyn Brown, (Downtown Toronto) $750
  • Fran Caplan, (York Mills / Yonge) $400
  • Frank Caruana, (Mississauga) $500
  • Paul Caruana, (Junction) $400
  • Chau Yan-Thoai, (Etobicoke) $400
  • Carlo Corsetti, (Richmond Hill) $400
  • Ettore Corsetti, (Newmarket) $400
  • Patrick Corsetti (East Guillimbury) $400
  • Manuel DaCosta, (King City) $750
  • Debra DeMonte (High Park) $400
  • Rueben Devlin, (North York) $200 – Former President & CEO Humber River Hospital
  • Robert Deluce, (Summerhill) $300 – President of Porter Airlines – Donated $3930 to 10 candidates (Holyday, Colle, Minnan Wong, Kelly Crisanti), 8 of whom won.
  • Sean Didierserre, (Forest Hill) $600
  • Thomas Erlich, (St Clair East / Mount Pleasant Road) $600
  • Bob Foley, (Ward 11) $400
  • Karla Ford, (Etobicoke) $750 – Doug Ford’s Wife
  • Masum Hossein (Mississauga) $200 – Weston BIA Chair
  • Gabriella Galli, (Ward 11) $400
  • Mitchell Goldhar, (North York) $350 – SmartCentres Real Estate Income Trust. Donated a total of $3300 to 9 candidates, all of whom won.
  • Khalid Irshad, (Milton) $400
  • Cameron Johnstone, (Georgetown) $600
  • John Johnstone, (Ancaster) $400
  • Jose Lourenco, (Davenport / Dufferin) $750
  • Terry Mantzukis, (Ward 11) Realtor $400
  • Alex Matrosov (Richmond Hill) Wheelchair Taxi business $750
  • Bela Matrosov (Richmond Hill) $750
  • Pina Morelli, (Woodbridge) $750
  • Holly Murdoch (Mississauga) $400
  • Tim Neeb (Mississauga) $400
  • Aleksander Nikolovski, (Eglinton / Spadina) $400
  • Frances Nunziata, $20
  • Frances Nunziata, $1613.42 – Signs and office supplies from previous campaign
  • Cormac O’Muiri, (Mississauga) $500
  • David Paiva, (Dufferin / Dupont) Luso Canadian Masonry Ltd. $750
  • Matthew Pantalone, (Etobicoke) $750 – Developer
  • Pat Pelosi, (Woodbridge) $750
  • George Politis, (Bolton) $400
  • Frank Raso, (Etobicoke) $400
  • John Ruddy, (Gloucester, ON) $750 Ottawa developer
  • Dero Sabatini, (Etobicoke) $400 Mississauga – TD Bank VP
  • Marvin Sadowski, (North York) $500 – Former Developer?
  • Stacey Scher, (Aurora) $600  – All Canadian Self Storage
  • Bruno Schickedanz, (Kettleby, ON) $750 – Developer and Woodbine horse owner
  • Conrad Schickedanz, (North York) $250 – Developer
  • Tony Scianitti, (Maple) $750 – Developer
  • George Seretis, (Thornhill) $400 – Easy Plastic Containers Vaughan
  • Darryl Simsovic, (Oakville) $400 CEO – Trillium College (Private career college)
  • Marcel Stirpe, (Woodbridge) $200 Toronto Chrysler
  • Paul Sutherland, (Grafton ON), $200, Former Toronto Councillor, now lobbyist. Involved in TPA Emery Village land purchase.
  • Tim Tallon, (Etobicoke) $400
  • Alan Tonks, (North York) $200 – Former YSW MP
  • Chris Tonks, (North York) $300 – TDSB Trustee
  • Alan Tregebov, (Deer Park) $200 – Architect
  • Steven Upton, (East Toronto) $600 – Tridel
  • Lou Vavaroustos,  (Woodbridge) $750 – Old Mill Cadillac
  • Susan Vavaroutsos, (Woodbridge) $750
  • John Ward, (Etobicoke) $500 – Ward Funeral Home
  • Jack Winberg, (North York) – $200 – Weston Hub Developer
  • Hua Yang, (Downtown Toronto) – $500
  • Don Yuill, (Ward 11) $500

Oddly, none of Ms Nunziata’s 135 donors donated less than $200.

The generous rebates offered to donors – even those living outside the city.

Chiara Padovani is  running against Councillor Nunziata (and if Doug Ford has his way, Ward 12 Councillor Frank DiGiorgio). She has stated that she will not accept donations from any business interests including developers.

One can ask if this is a strategic mistake that will hamstring Ms Padovani’s campaign or will voters choose to reward a candidate who does things differently?

Why I’m voting.

Here we are, it’s another provincial election and despite the PCs and NDP being virtually tied in the opinion polls, a majority Ford government seems poised to take office. It’s clear that Kathleen Wynne has to go and she acknowledged as much in her shocking announcement on Saturday. Governments in power more than two terms are filled with corrupt elements along with opportunistic self-promoters. The names Steven Del Duca and Glen Murray come to mind regarding the latter category but there are too many Liberal villains, both in public and behind the scenes. Premier Wynne had a chance to distance herself from the worst aspects of the McGuinty years but instead became his accomplice. As my wife delicately puts it, it’s time to change the pigs at the trough.

In stark contrast, one name that is associated with honesty, integrity and dedication is York South-Weston MPP and cabinet minister, Laura Albanese. She has served York South-Weston well and while it seems unlikely that she will win another term, she can be proud of her accomplishments and hard work for the people of her riding. If, as anticipated, Faisal Hassan wins for the Ontario NDP, he will have a steep learning curve if he is to match Ms. Albanese’s current effectiveness. As for the debate-shy Mark DeMontis, better luck next time.

Laura Albanese at the recent candidates debate at York Civic Centre (file).

Ms. Wynne’s concession announcement was shocking because it’s rare for any form of truth to be uttered during an election campaign. The reasoning is unclear – obviously Liberal deep thinkers ‘persuaded’ Wynne to fall on her sword but diehard Liberal voters may feel encouraged to abandon the party and vote NDP. If I was a Liberal candidate, I would feel that the legs had been cut from under me. Watch for unseemly jockeying for the position of leader in the final days of the campaign. Incredibly, it’s possible that the Liberals will be shut out of the legislature entirely or at best, lose official party status (8 seats required).

In Etobicoke North, Doug Ford is having a tough race against the NDP’s Mahamud Amin which is understandable as those same electors have already seen what he is like as a politician. They endured his ineffectiveness and absenteeism as ward councillor from 2010 to 2014. Non-resident nephew Mike who took over the council seat from his uncle has a better attendance record but manages to be even less effective and more right-wing than the man who claims to have been co-mayor of Toronto and saved the city over a billion dollars.  If Mahamud Amin can upset Ford, it will be a genuine shocker.

In Etobicoke Centre, incumbent Liberal Yvan Baker believes he is best positioned to defeat the PC’s Kinga Surma.  Ms. Surma was hand picked by local resident and family friend Doug Ford to replace the 2014 nominee, Pina Martino. Talk of Ms. Martino’s intimidation and a rigged nomination with fake party memberships surfaced recently but has gained little traction. The Wynne concession announcement may split the vote and allow Ms. Surma to win.

Doug Ford at the opening of Kinga Surma’s campaign office. (Toronto Star)

Erin Kelly, President and CEO of Advanced Symbolics has used artificial intelligence to predict the results of Brexit and Trump’s election victory. Barring a major disruptive event, Ms Kelly predicts a Ford majority government. Whether or not Premier Wynne’s concession speech is that event remains to be seen.

People say that electing Ford as Premier will be like a return to the days of Mike Harris. Well, not really. Harris wasn’t a one-man band, had an actual manifesto and laid it out during the election campaign. Ford has put together some proposed actions but no coherent plan. Look at what he calls a plan – it’s a list of repetitive promises.  Evidently the Ford Team believes that Ford Nation hasn’t the sophistication to understand rational and logical arguments. According to the ‘Plan For The People’,  Ford will fire the board and CEO of Hydro One several times.

Ford’s proposal to freeze the minimum wage at $14 will mean more poverty in Toronto where housing is expensive. It will be felt most strongly in our neck of the woods.

So, what’s a voter to do? On one hand, change is needed. On the other, after being out of office for so long, chaos is a distinct possibility under Andrea Horwath or Doug Ford’s premiership.

My only recommendation: vote your conscience. It really does make a difference, even though your party or candidate may not win. Many people will feel demoralized and be disinclined to vote, so individual votes will carry more weight. As an added bonus, parties that pick up at least 2% of the popular vote will receive a $2.71 per vote subsidy. In the last Ontario General Election, a mere 46.1% of York South-Weston voters bothered to cast their ballot. That missing 53.9% could have decided the result easily, but didn’t.

Ominously, according to the pundits, Progressive Conservatives are more likely to vote than members of other parties.

If that’s not a motivation to vote, nothing is.

June 4, Update:

The soap opera that is the Fords has produced another plot twist in the form of a lawsuit from the late Rob’s wife, Renata Ford, alleging that Doug isn’t the careful business manager that he claims to be. She also alleges that she has been short changed millions by Doug and brother Randy over Rob’s will and his shares in the family enterprise, Deco Labels. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

What about this idea, Council?

Giorgio Mammoliti speaking at City Council made absolute sense today when he questioned the uniform application of development charges across the entire city. Development charges are what the city bills developers for putting up new housing or building non residential floor space. These are the current rates for the city. Speaking shortly before the lunch recess today, Mammoliti seemed to indicate that Councillor Nunziata agrees with him.

He will be putting forward a motion at council this afternoon  that would encourage developers to build in the far flung suburbs by reducing development charges in areas like his own Ward 7, Weston, Mount Dennis and other parts of Toronto where some encouragement for development is needed.

Let’s hope he succeeds.

Watch this afternoon’s City Council session live here.