Who to vote for? I choose Lekan.

If Doug Ford hadn’t screwed everything up, this would be an easy choice. But he did, and now it isn’t.

For the first time I can remember, we are spoiled for choice in York South-Weston. We have four strong contenders, and three of them are worthy choices.

The recent amalgamation of the ward brought Frank Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata into close combat. Chiara Padovani and Lekan Olawoye are attacking their left flanks.

Me, I’m going to vote for Lekan Olawoye. I won’t pretend I have good reasons for doing so, though.

I came to this conclusion slowly—although I was able to eliminate most of the candidates quickly. I started by zapping the outside-chance contenders; I’m sure most of them are fine people, but their relative absence and small chances in this high-stakes race make them non-starters for me.

Frank Di Giorgio was next to go. He is too conservative and was too close to Rob Ford. He votes against Toronto’s interests. He attends council meetings infrequently—and opposes bike lanes—and that alone is a deal-breaker for me.

That leaves three: Nunziata, Olawoye, and Padovani.

I like Frances Nunziata, as a rule. She is an excellent retail politician. If you call her, she calls you back. She fixes problems, and she’s given her riding endless hours of underpaid service. Finally, she is an excellent tactician.

But I can’t shake the feeling that Weston has fallen on harder times under her leadership. Certainly, most of these problems are not of her making—she’s subject to decisions made above her pay grade, just like the rest of us. I think, however, that with different leadership, things might have been better. That’s because she is not an excellent strategist.

Take payday loan shops, just as an index of what I’m talking about. We have too many, and they have dubious social value. I think the job they do would be better done by our oligopoly of banks, which enjoy one side of a social contract but are allowed to ignore the other: they get a government guarantee but shirk the social responsibility. Banks are allowed to close, leaving low-income and low-mobility clients (often one and the same) in the hands of high-interest lenders.

I know Frances can’t do much about closing banks. That’s for our provincial and federal masters to tackle. But she could have made Weston, bit by bit, an environment that banks don’t want to leave, with improved streetscapes, better local businesses, and improved transit. She’s been working on these, lately, but too lately for me.

Of course, it’s not about payday loans; it’s about all the things like them—the small, strategic failures that have let Weston down. What happened the long-promised college campus? The Humber River Trail link? St John the Evangelist? Buses on Jane? All are long-term projects; none have happened. Strategy.

That leaves Padovani and Olawoye.

Lekan and Chiara are too close ideologically to fit a card between. I went so far as to create a spreadsheet, and if I recall correctly, Padovani doesn’t have a parks plan but she does want the city to tackle climate change, while Olawoye has a parks plan but says nothing about climate change. Or vice versa.

It really doesn’t matter, because I can’t imagine Lekan (or Chiara) being against the climate or parks.

So, with two equally good candidates, I would normally back the one most likely to win. It seemed, for a moment, that Chiara was in that position. Then it emerged that Lekan had been left off the poll. And Lekan had a handy lead last time… and the polls have been showing wild swings anyway, which is understandable given how small the sample is. Finally, neither Olawoye nor Padovani is likely to defeat Nunziata. So who knows?

That leaves, as far as I can tell, character. Argh. What, really, do I know about character? Nothing.

My interactions with Lekan and Chiara have been vanishingly brief, and both left me with the impression that they were excellent, principled, hard-working and ambitious people. We are lucky to have them volunteering for such a lousy job.

So I’m left peering at the sediments, trying to divine some worthy grounds on which to make a decision.

Here’s what it comes down to: I like Lekan a little more. He seems more grounded, more open, and less partisan. He seems a  little less certain, and I like that. He’s been in the community, working hard, for longer, and he’s had tough positions at MaRS downtown. I like that too.

With so little to distinguish excellent candidates, that’s all I have to work with. We can blame Doug Ford for that—it was not supposed to be like this.

Author: Adam Norman

I am raising my two children in Weston.

8 thoughts on “Who to vote for? I choose Lekan.”

  1. This was quite thoughtful and well balanced, Thank you. Though I disagree with your framing of the bank closures. This is not only a YSW issue, but a province wide (perhaps nation wide) problem more closely correlated to an overall transition to teller-less and online banking services. More simply put, banks are choosing to close physical branches (even in the financial cores of cities) as a cost/revenue prerogative more so than as a reflection of the implicated communities. All that said, I agree with you that it constitutes a breach in the public interest nonetheless.

  2. Good analysis. We definitely need new blood in York South-Weston. I’ve lived here off and on
    beginning in 1962 when I moved here with family from Nova Scotia. In those days, when Weston was a stand alone town, it was a successful, up-scale community with good, steady high paying jobs in the manufacturing sector. Over the last five plus decades, with all the manufacturing moving off shore and the onset of technology that chipped away at the remaining service jobs, we found ourselves falling farther and farther behind to the point where we now have the second lowest household incomes of any riding in Ontario and the lowest in Toronto. Our 30+ year municipal representatives can’t be blamed for all this change and decline but it does call for new approaches from a younger, highly educated and more engaged generation who can push our council for better outcomes than tired, old solutions like putting more police on the streets to tackle crime. The uneven share of wealth is the root cause of crime, poverty and slow decline. Addressing this properly requires a long term plan over the next decade and the resources to drive new and more innovative solutions.

    1. Best response I’ve ever read on this site. With regards to the blog, you read it for yourself. DiGiorgio = conservative. Enough said he gets my vote because he’s the only chance we have at getting rid of Nunziata. The Ward he has represented for many years is better off than our former under Nunziata. Back in the conservative track… ridings like Rosedale, Bloor west and Roncesvalles.. have they not been run by consevatives for many years? Nice homes and high rents can only bring to the neighbourhood well-educated, affluent folks. Not riff raff looking for cheap rent because they can’t afford anything higher. Was there a link to poverty and crime? Hmm

  3. Rosedale may have (more often than not) been blue leaning.
    But, Bloor West & Roncie – I think more in the red & orange tones, no?

  4. The one thing I agree with, Adam is your gut feeling on Lekan – that he’s grounded, non-partisan and “..that he is a little less certain”.

    Frankly, no matter the personality in life, I think that we should always be wary of anyone who wants to tell you that they know the way, and have all the answers.

    Anyway, matter matter what happens, if he’s a worthy public servant, maybe he’ll not give up the fight to represent the community that he lives in.

    It is a tough 24/7, 4 year thankless job.

  5. Adam, I read this with interest and see how you came to your conclusions. I didn’t share your choice for my own reasons. And because it’s a democracy, anyone can run. Why anyone would run though without mounting any kind of campaign, to me, is an affront to democracy – if you put your name on a ballot, at least show up to debates!

    I will, however, take umbrage with 3 points you mention: the College Campus promised, St. John the Evangelist and Pay-Day Loan stores. The idea of a college coming to Weston is not dead. It’s just not a firm commitment that can be celebrated. In order for this to happen, all the pieces would need to be put in place including where it would be situated and the financial viability of having a satellite location of the interested college. If it where to go where discussed over the past 8+ years and in agreement with the developer, Castlepoint Numa, who owns the key property being discussed, then it would be announced. Nothing happens overnight.

    With regards to the new St. John the Evangelist school: it’s almost finished – why is this on your list of negatives? How is this a failure or a lack of effort on behalf of the Councillor or the community? Your comment demeans the hard work done by many in the community including people who ran on the ticket. That is a disappointing comment considering the progress that has been made on this!

    As for the pay-day loan stores, it’s a complicated problem to solve. Until the Councillor started working on a by-law to restrict how many could come into a community, it was a free for all – anywhere in the city. Shouldn’t this kind of business be regulated by the province or even the federal govt and not municipal? Shouldn’t property owners be encouraged not to be renting to them and therefore limiting the number who can be on any given street or in a community? But they want a tenant who can pay the rent and they do! The BIA has discussed this for many years and has been told it cannot demand of a property owner to reject the tenant! And that’s the question – not why it’s a failure of the Councillor, no matter who it is. And why don’t we question why banks close in communities that need the storefront access for clients – the elderly, disabled, etc? To punish those who are not tech savvy or have the capacity to drive or bus to the new locations? Why do banks make it hard for some to actually have a bank account, therefore pushing people who are at-risk to have to use the services of the pay-day loan store? Don’t blame those who have little or no control over the issue. Blame those who create the problem! Pay-day loans exist because real banks don’t give a shit and they fill that gap. And then take advantage.

    Facts matter. Opinions are just that – opinions. It doesn’t make them facts.

    1. St.john should of been done long ago…its lack of political will and failure at all levels to have it completed. Other schools built within a year, this one takes 6 years.
      The college campus isn’t coming to Weston please stop with your BS. Mr.Ford already chopped funding for other new campuses but for some reason you think he will give into you and locate a campus in Weston.
      Pay-day loans are a business, a bad business. Again this is where political leaders could pass legislation. Banks are not bad, I make lots of money owning bank stocks.

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