What is my 2023 Platform?
In October 2022, I put forward the below Power to the People Platform, which was intended to intentionally invite residents into decisions on everything from housing to the city’s budget.
I wasn’t elected, yet I and so many Torontonian voters were instrumental in delivering item number 10 on my list shortly after the election. That’s despite the fact that the other candidates – including the one who won – opposed me on it during the campaign. Since my ideas are more important to me than who implements them, I count it as a huge victory.
The other nine elements on this 2022 platform still resonate with me. But I want to dream bigger this time around. Check back later as I update it with my ideas.
Everything from addiction to encampments to labour shortages to the loss of green space has roots in the lack of housing in this city. Without safe and affordable places to shelter, whether in tiny homes or towers, our residents cannot overcome challenges and fully contribute to our city. At the same time, the importance of resident input in shaping our neighbourhoods must not be overlooked. There are already many expert recommendations, staff reports, and great ideas about what to do to increase housing in this city. The only thing missing is political will and the collaborative approach to secure resident support. That’s what I offer - the will to act, and the desire to work together.
Toronto roads are an incredibly under appreciated resource, paid for by people yet primarily designed for cars. We’ve made efforts to improve our streets through a patchwork approach that’s sometimes combative and takes years to see improvements. By widening our vision and adding a healthy dose of political will, we can ensure the vital corridors that our streets offer have rapid transit lanes and dedicated spacious, safe, accessible pathways for everyone on foot or two wheels - bicycle, scooter or wheelchair.
We can move beyond our fixation on streets as mere travel corridors and recognize their critical role as gathering places lined with homes and apartments, businesses, arts venues and community centres. Through community led design, we can maximize that amazing potential. Some streets could be quiet places where cars are guests and children can play ball hockey with their friends. Others could be partially or completely taken over by music concerts or laughter filled cafes. Lanes of roadways could be converted to incorporate non transportation elements like public arts, environmentally friendly landscaping that reduces flooding and pollution, or even more housing.
To reduce the amount of space required for smooth, easy travel through our city, we'll ensure that transit and active transportation options are so attractive that the only people who need to drive are those who want to drive. And we'll do this through low or no cost solutions whenever possible. We can accomplish so much with paint, bollards and other innovative solutions. As an added bonus, good street design guarantees emergency vehicles can travel through our cities, since bus corridors and active transportation lanes can used by such vehicles in a way that gridlocked roads or bicycle lanes cannot.
We all want fresh air to breathe, beautiful clean water to drink and swim in, trees to shelter and shade us, and bird songs to brighten our day. But too often we seem to compromise the land, air and water we need to sustain us in the name of our economy. It’s time to reintegrate our environment into city life.
We can work with companies producing goods and services to support business models that include full responsibility for everything associated with what they create.
We can work with residents so that it’s easier and less costly to find new homes for everything from batteries to textiles than it is to throw them in the garbage. We can work together to eliminate toxic substances that compromise our health. We can up our organics game so that precious food never goes to waste. And we can make sure government always leads the way when it comes to action.
When it comes to our relationship with nature, we will invite our indigenous sisters and brothers into this transformation so we can learn the ways to live in partnership with each other and the land, air and water that sustains us.
When people choose transit instead of a private car our whole city benefits. Transit frees up road space for others, reduces air pollution and saves energy. It increases community as people of all income levels sit side by side. Yet people who ride transit are penalized by requiring them to pay before getting on. Let’s remove that barrier and drop mandatory fares, immediately for seniors, and then for all residents. I want our TTC staff to be able to focus on high quality service delivery rather than enforcement and fare administration. And I look forward to working together on a new funding model to make sure the TTC has the resources it needs.
A city our size takes money to run. But it takes the support from residents to raise and spend money. It’s time to simplify our budget. It’s time to make it transparent. And it’s time to involve everyone who wants a say in the decisions around spending. Whether it’s transit, roads, police, housing, or social services, residents should have an understanding of what things cost, and an opportunity to say whether they are willing to pay for them. I trust our residents to make decisions that are for the common good, as long as they see a clear relationship between the taxes they pay and the benefits those taxes provide. Could a city lottery be the answer to paying for downtown road repairs? Would residents prefer a replacement of property taxes with higher user fees for waste, water, and congestion? Could transit be paid for by voluntary rather than mandatory fares? When we listen to the creative ideas of everyone in this city, we may find opportunities to generate revenue, and spend it wisely are much greater than we ever knew. Participatory budgeting and political accountability will both address the budget constraints Toronto is facing and be fair to residents who want to be sure their money is well spent.
Expecting the police to solve all of society’s problems creates an immense burden that no police force, no matter how large or powerful, can shoulder. And when we have a “crack down on crime” approach, too often it’s residents who are cracked down on, while crime continues unabated. Rather than expecting police to be an army to control our neighbourhoods, we should all work in cooperation as allies in crime prevention. City government can support measures to improve mental health, treat addiction, increase economic and recreational opportunities, strengthen communities and eliminate poverty. When those root causes are addressed by us all, the police can focus on providing their specific expertise when its needed, and through building healthy relationships with residents, ensure their efforts to help are welcomed.
It is time to make it easy to do things that are an asset to our city. Creating more housing in existing homes, laneways and backyards, having sidewalk cafes, picnics in the park, street parties, live music, public art - these are all assets to our city that enhance quality of life. We can generate revenue without discouraging the activities that make our city stronger.
Did you know Toronto has more than 200,000 bylaws? Many are never enforced, or can be overruled by those with the money and time to go through lengthy expensive bureaucratic proceedings. Let's set high, clear standards for protecting that which residents agree is crucial for our city, with meaningful consequences when they are violated. With the staff time and resources we save by discarding unenforceable or frequently overruled bylaws, we can focus on enforcing the ones that matter.
A government that doesn’t listen to residents misses out on huge opportunities to make life better for all. I believe all politicians and public facing staff need to make time to answer calls, meet with residents, and respond to resident emails and letters. We can establish targets and timelines and track government response to ensure full accountability for everything from a missed garbage pickup to a major public housing repair. We can improve our democracy with more participation in city decisions and correct imbalances in our voting system. While we advocate to the provincial and federal government for more autonomy with our own municipal democracy, we can also improve our democracy from within with measures like non binding referendum, surveys and other measures far more inclusive than the ones to date.
Since the unprecedented arrival of COVID-19 into our lives, society has been struggling with balancing the common good with individual rights. It is time for us to realize that we can’t have the common good when we trample over the rights of hundreds of thousands of people. City government must respect the need of each of us to make our own health decisions and life choices. I want children to always be welcome in our playgrounds, and allowed to hug their grandparents. And I want to welcome all those who want to work for our city, instead of barring them at the door with unfair and outdated vaccination mandates. I believe in a government that focusses on the most critical ways to support public health. I want to make sure our city government provides ample opportunities for all residents to get exercise, healthy food, fresh air, clean water, and access to nature and fellow community members. For those in vulnerable communities needing extra support, I want to prioritize staff time and resources to effectively assist them with the help they want. As a city, we are only as healthy as the weakest members of our community. Let's work to support, not exclude each other.