Do un­der­dogs and first time can­di­dates stand a chance in this fall’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion

School board trustee Tif­fany Ford is just one con­tender who could de­feat a long­stand­ing in­cum­bent in the com­ing civic elec­tion

North Toronto Post - - News - by Ron Johnson

It was long be­fore the cock­roach com­ments made by lo­cal coun­cil­lor Gior­gio Mam­molitti, and be­fore the bul­let­proof-vested MPPs showed up in her neigh­bour­hood for a photo op gone bad, that Tif­fany Ford made the de­ci­sion to run to be­come the next city coun­cil­lor in her ward be­cause no­body in power seemed to care.

To win, the 36-year-old would have to de­feat Mam­molitti, on the job for more than a quar­ter cen­tury.

If the 25-ward struc­ture forced upon the city by Premier Doug Ford via Bill 5 re­mains in place af­ter a court chal­lenge sched­uled for Aug. 31, she will also have to de­feat An­thony Peruzza, who has held a va­ri­ety of elected po­si­tions in the area over the last 33 years.

Is the sys­tem rigged against Tif­fany Ford and oth­ers try­ing to make a dif­fer­ence?

Whether it is 47 or 25 wards, it is a se­ri­ous up­hill jour­ney to de­feat a sit­ting coun­cil­lor in a mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion, es­pe­cially when some have been lol­ly­gag­ging in their cosy fief­doms for decades.

Still, meet­ing Tif­fany Ford, cur­rently the TDSB trustee for the area, at York­gate Mall at the cor­ner of Jane Street and Finch Av­enue West, she brimmed with con­fi­dence.

“My whole cam­paign is about to­geth­er­ness. I can’t do it by my­self, and it’s not re­ally about me. It’s not about Gior­gio Mam­molitti. It’s about tak­ing this seat back for my com­mu­nity be­cause it’s been ne­glected for so long,” she said. “We haven’t been grow­ing with the rest of the city, and it’s re­ally un­for­tu­nate. I can’t be here my whole life­time and see no progress. There is no way.”

The day af­ter the On­tario Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives shoved Bill 5 through the leg­is­la­ture, Ford re­ceived a hun­dred do­na­tions to her cam­paign. When she woke up the next morn­ing, 10 more were wait­ing for her.

“That’s the most I’ve ever re­ceived in one day,” she said. “It was amaz­ing.”

Progress Toronto is a new or­ga­ni­za­tion lob­by­ing for a pro­gres­sive gov­ern­ment with an in­ter­est in get­ting new can­di­dates elected come Oct. 22.

“It is very hard for a new voice and an un­der-rep­re­sented voice to get on city coun­cil,” says Michal Hay, Progress Toronto’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor.

“We know that coun­cil does not cur­rently re­flect the city of Toronto. There are un­der­rep­re­sented com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ple who have a dif­fer­ent lived ex­pe­ri­ence that don’t have the same power as those that sit on the coun­cil.

So, other peo­ple are mak­ing de­ci­sions on their be­half who might not un­der­stand what a com­muinty needs.”

Cur­rently, there are no term lim­its and no ranked bal­lots to open up op­por­tu­ni­ties for can­di­dates with new ideas.

Ac­cord­ing to Hay, with 47 wards, there would be 13 seats avail­able to new can­di­dates, which rep­re­sents a huge op­por­tu­nity that may be lost.

And that’s too bad be­cause it means we get the same old ideas ap­plied to se­ri­ous is­sues that are only get­ting worse: af­ford­able hous­ing, gun vi­o­lence, tran­sit and home­less­ness, to name just a few.

Ford has long known that, for changes to come to her neigh­bour­hood, the com­mu­nity would need to bring them about.

She grew up at­tend­ing neigh­bour­hood schools, and when she was elected, she man­aged to get much more money in­vested in lo­cal im­prove­ments than her longserv­ing pre­de­ces­sor could have imag­ined. And she did it by en­gag­ing stu­dents and hav­ing them ad­vo­cate for change along­side her. That is the phi­los­o­phy she wants to im­ple­ment at city hall.

She knows what this neigh­bour­hood — which suf­fers un­der a neg­a­tive stigma that is over­whelm­ing at times — needs to turn it around. She’s lived through gun vi­o­lence. She’s been carded at her own door. She said she can even rec­og­nize what kind of gun it is when she hears gun­shots.

“We need peo­ple who care enough to make changes. We need politi­cians who are not cor­rupt. Most im­por­tantly, we need peo­ple who are hav­ing these ex­pe­ri­ences get­ting elected,” she said.

“I just care about my com­mu­nity, and I know I’m the best can­di­date.”

East of Jane and Finch, in the neigh­bour­hoods of north Toronto, former Toronto Po­lice park­ing en­force­ment of­fi­cer Kyle Ashley is chal­leng­ing in­cum­bent coun­cil­lors Jaye Robin­son and (po­ten­tially) Jon Burn­side, in Ward 15 un­der the cur­rent 25-seat ward map.

One of the more se­ri­ous is­sues fac­ing the city is the safety of vul­ner­a­ble road users such as pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists. That is Ashley’s area of ex­per­tise, and he thinks he can help.

Robin­son is a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the cur­rent coun­cil, and chair of the city’s pub­lic works com­mit­tee, which hap­pens to over­see the Vi­sion Zero ini­tia­tive for road safety launched in 2017.

“The rea­son I chose to chal­lenge Jaye Robin­son, first of all, was be­cause no­body was chal­leng­ing her,” he said.

“So I threw my hat in the ring to run against her. And that is the best op­por­tu­nity to el­e­vate the level of dis­cus­sion around this (road vi­o­lence) is­sue, which is also, within the ward, a ma­jor con­cern.”

Ashley is in­ter­ested in look­ing at gover­nance re­form but said Bill 5 is the wrong ap­proach be­cause the op­por­tu­nity for a new, more pro­gres­sive Toronto will be lost.

“It si­lences and di­lutes the pro­gres­sive voices that were re­ally go­ing to bring about a new Toronto,” he said.

“It’s a con­sol­i­da­tion of power and a brazen at­tempt to steal an elec­tion al­ready un­der­way.”

“I just care about my com­mu­nity, and I know I’m the best can­di­date.”

L-R: Tif­fany Ford was born and raised in the Jane and Finch neigh­bour­hood and is com­mit­ted to help­ing the area over­come stigma and suc­ceed; Kyle Ashley is tak­ing his pas­sion for road safety to Ward 15 chal­leng­ing the chair of pub­lic works

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