Toronto coun­cil dis­pute dis­tract­ing from key is­sues, say can­di­dates, vot­ers

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - NEWS - Shawn Jeffords

TORONTO — un­til re­cently, traf­fic con­ges­tion and lack of af­ford­able hous­ing were ex­pected to dom­i­nate toronto’s fall elec­tion, but now some can­di­dates and vot­ers are wor­ried the fierce de­bate over the coun­cil’s size is over­shad­ow­ing the is­sues they con­sider vi­tal for the res­i­dents of Canada’s largest city.

the dis­pute be­tween toronto and the prov­ince, trig­gered by pre­mier doug ford’ s sur­prise move in late july to re­duce toronto coun­cil to 25 seats from 47, has been dom­i­nat­ing the cam­paign — and head­lines — for weeks.

it is also the main is­sue Coun. mike lay­ton says his con­stituents ask about as he cam­paign for re-elec­tion.

“Some­how our new pre­mier has hi­jacked the City of toronto elec­tion, not only by chang­ing the rules half­way through but all any­one wants to talk about when you’re at the door is his be­hav­iour ,” he said .“they don’ t ac­tu­ally want to talk about the is­sues so you’ve got to start there and then pivot over.”

Frankly nm cf add en ,31, said he’ s dis­ap­pointed the de­bate has shifted away from the is­sues that af­fect peo­ple’ s lives, such as pub­lic tran­sit.

“if i’ m wait­ing at bus stop in my neigh­bour­hood at 5 p.m ., there’ s a good chance i’ ll be wait­ing for at least three buses that are jam-packed full be­fore i can even get my scooter on one of them,” said mcfad­den, who uses a mo­bil­ity de­vice. “that’s just one of many, many is­sues that are be­ing left for the back burner.”

Johns ewell, a for­mer toronto mayor who has crit­i­cized the pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment’ s un­prece­dented use of char­ter’ s not­with­stand­ing clause to move slash the size of coun­cil in the mid­dle of an elec­tion, said the move could have long-last­ing con­se­quences.

“What Ford has done is sucked up all the oxy­gen,” he said. “it’s made sure that the elec­tion is mean­ing­less and that the coun­cil that will be pro­duced will have no cred­i­bil­ity at all, that’s the prob­lem.”

Sewell, who served as mayor in the late 1970s but re­mains in­volved in mu­nic­i­pal is­sues, said the con­flict be­tween the two lev­els of govern­ment over the cut un­der­scores an­other trou­bling point — the lack of co-op­er­a­tion on key files, many of the same ones that are not be­ing dis­cussed dur­ing the cam­paign.

“you need that co-op­er­a­tion to ad­dress the larger ques­tions,” he said.

the Ford govern­ment rein­tro­duced its coun­cil-cut­ting leg­is­la­tion this week af­ter a judge found the orig­i­nal law was un­con­sti­tu­tional. the tories are also ap­peal­ing the judge’s de­ci­sion, and a hear­ing is sched­uled for tues­day.

amid the un­cer­tainty, vot­ers are ask­ing a lot of ques­tions about the elec­toral map, the rid­ing makeup and who the can­di­dates are, said lay­ton.

“When you have 110,000 doors to knock on you have to make great use of your time,” he said. “When you have to spend the first five min­utes talk­ing about the chang­ing rules, and if you’re run­ning in that neigh­bour­hood or not ... that’s a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time.”

en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter rod phillips, who once served as for­mer toronto mayor mel last­man’s chief of staff, said those con­ver­sa­tions can still take place be­fore the Oct. 22 vote, not­ing that pro­vin­cial elec­tion cam­paigns are 30 days long.

“i have a lot of con­fi­dence that be­tween the many coun­cil can­di­dates and the may­oral can­di­dates that there will be abroad and ful­some dis­cus­sion of the is­sues.”

Ford, who is a for­mer city coun­cil­lor, has said toronto coun­cil is dys­func­tional and slash­ing it nearly in half will stream­line de­ci­sion-mak­ing and save tax­pay­ers $25 mil­lion. the city has ar­gued many of the chal­lenges toronto is fac­ing are due to lack of fund­ing from the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

mean­while, the of­fi­cial in charge of run­ning toronto’s elec­tion has said it’s be­com­ing “vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble” to en­sure a fair vote next month.

Chris Young/the CANA­DIAN PRESS

On­tario Pre­mier Doug Ford ar­rives at the On­tario Leg­is­la­ture in Toronto on Thurs­day. On­tario’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment will hold a rare Satur­day sit­ting of the leg­is­la­ture to speed up pas­sage of a con­tro­ver­sial bill to slash the size of Toronto city coun­cil.

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