John Tory’s race to lose, but Jen­nifer Keesmaat gain­ing in polls

The city’s top two can­di­dates (based on lat­est re­sults) will face off for your vote on Oct. 22

Village Post - - News - By Ron John­son

John Tory on the tran­sit haters

We have $9 bil­lion dol­lars in tran­sit com­mit­ments from the other two gov­ern­ments to­day that are on the books for just the first phase of the tran­sit plan I’m run­ning on for re-elec­tion: $9 bil­lion! We didn’t have one penny of that when I be­came mayor. Not one penny. And, I will tell you, I’m not the kind of per­son who runs around tak­ing credit for a lot of stuff in­clud­ing how well the city is do­ing. But, I’ll tell you, on this, I will take the credit for it be­cause it was the re­sult of my per­sonal diplo­macy with those other gov­ern­ments.… I just look at that and say, boy that looks like a good deal that the peo­ple of Toronto put up a bil­lion dol­lars and get six new tran­sit sta­tions plus the re­fur­bished sta­tions.

On keep­ing a lid on prop­erty taxes

In the four years that I was mayor, I com­mit­ted my­self to bring­ing for­ward bud­gets that had prop­erty and com­mer­cial tax in­creases at or below the rate of in­fla­tion. We did that, and we did it at the same time as we pro­duced, in each of those years, sig­nif­i­cant sur­pluses, which by the way, sur­pluses in the case of city pol­icy, go back into the cap­i­tal fund and they go into re­plen­ish­ing our re­serves. So we had prop­erty tax at or below the rate of in­fla­tion in each of those years, sur­pluses in each of those years and new in­vest­ments in each of those years.

On Raildeck Park North

I would say that, just as I be­lieve in the Raildeck Park as the best an­swer by far for those lands, we have not too far from Yonge and Eglin­ton an­other sim­i­lar piece of land that also hap­pens to be used for a very sim­i­lar pur­pose at the mo­ment, namely a train yard [at Dav­isville and Yonge]. And, I ini­ti­ated some dis­cus­sions a while ago about that be­cause it’s kind of an eye­sore. It kind of sep­a­rates one part of the city from an­other, and it rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity, if in con­text of Hud­son Yards or Raildeck Park, to do that down­town. Why wouldn’t it be pos­si­ble some­where else?

On the On­tario Place casino ru­mours

I’ll just say, first of all, I do not be­lieve great cities have down­town casi­nos. They just don’t.… When it comes to On­tario Place, there you have one of the prime pieces of wa­ter­front land that you have for some mod­i­fied pur­pose in all of Toronto.… So, my an­swer to these ru­mours that I hear is, not if I have any­thing to do with it.

On men­tal health and home­less­ness

I’ve not used the word “cri­sis’ in any con­text ex­cept as re­gards men­tal health and ad­dic­tion. If you re­ally want to ad­dress home­less­ness, I think we have to help ad­dress the refugee prob­lem more ef­fec­tively, which I be­lieve we are on the road to do­ing right now mostly be­tween the city and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. And on the men­tal health is­sue, I think we need to get the co-op­er­a­tion [from the Prov­ince of On­tario], be­cause I be­lieve, if those two things were ad­dressed [men­tal health and refugees], you’d sud­denly find the ques­tion be­comes a less press­ing one. We would still have more home­less­ness than you’d like to have, be­cause one is too many, but you wouldn’t have these ter­ri­ble surges. What we are do­ing this win­ter is we have pur­chased three of these [por­ta­ble] Sprung build­ings.… I think they are go­ing to be of a [good] qual­ity, in terms of the way in which the peo­ple can be looked af­ter that need the help. It’s an in­vest­ment in ex­tra ca­pac­ity for win­ter. I want to make it clear, at the out­set, that I com­pletely agree with you that we need more park space at Yonge and Eglin­ton and this goes back to the ear­lier com­ment about when you just keep ap­prov­ing build­ings with­out pulling the lens out and say­ing, “Hold on a minute. What’s the over­all di­rec­tion that we’re go­ing in here?” And that’s why, when I ar­rived as chief plan­ner, I cham­pi­oned and drove for­ward and al­lo­cated staff to get­ting Mid­town in Fo­cus [plan­ning study] in place be­cause Mid­town in Fo­cus is all about say­ing, “OK, this is a rapidly ur­ban­iz­ing area. How do we en­sure that we’re not killing the golden goose? How do we en­sure that we have the pub­lic space, the park space that’s re­quired to con­tinue to de­liver on a high qual­ity of life?” And I think many peo­ple would ar­gue, and I’m in that cat­e­gory, that we’re at that tip­ping point.

On af­ford­abil­ity and what the city is do­ing wrong right now

We’re sell­ing off our city-owned lands to de­vel­op­ers to build a lux­ury prod­uct. If af­ford­abil­ity is a key is­sue in the city, let’s ac­tu­ally stop do­ing that. And let’s build af­ford­able hous­ing on that land. So I think there’s a lot of dif­fer­ent ways into this prob­lem. There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent ways to ad­dress this, and we need to be em­brac­ing those va­ri­ety of ways that we can to ad­dress this. But the key prin­ci­ple is that we should not be in­creas­ing the af­ford­abil­ity bur­den. That's not the role of the city.

On sav­ing main street busi­ness nodes

There has been ad­vanced, through the prov­ince ap­prox­i­mately a year ago, a spe­cial tax cat­e­gory for cul­tural uses as a way of pro­tect­ing cul­tural uses.… We need the same thing for main street uses. We need to en­sure that we are putting clear and strong pol­icy in place that re­spects the small-scale en­trepreneurs, the small-scale neigh­bour­hood uses that so many of us cher­ish in our neigh­bour­hoods. It is ac­tu­ally one of the beau­ti­ful things of liv­ing in Toronto. And I think it’s at risk with­out proac­tive pol­icy.

On a new ap­proach to polic­ing

We have a chal­lenge in our city be­cause we have, for many years, been tak­ing a re­ally re­ac­tive ap­proach, and I think that does come from the mayor’s chair. It’s been a re­ac­tive ap­proach. There’s been a cut in polic­ing. We need to en­sure that we have a proac­tive ap­proach where we’re work­ing with com­mu­ni­ties, with grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tions, with neigh­bour­hoods in or­der to de­liver, re­ally, a com­mu­nity-based ap­proach to polic­ing.

On bad pol­i­tics and pri­or­i­tiz­ing Bloor Street bike lanes and Trans­form Yonge

They ab­so­lutely need to be pri­or­i­tized. [We need Bloor Street bike lanes.] And I'll say that the pol­i­tics around Trans­form Yonge were ex­ceed­ingly dis­ap­point­ing. It’s an­other ex­am­ple of back of the nap­kin plan­ning. There was a plan. That plan was costed. [Then] there was a plan made on the back of the nap­kin, which the mayor then sup­ported, that re­sulted in an ex­tra $20 mil­lion bill with no value for it. There was a no value propo­si­tion ad­vanced. And I think, ac­tu­ally, Toron­to­ni­ans are tired, re­ally tired of that. We want to see value. We want to see a real plan and the ex­e­cu­tion of a real plan in­stead of some­thing that’s about, you know, horse­trad­ing votes.

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