Think­ing out­side the bal­lot box

Tran­sit fare struc­ture, rent-to-own home own­er­ship and other ideas from the elec­tion worth ex­plor­ing

North Toronto Post - - News - by Ron John­son

Dur­ing the long and drawn out mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion over the last few months, there were plenty of pro­pos­als and ideas be­ing bandied about by can­di­dates vy­ing for votes. Most sounded aw­fully fa­mil­iar, but there were oth­ers that demon­strated cre­ativ­ity, in­sight and pas­sion.

Here are a few pro­gres­sive con­cepts that should be em­braced by the pow­ers that be on Toronto City Coun­cil when back in ses­sion come De­cem­ber.

Tran­sit fare struc­ture worth re­view­ing

Saron Ge­bre­sel­lassi was one may­oral can­di­date who re­ally gar­nered at­ten­tion for her cre­ative think­ing and pas­sion. Al­though she had many ideas, one seemed to get the most in­ter­est, in part be­cause it seems so un­re­al­is­tic. And that was free tran­sit for all.

She noted that cur­rent tran­sit fares are pro­hib­i­tive for those on a fixed in­come or work­ing min­i­mum wage jobs.

Pay­ing $6 a day for a daily com­mute is a lot to ask. So, there is an is­sue of eq­ui­table ac­cess to tran­sit.

Ex­plor­ing the fare model also opens up ques­tions about how to best bat­tle is­sues such as cli­mate change and con­ges­tion.

For a fam­ily of four to travel to an event by tran­sit in the city, it would cost upwards of $20 — the same cost as park­ing a car.

This is how the city con­tin­ues to dis­in­cen­tivize trav­el­ling by tran­sit.

Toronto does al­ready of­fer free tran­sit fares for chil­dren un­der the age of 12 and re­duced fares for se­niors. The TTC op­er­ates Wheel Trans at a loss also. Are we re­ally that far away? This is one con­ver­sa­tion that should hap­pen. And it is al­ready hap­pen­ing in Ed­mon­ton and Cal­gary where they have in­sti­tuted low-fare tran­sit passes for those in need, and de­mand has gone through the roof.

Be­gin­ning elec­toral re­form with ranked bal­lots

Over the past few months, many can­di­dates in the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion ended up tak­ing the Ranked Bal­lot Ini­tia­tive of Toronto (RaBIT) pledge, in­clud­ing Mayor John Tory, Jen­nifer Keesmaat and 13 coun­cil­lors who have since been re-elected. The goal of hav­ing ranked bal­lots in place for the 2022 elec­tion seems to be within reach.

“We ended up with 98 can­di­dates sign­ing it in to­tal, and at least one for each ward and the four main may­oral can­di­dates,” said Miriam An­der­son, who sits on the RaBIT board. “We are very ex­cited by that re­sult.”

One of the is­sues that came up dur­ing this elec­tion was vote split­ting, which would not oc­cur with ranked bal­lots, An­der­son ex­plained.

In ad­di­tion, res­i­dents could vote with their hearts, in­stead of us­ing some cocka­mamie vot­ing strat­egy, be­cause they get a first, sec­ond and third choice.

In the end, the win­ners would have a clear ma­jor­ity of more than 50 per cent of the vote.

This sys­tem is a good, proven way to get more di­ver­sity onto coun­cil, as was just demon­strated in Lon­don, Ont., where it had its in­au­gu­ral run.

Now, for the first time in the city’s his­tory, that city coun­cil in­cludes a black woman.

There were also two suc­cess­ful ref­er­en­dums on ranked bal­lot vot­ing held dur­ing the elec­tion in Cam­bridge and Kingston, so the time seems to have come to em­brace this idea.

Tack­ling crime at the com­mu­nity level

Crime in at-risk neigh­bour­hoods is a ma­jor prob­lem in this city. And it was some­thing that was talked about a lot dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign.

One of the voices that res­onated most loudly with Toron­to­ni­ans was that of Tif­fany Ford.

She came into the elec­tion fac­ing off against three can­di­dates with pro­vin­cial party back­ing or back­grounds: in­cum­bent Gior­gio Mam­moliti, Deanna Sgro and even­tual win­ner An­thony Per­ruzza, also an in­cum­bent.

When given the op­por­tu­nity, Ford spoke clearly about the need to pro­vide recre­ational and af­ter­school pro­grams for youth in marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties such as her own at Jane Street and Finch Av­enue West where very lit­tle is on of­fer.

And she ended up be­ing ranked as the can­di­date with the most so­cial me­dia men­tions in the city.

Ford has the type of lived ex­pe­ri­ence that many oth­ers on coun­cil do not have, which is why she would have been such an as­set.

This is a prob­lem that needs to be tack­led from the in­side.

“The city needs to have dis­cus­sions with peo­ple do­ing the work al­ready and who have been suc­cess­ful work­ing with young peo­ple,” she said.

Ford, a former school board trustee, is still fig­ur­ing out her next steps, which will likely in­clude fin­ish­ing her MBA. But she will con­tinue to work with at-risk youth in her neigh­bour­hood.

“We need young peo­ple to get more in­volved and feel more en­gaged,” she said.

“I’m go­ing to be hold­ing coun­cil­lor Per­ruzza ac­count­able, as well as the rest of city hall. And now I can raise my voice a lit­tle bit more.”

Make rent-to-own home own­er­ship a re­al­ity

An­other is­sue that came up time and time again dur­ing this past elec­tion was af­ford­able hous­ing. Tory and Keesmaat duked it out with com­pet­ing plans to max­i­mize city lands and get af­ford­able hous­ing projects mov­ing much quicker than in years past.

But Keesmaat went one step fur­ther and pre­sented the idea of a rent-to-own home own­er­ship pro­gram to make own­ing a home ac­ces­si­ble to a wider swath of the pop­u­la­tion.

To pay for the plan, Keesmaat pro­posed a new tax on lux­ury homes, and that may have turned some peo­ple off the plan, but cer­tainly it is not a new idea to have gov­ern­ments of all lev­els help with home own­er­ship.

Agen­cies such as Toronto’s own Op­tions for Homes have been do­ing just that quite suc­cess­fully for years. With prices through the roof, the city needs to get cre­ative and ex­plore op­tions in­clud­ing a rent-to-own pro­gram.

“It’s not good enough to say there’s noth­ing we can do. That is not true,” Keesmaat said.

These can­di­dates may have lost this elec­tion, but the ideas and pas­sion dis­played will hope­fully not be for­got­ten when the new city coun­cil gets down to busi­ness this term.

Clock­wise from left: Saron Ge­bre­sel­lassi, Tif­fany Ford and Jen­nifer Keesmaat

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.