Cheol Joon Baek
Can three Toronto activists convince Rob Ford to change his tune on a downtown casino?
Maureen Lynett, her sister Sheila Lynett, and Peggy Calvert - the founders of the No Toronto Casino group - are scheduled to meet with the mayor on Thursday at 2 pm at City Hall.
The trio plans to make their anti-casino case to Ford, who has been pushing hard to bring a large-scale gambling and entertainment complex to the downtown core.
The mayor's office did not immediately return a request for confirmation, but Maureen Lynett understands the group will be meeting with Ford himself, not one of his staffers.
Lynnett, an artist by profession, admits that persuading our famously stubborn mayor to reconsider his position could be a tall order.
"By reputation, he doesn't seem to change his mind much," Lynett says.
But she hopes that even if Ford isn't persuaded by her personal appeal, he will take note of the snowballing support for her group's anti-casino crusade. On Tuesday three major real estate firms wrote a letter to the city manager warning him not to go ahead with the casino project, and last week three former Toronto mayors also voiced their opposition.
They joined the hundreds of citizens who have signed "no casino" petitions or turned out at public consultations to oppose the plan.
"We can go in saying we now have a lot of support," Lynett says. "Now Torontonians are really getting involved."
Lynett says that the group received 400 requests for anti-casino lawn signs within 24 hours of offering them to willing residents on Monday. And over a single two-day period this week, the group's website took in $2,000 in donations, most of it from individuals pledging five or ten dollars. That brings the total funds raised to between $5,000 and $6,000, according to Lynett.
She says that people have even walked up to her and handed her cash to fight the casino proposal, which is backed by the deep pockets at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and gaming giants like MGM, Las Vegas Sands, and Caesars.
While a sit-down with Ford could be an intriguing confrontation between figures on opposite sides of the debate, Lynett knows she doesn't have to win him over in order to defeat the casino plan. Councillors will have the final say at their meeting in April, and those who plan to vote for the proposal appear to be firmly in the minority, at least for now.
"We're not taking anything for granted before the vote," Lynett says.
"[But] we are a lot more optimistic than we were before."