Kristyn Wong-Tam (left) and Ken Chan
The Rosedale park playground is in terrible shape, yet the city won't pony up for a new one. There's no room in the capital budget for the needed half-mil until at least 2020.
So instead, the North Rosedale Ratepayers Association (NRRA) is raising its own funds. That's possible around here. Rosedale residents probably wish they had their own ward, or at least that's what you might have gathered at the all-candidates debate September 16 at Rosedale United Church on Roxborough.
Customer service resonates well among homeowners on these labyrinthine streets: give them smooth roads, cut grass and timely garbage pickup.
So this may not have been the best place to get a sense of the challenges facing Ward 27, one of the city's most socially and economically diverse, with homeless shelters at one end, multi-million-dollar mansions at the other and everything in between.
Whoever represents the ward vacated by Kyle Rae, who's held it since 1991, will by default have to be a council heavyweight. After all, 27 is the downtowniest part of downtown. It envelops Yonge Street, City Hall, the Eaton Centre and two university campuses. It spans Church and Wellesley, Yorkville and Moss Park, and that most contentious patch of asphalt, the Jarvis bike lanes. No hiding in parochial ward politics here.
It's a wide-open race, in which 15 candidates are vying to replace Rae. But you can tell who the front-runner is at the debate when an opponent attacks her before she's uttered a single word.
Among all the hopefuls, Kristyn Wong-Tam, co-founder of the Church Wellesley Village BIA, exhibits the most polish. She's endorsed by Adam Vaughan and poverty activist Cathy Crowe and identifies development in Ward 27 as one of the key campaign issues. It's not so much that it's happening, she says, but how residents are consulted along the way. She's also a strong advocate for the arts, Transit City and cycling.
The gallery owner and former real estate agent's outlook offers a refreshing positivity: "The city is not falling apart," she insists. "I'm hoping not to get caught up in this downward conversation about how we're going to tear this city apart."
Ken Chan is another strong contender. A police officer in the GTA for four years before moving to Queen's Park as an aide to then minister of health George Smitherman, in 2008 he began a stint as an adviser to London, England's mayor, Boris Johnson.
His resumé is no doubt credible (he brings it up a lot), and he's collected endorsements from Rae and Smitherman. Chan gets points for acknowledging that tax dollars serve a higher purpose than just a simple exchange of goods and services.
"I do not hear any of the mayoral candidates talk about social inclusion and what it is to tackle issues of poverty and homelessness and affordable housing," he says.
Lawyer Joel Dick, who's done advocacy work in the area, impresses with his wariness of potential public entanglements with the private sector, particularly when it comes to transit. "It's not all about cost recovery," Dick says. "It's about citizenship and making our cities work. You need to service communities that most need it, and that's only ever going to be done in a public model."
Candidate Chris Tindal has campaign experience with the Green party, and his platform includes keeping transit public, building complete streets and raising Toronto's green development standard.
Sentimental underdog and one-time mayoral candidate Enza Anderson advocates term limits and an overhaul of City Hall red tape. She's absolutely for real, despite the fact that groups keep forgetting to invite her to debates. "It's frustrating,'' says Anderson, who won't say outright that the cold shoulder has anything to do with the fact she's transgendered. "Maybe people are afraid of me," she says.
This incumbent-less race is a rare opportunity: whoever wins will likely still be around when the Rosedale redo finally happens.