WARD 30: Candidates discuss transit, port lands and taxes in first public debate


Only three of the six candidates attended Toronto Taxpayers Coalition debate

Re-imagining the port lands, improving transit flow, and of course, respecting taxpayers were all discussed during the Ward 30 all-candidates meeting held Wednesday night by the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition — but only three of six candidates were there to debate them.

Ward 30 debate Ward 30 candidates Francis Russell, left, Dan Trayes and Liz West debate at Jimmie Simpson Recreation Centre on Wednesday, Oct. 8. (Photo/NATALIE CHU)

Among those missing included three-time incumbent Paula Fletcher, whose absence at the first public debate did not go unnoticed by candidates Liz West, Dan Trayes, and Francis Russell.
“I’m here because I was invited to come. I was invited by a community and regardless of who you are and your political affiliations I’ll take the meeting and I’ll work for you,” West said, who narrowly lost to Fletcher in the last election.

Trayes questioned her bias against the coalition.

Despite a small audience showing, the candidates addressed a number of issues, including how to deal with small businesses in the Toronto-Danforth area.

While longtime resident Francis Russell did not believe it was a municipal issue, both Trayes and West agreed there was mismanagement in the city and too much red tape for small businesses to cross.

“Small-business owners are spending too much time waiting in line at city hall and that’s not productive,” West said. She also criticized the city’s move this summer to tear up Queen Street East for nearly two months, effectively halting business along the strip.

When it came to public and private partnerships, especially with the hotly contested port lands along the lakeshore, the candidates were divided on their vision for the area.

“Board it off and don’t let anyone go there because you will die,” Russell said of the contaminated lands.

“To move everything … you know how much that would cost?” he continued.

Trayes and West, however, saw the opportunity for development once the lands were cleaned.

“I personally feel the need for public housing in the area,” Trayes said. West saw the lands as an “amazing opportunity” to build a sports complex, or model it after British Columbia’s Dockside Green, a sustainable living site.

Each candidate also had their own take on transit, the hot-topic issue of this year’s election.

“We’re using band-aids when what we really need is surgery,” Russell said, offering not much more of a solution than for more people to work at home and drive less. “The TTC has been a problem since we started,” he added.

West agreed the problems were many and that the city was playing catch-up in terms of building transit.

“We should not cancel what’s been approved and funded,” she said, adding that mayoral candidate John Tory’s SmartTrack plan was especially enticing, using existing infrastructure and building within a timeline of seven years.

“I want to get city council moving and I want to get the city moving again,” West said. She later told The Mirror that one of her first priorities would be to add a bike lane on the Danforth during no parking times.

“Transit is a mammoth issue but this is one thing I think we can tackle right away,” she said.

Easing taxes, specifically the municipal land transfer tax, was raised by a member of the audience.

“It’s got to go because it’s freezing the housing market,” Russell said to applause. West and Trayes, however, advocated for the revenue tool’s necessity.

“Everyone deserves a little relief, but it was implemented for a need,” Trayes said, adding that he wasn’t a homeowner. “I just don’t think we can afford to throw it away.”

West agreed it would be near impossible to eliminate the tax at this point, but offered a solution to share the land transfer tax between the buyer and seller.

By the end of the debate, all candidates agreed they were there to bring change.

“I felt the need to come up here to stick up for people and I have the direct hands-on experience with housing, transit, Toronto Police Service and commuting in this city,” said Trayes.

West, who bills herself as a non-partisan candidate said this time around she has met more people in the ward and is committed to creating long-term transit plans.

“I want us to finally get it right,” she said.

The election will take place on Monday, Oct. 27. Advance polls begin on Tuesday, Oct. 14.