2014 City Council Election: Ward 10 – York Centre

The Incumbent:

James Pasternak

The Race

This was a tight race in 2010, with the top 3 vote-catchers all within a few hundred votes of each other. Candidate Igor Toutchinski is back to challenge incumbent Councillor James Pasternak. There is wide support from all candidates to build subways, keep property taxes low especially for seniors, and support public-private partnerships. With few differences, should the ward change its course on Election Day?

Candidates Who Did Not Participate:  Randy Bucao, David Epstein, Michael Mitchell

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Masucci, Liberato Yes
    Pasternak, James Yes
    Toutchinski, Igor Yes


  • Candidate Response
    Masucci, Liberato Reduce city councillor administrative budgets. Eliminate expenses unrelated to city services that must be provided. If services are provincial or federal, ask those governments to foot the cost
    Pasternak, James Unload non-performing real estate assets to pay down debt. Reduce department duplication. Penalize companies under contract with City if projects are not on budget and in time. Underspend expense and staff budgets.
    Toutchinski, Igor Councillor office budgets must be reduced. Remove inefficiencies in City Council.


  • Candidate Response
    Masucci, Liberato Yes
    Pasternak, James No
    Toutchinski, Igor Will consider with consultation from community


  • Candidate Response
    Masucci, Liberato Yes. In addition, parking revenue collection and enforcement, and security services on city properties and city agencies.
    Pasternak, James Yes
    Toutchinski, Igor Will consider


  • Candidate Response
    Masucci, Liberato Yes to reducing on higher priced homes and eliminating for lower priced homes.
    Pasternak, James No, but look at a staged lowering of the tax rate
    Toutchinski, Igor Yes to elimination


  • Candidate Response
    Masucci, Liberato Work with private sector to get assistance in hiring youth for clean-up and maintenance on short-term contracts. City should meet with employment agencies to help find work placement opportunities for residents.
    Pasternak, James Lower commercial property taxes. Cut red tape. Aggressively attract major investors. Build subways to create thousands of jobs.
    Toutchinski, Igor End tax rebate for vacant commercial properties so that rent prices can be lowered for new businesses. Lowering commercial property tax rates.


  • Candidate Response
    Masucci, Liberato Create City of Toronto bond to help pay for transit. Change the transit planning process by consulting with taxpayers and residents in the community who will be impacted by local transit projects. No more St. Clair streetcar debacles.
    Pasternak, James Subway expansion must continue each year. Moved successful motion to build subway relief line between Downsview station and Yonge-Sheppard station.
    Toutchinski, Igor Bonds and debentures on the world market and condo development charges can be used for new revenue tools. We must expand the subway network especially between Downsview station and Yonge-Sheppard station.


  • Candidate Response
    Masucci, Liberato Re-negotiate agreements that do not improve services. Streamline services. Reduce staffing as people retire
    Pasternak, James Employment package must be strong enough to attract best and brightest without raising taxes beyond the rate of inflation
    Toutchinski, Igor Relationship with labour leaders must be conciliatory. Savings in other areas will benefit everyone so standard of living can improve collectively.


  • Candidate Response
    Masucci, Liberato Yes, through sponsorship of recreational programs and services that need to be provided but have a high wage component (parking enforcement and court services).
    Pasternak, James Yes, in recreational facilities and station building along transit lines. Dedicated toll revenues on DVP and Gardiner Expressway can be implemented through a P3 and used to build subways.
    Toutchinski, Igor Will consider where it makes sense to save taxpayers money.


  • Candidate Response
    Masucci, Liberato Traffic congestion especially along Sheppard Ave. High tax rates for small home owners based on increased value – hard for seniors to pay property taxes.
    Pasternak, James Number one priority is connecting Downsview station and Yonge-Sheppard station with an east-west subway to ease congestion and give students easier access to York University.
    Toutchinski, Igor Number one priority is infrastructure including drainage system and poor road conditions.

 

The full responses

  • 1. Do you support a property tax cap ensuring future hikes are no greater than the rate of inflation?

    YES, I support a property tax cap

    2. Where, specifically, do you advocate finding savings in the current city budget?

    - Reduce the city councilor administrative budgets. Example, travel outside the city of Toronto in particular outside the province and the country. Review and reduce, if possible eliminate, expenditures unrelated to the city services that need to be provided. If the services needed are provincial and or federal then they should be paid by those levels of government.

    3. Do you support reducing the size of Toronto City Council?

    Yes the wards should be identical to the federal Members of Parliament. Reduce the cost of day to day administration. Reduce the confusion about who to speak to when services are required at the municipal, provincial, and federal level of government.

    4. Will you support contracting out garbage collection east of Yonge Street?

    Yes. Also parking revenue collection and enforcement; Security Services – city of Toronto properties. Security Services – city of Toronto associated agencies. Others areas to be reviewed.

    5. What are your thoughts on the Municipal Land Transfer Tax – will you support reducing it or eliminating it?

    Yes I would recommend reducing it on the on the higher priced homes. Eliminating the tax on the lower priced homes help more residents purchase their first home.

    6. Toronto’s unemployment rate is much higher than the provincial rate. What are your ideas to create job growth in Toronto?

    My ideas to create job growth in Toronto include hiring students and other residents to clean up and help maintain the city on short term contracts. Work with the private sector to see if we could get their assistance with the across the city of Toronto programme. I would recommend that the city meet with the Employment agencies in Toronto to see how they could help the city find work placement opportunities as part of the initiative.

    7. It seems City Council has been debating public transit forever with little results to show. How would you fund new transit projects to ease congestion for everyone? Do you feel we need to change the current transit planning process?

    Create City of Toronto Bond similar to the other cities Ontario and or USA states. The bond would be specifically for building improved transit in Toronto. Toronto residents and investors would invest in the bonds and receive reasonable interest etc. The city of Toronto would be able to build the subways and could continue to provide modern buses when required. We need to have the taxpayers and the residents who live in the community that going to be impacted before, during, and after the proposed changes.

    Examples of ideas that create havoc in the city of Toronto based on studies and are forced on city residents. The street cars tracks that were installed in the St Clair and Dufferin area destroyed the neighbourhood. Many stores closed and never reopened. Millions of dollars spent to build the new street car tracks. The design separates the tracks from cars resulted in reduced lanes for cars. Cars have to do u turns at traffic lights in order to get to their destinations on the opposite side of the street.

    8. Labour negotiations will be a big part of the next council term. What advice do you have for the city’s negotiating team to get the best deal for taxpayers?

    Review and try to renegotiate arrangements that do not improve the services we need to provide to taxpayers. We need to streamline the services we provide to taxpayers and the business community. Provide more services with the current staffing and reduce staffing as they retire. he flexibility to change how we provide services has to be improved on. If we don’t improve how things are done we cannot maintain the current staffing across the city departments. It is in the unions /and administrative staff interest to improve how we meet the needs of all residents of the city.

    9. Do you see opportunities for public-private partnerships (P3s) involving the City of Toronto? Where, specifically?

    Yes. Sponsorships of programs by private and public sectors. Recreation – many programmes could be co sponsored by the Private or non profit groups supported or in working with the city. Financial support vs the city covering all the costs and the having the staffing dollars required. Overall it would be less expensive if the we work in a partnership arrangement. Promotion of the City to get visitors and new residents. Services that need to be provided but have a high wage component, parking enforcement, court services (security) Etc.

    10. What is the top issue of concern for residents in your ward? What will you do as Councillor to address the issue?

    Traffic congestion due to the number of buildings that are being built in particular Sheppard Ave. The number of houses that are being torn down to build larger homes. Higher tax rates for the smaller home owners based on the increased value in the area – many smaller homes owned by seniors who have a limited income it will become more difficult to pay the property taxes as the values go up. I would recommend that homes owned by senior citizens not be taxed at the same rate. The city should provide a rebate or credit to keep their annual tax amount reasonable.

  • 1. Do you support a property tax cap ensuring future hikes are no greater than the rate of inflation?

    I would support such a measure.  As a member of the budget committee and as a fiscal conservative I worked to keep property taxes low.  During this term, we were able to keep property tax rate increases below the rate of inflation.   I believe that seniors, young families and others on fixed incomes should be able to take the extra savings and determine their own spending priorities.

    It is also important  that  high inflation rates should not necessarily allow property taxes to  go up the same amount.  We may need a more secure formula to protect taxpayers in such cases.

    I also supported the elimination of the Vehicle Registration Tax as well as the elimination dozens of fees that are normally charged in our recreation centres.  The expansion of the Priority Centres program is designed as tax relief for working families who want to leverage our indoor recreation programs. We also reduced or eliminated fees for fields and swimming pools and  exmpted charities from new solid waste taxes.

    My colleagues and I on the Budget Committee took about 2% of the Land Transfer Tax variance and handed it back to tax payers in the form of a reduced property tax increase.

    2. Where, specifically, do you advocate finding savings in the current city budget?

    During this term, I supported new collective bargaining agreements that reduced future liabilities for the City of Toronto but gave our dedicated front line workers a very respectable contract.  We were the only Council in the country that won these concessions.

    The City of Toronto is also hanging onto hundreds of non-performing real estate assets.  We need to put pressure on our real estate division to unload these holdings and pay down our debt.

    Savings can also be realized by reducing departmental duplication, making sure that companies that bid on contracts stay on budget and on time. Companies under contract to the city that go over budget should face severe penalties and the never ending downloading from the province must also end.

    Every Councillor and city employee must do their part in saving money.  In my four years at City Hall I underspent both my office expense budget and my staffing budget every year.  If everyone across the city can do this, we would have tens of millions of dollars in savings.

    3. Do you support reducing the size of Toronto City Council?

    For a city this size, having 44 Councillors is not out of line.  New York City, for example, has 51 members. Chicago, with a population about the same size of Toronto, has 50.   In fact, if one were to reduce the size of council there would be no savings at all.  The reduced council would need to double up their staff. Moreover, without a full complement of dedicated elected officials, customer service would be compromised.  A reduced City Council normally leads to a higher burden of complaints and puts the city at increased risk of litigation.

    One way to make Council meetings more effective would be to have more delegated items dealt with by the 4 community councils.  This centrifugal system could streamline processes and make our government machinery flow more effectively.

    4. Will you support contracting out garbage collection east of Yonge Street?

    I believe that our most recent action in contracting out garbage has been a success and I believe we should look at it again.  Naturally, we should consult with all stakeholders before going forward.

    5. What are your thoughts on the Municipal Land Transfer Tax – will you support reducing it or eliminating it?

    The Land Transfer Tax brings in about $350 million per year.  This revenue allows us to keep property tax increases below the rate of inflation and the lowest overall taxes in the Greater Toronto Area.  That being said, it is time to amend the current  exemptions of this tax to ensure that it reflects the increased average value of a home.  In addition, we should be looking at a staged lowering of the prevailing tax rate.

    That being said, our motion at budget committee moved $6.5 million of the Land Transfer Tax variance back into the hands of tax payers, which lowered the base property tax increase to 1.73%.  Another .5% was added to pay for transit.

    6. Toronto’s unemployment rate is much higher than the provincial rate. What are your ideas to create job growth in Toronto?

    When it comes to employment, we must rely on the private sector to generate new and secure jobs.  This can be done by creating a positive building climate, which includes a lower commercial property tax rate, cutting red tape, and aggressively attracting major investors.

    At the same time the city has a role to play.  I worked with my colleagues to increase our funding to the arts industry so that it reaches $25 per capita.  The arts  is a multi-billion industry and grows exponentially when government makes a contribution.  At the same time, Toronto must continue investing in subways.  Subways are perhaps the most effective infrastructure investment, creating thousands of jobs and building a 100-year transit legacy.

    7. It seems City Council has been debating public transit forever with little results to show. How would you fund new transit projects to ease congestion for everyone? Do you feel we need to change the current transit planning process?

    There is little doubt that Toronto has been asleep at the transit wheel for 25 years.  During this time, only 6 new subway stations were opened.  This is unacceptable.  That being said, working with my colleagues, we now have more transit investment in the ground or shovel ready in Toronto’s history.  That amounts to  a little under $20 billion.  But it cannot stop there.   We must do everything possible to ensure that subway construction and digging continue on an annual basis.  My motion at City Council made building the North York Relief Line between Downsview Station and Yonge and Sheppard a Metrolinx Phase II funded project.

    We certainly need partners at Queens Park and in Ottawa.  Canada remains one of the only western industrialized countries without a national urban transit strategy.  At the same time, we should be dedicating more of the Land Transfer Tax and development fees to building transit.

    8. Labour negotiations will be a big part of the next council term. What advice do you have for the city’s negotiating team to get the best deal for taxpayers?

    Toronto is a $9.6 billion organization with over 51,000 employees.   In this current term, we declared the TTC an essential service and therefore their negotiations are handled as a separate bargaining category.  The same can be said of police services and Toronto Public Library, both of which handle their negotiations separate from direction of Council.

    We must make sure that we have an employment package that is strong enough to attract the best and the brightest from across Canada.  At the same time, we must ensure that the growth of government does not force us to raise taxes beyond the rate of inflation.

    9. Do you see opportunities for public-private partnerships (P3s) involving the City of Toronto? Where, specifically?

    I believe there are opportunities for public-private partnerships.  The best opportunities for such involve recreational and sports facilities as well as the station building along transit lines.   Stations should be housed around privately built commercial, retail and residential plazas.

    Private-public partnerships can also work in the application and collection of  tolls from non-residents of Toronto.  Out-of-towners who are commuting into Toronto should pay tolls on both the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway.  This is best implemented with a public-private partnership.   Dedicated toll revenues should go to building subways.

    10. What is the top issue of concern for residents in your ward? What will you do as Councillor to address the issue?

    Transit continues to be a major concern in Ward 10.  The number one priority is connecting Downsview Station with Yonge St. and Sheppard Avenue.  This will take major pressure off Sheppard and Finch Avenue on an east-west access and take the congestion out of the surrounding neighbourhoods as motorists try to “cut through.”  It will increase local property values and remove busses from arterial roads.  It will also give York University students a seamless travel across most of the city.

    As a member of the TTC Board, I have moved this forward to the study stage   At full City Council, I received the support of my colleagues to have this project declared a Metrolinx Phase II priority.   The next step is funding an Environment Assessment, which I hope to fund before the end of October.

  • 1. Do you support a property tax cap ensuring future hikes are no greater than the rate of inflation?

    I support all efforts in keeping taxes low, and will be a firm vote against any and all new tax increases.

    2. Where, specifically, do you advocate finding savings in the current city budget?

    It starts from the top. The personal office budgets of city councillors must be eliminated or reduced significantly. We must end these preferential deals that our representatives receive. I will also fight to remove abuse and inefficiencies in city council to save taxpayers money.

    3. Do you support reducing the size of Toronto City Council?

    I am open to the idea of reducing the size of Toronto City Council, but I would like to hear from a majority of residents in my ward, before acting on a policy that directly affects their representation.

    4. Will you support contracting out garbage collection east of Yonge Street?

    We will work with residents of Ward 10 to find a mutually agreeable way to make their tax dollars go further; we are not dismissing this as an option, however if there are other ways to save money, we will explore those options first.

    5. What are your thoughts on the Municipal Land Transfer Tax – will you support reducing it or eliminating it?

    We will eliminate the land transfer tax. We managed to do without it for decades before Mayor David Miller. Reductions in government inefficiencies, new private sector growth from a competitive tax rate, and greater co-operation with the federal government will give us the revenues we need.

    6. Toronto’s unemployment rate is much higher than the provincial rate. What are your ideas to create job growth in Toronto?

    I would start with one simple policy: end the tax rebate that the city hands over to commercial landlords for vacant commercial properties. Taking landlords off this subsidy will force them to lower their rent prices. Lower rents means more businesses will locate in Toronto, bringing jobs with them. I also support lowering commercial property tax rates to further encourage businesses to locate in Toronto.

    7. It seems City Council has been debating public transit forever with little results to show. How would you fund new transit projects to ease congestion for everyone? Do you feel we need to change the current transit planning process?

    It doesn’t have to be this complicated; a city with strong financials can get great financing deals through bonds and debentures on the world market. We should also be asking condo developers to pay for the capital costs of building subway stations under their properties. The private sector can and will play ball if we pitch them a real plan. As for the transit planning process; I hear from residents all the time, we need to build our subway network. We will start with the expansion of the Sheppard Line to Yonge and Downsview stations immediately, not make grandiose transit plans that lead to nowhere.

    8. Labour negotiations will be a big part of the next council term. What advice do you have for the city’s negotiating team to get the best deal for taxpayers?

    I want a conciliatory relationship with our labour leaders. Times are tough and our public sector workers are struggling to take care of their families, just as those outside of the public sector are. I have grown up in a family of teachers and I respect their vital contributions to society. The savings in my plan will benefit everyone so that our standard of living will improve collectively.

    9. Do you see opportunities for public-private partnerships (P3s) involving the City of Toronto? Where, specifically?

    I am in favour of more affordable alternatives in our city, where it makes sense. If services can be delivered for a cheaper cost to the taxpayer, while delivering the same or better standard of service, I am for it.

    10. What is the top issue of concern for residents in your ward? What will you do as Councillor to address the issue?

    Crumbling infrastructure is by far the most important local issue. Specifically, a collapsing storm drainage system and awful road conditions, have our residents concerned. It saddens me to see that infrastructure problems have lead to the flooding of hundreds of basements resulting in personal financial difficulties and health hardships. As a resident of Ward 10, I share the frustrations of our residents and feel that this inaction is caused by too much analysis and not enough action.