2014 City Council Election: Ward 15 – Eglinton-Lawrence

The Incumbent:

Josh Colle

The Race

Unfortunately, Councillor Josh Colle did not provide a response to our survey. We would have preferred to evaluate his response against those of his opponents. From those who responded, there is agreement that neighbourhood safety and local job development are top local issues. There is also unanimous agreement on repealing or eliminating the Municipal Land Transfer Tax. Some differences of opinion on transit funding and planning.

Candidates Who Did Not Participate: Councillor Josh Colle

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Aryeh-Bain, Chani Yes
    Belkadi, Ahmed Yes
    Harari, Eduardo Yes, but only 50% of inflation rate
    Van Zandwijk, James Yes


  • Candidate Response
    Aryeh-Bain, Chani Change management-to-staff ratio in public divisions. Internal restructuring of agencies. Through collective bargaining strategies. Cutting the size of city council.
    Belkadi, Ahmed Public-private partnerships for alternative service delivery. Further capping of councillor expenses.
    Harari, Eduardo Hold the line on collective agreements and re-evaluate city processes.
    Van Zandwijk, James Re-structuring emergency services. Re-examine two separate school boards.


  • Candidate Response
    Aryeh-Bain, Chani Yes
    Belkadi, Ahmed No
    Harari, Eduardo No
    Van Zandwijk, James Can not answer without experience


  • Candidate Response
    Belkadi, Ahmed Yes. Use Alternate Service Delivery models so that the city can focus on 1) policy design, 2) provide competition between different providers, 3) to hold companies to higher performance standards. This can be used for park services, maintenance, and snow removal, for example.
    Harari, Eduardo Yes, at a threshold of 80%. Tree services, maintenance, and water main repairs should also be contracted out.
    Van Zandwijk, James No


  • Candidate Response
    Aryeh-Bain, Chani Yes to gradual elimination
    Belkadi, Ahmed Yes to elimination
    Harari, Eduardo Yes to gradual elimination
    Van Zandwijk, James Yes to modifying


  • Candidate Response
    Aryeh-Bain, Chani Reduce taxes on business to help current owners and attract foreign investment.
    Belkadi, Ahmed Create a strong employment equity policy so that City jobs aren't being backfilled by existing employees. Join with other municipalities and levels of government to create a job employment strategy for the GTHA. Increased partnerships with business and educational institutions.
    Harari, Eduardo Establish local and international investment strategies that may include tax initiatives. Promote re-training in language development, business, and skills and trades.
    Van Zandwijk, James City should offer education in business startups and tax law for small business creation. Incentives for businesses suited for urban centres.


  • Candidate Response
    Aryeh-Bain, Chani Use public-private partnership, with public oversight, to expand transit network. Consult, but build now as was done in previous decades.
    Belkadi, Ahmed Use temporary revenue tools to build the Downtown Relief Line. HOV tolls on highways. Development charges on new business units. Ask province for fair share of transit tax and gas tax.
    Harari, Eduardo Restrict heavy transport trucks. Trailer and container movement should be by rail.
    Van Zandwijk, James In transit planning, must consider future larger populations. Questions transit financing based on projected revenues.


  • Candidate Response
    Aryeh-Bain, Chani Use the same principles in upcoming negotiations as were used in the first two years of the current Council's term.
    Belkadi, Ahmed Keep political beliefs at the door. Secure long-term deals fair to all sides.
    Harari, Eduardo Be firm while negotiating while considering hard work of employees.
    Van Zandwijk, James Must balance the standard of living of labourers with the pockets of taxpayers.


  • Candidate Response
    Aryeh-Bain, Chani Yes, specifically for new transit projects.
    Belkadi, Ahmed Supports the use of Alternate Service Delivery
    Harari, Eduardo Yes. In areas such as education, sports and recreation, training and innovation.
    Van Zandwijk, James Can not answer without evaluating what exists now.


  • Candidate Response
    Aryeh-Bain, Chani Pocketbook issues – residents worried about government spending their money wisely. Must treat resident tax dollars with utmost care.
    Belkadi, Ahmed Strangehold on power by current representatives. Local crime and lack of safety and security. Will commit to hosting bi-weekly meetings in ward to represent community better.
    Van Zandwijk, James One issue is a homeless shelter moving into the ward from another neighbourhood. Need specialized shelters for people with mental health and addictions.

 

The full responses

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

    Yes, I absolutely support a property tax cap ensuring future hikes are no greater than the rate of inflation.

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

    To find savings in the current city budget would be to reduce spending first and foremost. We can change the management-to-staff ratio in certain public divisions, where, in some cases there is one manager for every four employees.

    We can also do some internal restructuring of agencies such as the TTC and Toronto Police Service where according to a KPMG report in 2011 suggested that could save the city $65 million.

    Furthermore, another $47 million could be saved using joint labour relations and collective bargaining strategies.

    Reducing the size of City Council to 25 wards instead of 44 could also save a significant amount of money. If our provincial and federal counterparts are able to manage with ridings almost double the size of our wards, why can’t city councillors?

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

    My answer in Question #2 is a good segue to my answer here. Yes, I do support reducing the size of Toronto City Council. Not only would it be a cost-saving measure but it would also improve the way City Council operates currently. There are “too many cooks to spoil the broth” right now. If we operated with a council that is almost half of its current size (and that reflects the reality of our federal and provincial counterparts), a lot more work can get done for the citizens of Toronto.

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

    I do support contracting out garbage collection east of Yonge Street. I live west of Yonge where garbage collection has already been contracted out. It has worked very well and I am pleased with the quality of service and the resulting savings to the City.

    Cleaning services on TTC property and other city property is another area that can be contracted out. Service quality would remain the same while saving significant sums for the taxpayer.

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

    The Municipal Land Transfer Tax was a tax grab from Toronto residents. People were unprepared for the repercussions of it. Fewer homes were changing hands as a result of it, though, thankfully, Toronto is still a coveted real estate market. Yet, more properties could have changed hands. People are opting to stay in their current homes longer due to this tax.

    Having said that, I support eliminating the Land Transfer Tax but it must be reduced incrementally before eliminating it fully. The City budget needs to be “weaned” of the income it produces by becoming more efficient and finding savings elsewhere in the budget. One thing is sure, when the local real estate market prospers, the local economy flourishes as well. Therefore, I would not fret over the “loss of revenue” which this tax generates because it can be made up through a myriad of positive ways when people are free to spend their money the way they see fit.

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

    It is unfortunate that Toronto’s rate of unemployment is much higher than the provincial rate. In order to create job growth, we need to reduce the onerous tax rate thus helping current business owners in Toronto, and attracting foreign investment to the City. Lower taxes create greater investment in the City. Greater investment in Toronto creates more jobs for Torontonians.

    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?

    A lack of adequate public transit in Toronto has been eclipsed by the amazing population growth of the City. If Toronto wants to be truly World Class and I know it has the potential, we have to do better on transit than we are right now. Coming from a private business background, I am in favour of public/private business partnerships so long as there is public oversight to ensure the safety and welfare of its citizens.

    Furthermore, being extremely efficient in other areas of the budget may yield the City revenue to fund, in part, transit projects. The key is to run a “tight ship” in all areas to benefit important projects such as transit.

    Lastly, in the 1950′s when our subway was built, it was, no doubt, a sacrifice on the part of the citizens of Toronto of the last generation. Yet, they were all visionaries and they knew building this subway system would not only benefit them but would also benefit their children in the coming generation. Consultation is important to getting the job done right. But consulting “ad nauseum” is merely talk with no results. We must emulate our forebears: Bite the bullet and build the rocket!

    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?

    The result of labour negotiations affects every taxpayer of Toronto. Therefore, joint labour relations and collective bargaining strategies could yield the best results. The labour agreements that were ratified in the first two years of the current council’s term have given us labour peace. I urge the city’s negotiating teams to use the same principles in the upcoming negotiations.

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

    Yes, I do see opportunities for P3s in the city of Toronto. As I mentioned before, funding new transit projects jointly is a prime example.

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

    After speaking with many residents in my ward, the over-arching issue for almost everyone is still “pocketbook” concerns. People are working harder these days to make ends meet. The last thing they want to see is government separating them from more of their hard-earned cash. Then, watching government spend their money mindlessly just adds insult to injury.

    I plan to be a strong voice for the residents of my ward in treating tax revenue with the utmost of care. My residents have toiled to earn their incomes and have contributed their fair share of taxes diligently. The least we could do as politicians is to recognize that fact when planning necessary projects for the City.

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

    I believe the notion that taxes should be attached to inflation makes sound business sense. If programs and services are getting more expensive but the City doesn’t have the funds to meet those fees, something has to give. We cannot saddle future generations with debt or let our city fall apart because of an unwillingness to do our fair share. With that said, I would not support increasing taxes above inflation unless advocated by the City Manager. I don’t believe tying councils hands by creating a cap on taxes would lead to sound policy decisions if the City found itself struggling to balance the books. Therefore I do not support a cap, but I am 100% committed to keeping property tax in line with the rate of inflation.

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

    According to outgoing City Manager Joe Pennachetti, the gravy train has stopped. He was quoted as saying to council last year that “We’ve had hundreds of millions of dollars of efficiencies and budget savings over a decade. We’re capped out.” I would have to take the City Manager at his word. If anything, I would advocate for Private-Public partnerships under Alternative Service Delivery as you will see in greater detail in my following answers and the further capping of Councillors’ expenses. Beyond that I would be extremely reluctant to cut anything else in fear of harming public services.

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

    This is a complicated question. First of all, I believe any decision to change the size of council should not be made by council. It is a clear conflict of interest. I am also hard-pressed to believe that cutting the size of council to say, 22 like the Mayor had advocated for last summer, would really make much of a difference in how council operates. I believe there should be a stricter code of conduct to ensure council is working effectively. I would also be weary of cutting the size of council because many wards, especially in the northern parts of the city, are already quite large as it is. It would be hard to imagine Councillors being able to be sufficiently accessible to all their constituents if they were representing say 200,000 people.

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

    Yes I would support the continued contracting out of garbage collection throughout the rest of Toronto. As for other services, I would rather advocate for Alternative Services Delivery. ASD, not to be confused with privatization, refers to the transfer of ownership of a public sector enterprise to the private sector. In short, it separates policy direction from service delivery. To be clear, the City still makes the policy decisions and regulates the service, while the service provider operates the program. This system has several advantages to our current funding model: 1) The City can focus solely on policy design and creating desired outcomes of said policy. This leaves more space for the City officials to innovate. 2) It will provide competition between different providers who would be fighting for government contracts. The City will be able to strike cost friendly deals by contracting services. 3) The City would be able to hold these companies to higher performance standards than can be achieved by government. In essence, ASD provides the taxpayer with improved service for less cost. I believe the ASD model can be used in non-core services such as Park Services, Maintenance and Snow removal. Together, the cost of these programs are in the hundreds of millions of dollars. If we can lower the overall cost through private-public partnership, it could go a long way to help fund other critically needed projects such as the Downtown Relief Line or finding a permanent solution for the Gardiner. Furthermore, ASD has been touted by the province both before and after the most recent election and the programs I listed have been considered for privatization by the current council. It conclusion, I believe the City should be directly involved in policy direction to maintain high standards in all services. To be clear, I am not advocating for privatization. ASD is potentially an innovative solution to maintaining and improving upon the services that Toronto holds dear.

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

    I would push for the complete repeal of the Municipal Land Transfer Tax. If council believed that the car tax was unfair back in 2010, I don’t see how the MLTT is any different. The Toronto Real Estate Board rightfully calls it a cash grab and I consider it totally unfair and a complete disregard for Taxpayers. For anyone in Toronto looking to buy or sell their home, they would be taxed twice (once by the Municipal Land Transfer Tax and once the Provincial Land Transfer Tax). For example, if we were to take the average single detached home price of $750,000, one would have to pay both the City and the Province over $10,000 each. For many this could very realistically affect their ability to afford a home. It just doesn’t make any sense to be taxed to transfer the same piece of land twice within the same transaction. It is by no means fair and I would like to see it repealed.

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

    One of the easiest and most direct ways the City can help deal with unemployment is by creating a strong employment equity policy. That means that the City would become an example in ensuring that every citizen has a fair opportunity to fill job openings within the City and that it isn’t simply being backfilled by existing employees. By setting such an example, the hope would be that the private sector would follow suit. In an effort to reduce unemployment, the city should sit down with regional municipalities and other levels of government to create a job employment strategy for the GTHA. To specifically deal with high levels of youth unemployment, we need to sit down with the city’s largest employers to ensure that entry-level positions are just that. Any quick job search will find that many of these positions are asking for multiple years of experience and skills that no new graduate could realistically meet. We also need to ensure that post-secondary institutions are equipping youth with the skills that employers are looking for and not just theoretical knowledge that doesn’t help them practically use their degrees once they graduate. It is only through these partnerships with other governments, business and educational institutions that will allow us to practically tackle the alarming trend of unemployment.

    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?

    In order to fund public transit infrastructure, I would support certain temporary revenue generating tools under one clear condition: Those funds go directly to a major infrastructure project, such as the DRL. I would like to approach the provincial government to ask them to consider development charges on new for-profit units built in our city. I would also be interested to study HOV tolls on highways. According to the Toronto Star, it would generate $160-$250 million annually. The City should also sit down with the province and ask for our fair share of the 13% transit tax and ask for part of the 14.7 cents we pay per litre for gas be redirected to expand the TTC. As for the current transit planning, I am not quite sure what the alternative would be outside of removing our municipal government from the process. I believe this would be extremely bad for our City. Council needs to realize that congestion costs our city $11 billion dollars annually and the longer it takes them to agree on a type of transit, the more expensive their decision will become. If they can’t understand that, citizens have an election on October 27th and they will fill council chairs with those who understand.

    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?

    Keep your political beliefs at the door and do what you do best. What’s most important is getting long-term deals that secure our city’s public services and are both fair for the taxpayer and employees that are trying to make an honest living.

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

    As mentioned earlier, I would support the use of Alternative Service Delivery.

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

    The greatest challenge affecting Ward 15 is the dynastic stranglehold on power by current political representatives. Consider this, over the past 35 years most of Ward 15 in its various pre-amalgamation forms has essentially had only two different City Councillors. Since 1988, only two incumbents have been defeated in an election at any level of government in Eglinton-Lawrence. Following a recent shooting in Lawrence Heights this summer, I was invited to meet with local residents to discuss the perpetual cycle of violence in the neighbourhood. I was shocked to see the frustration on one mother’s face as she told me that she can’t rest her head until her children are home from school. Others recalled stories of stray bullets landing in a local playground, and despite giving local politicians a list of suggestions over a year ago, they have yet to hear back. It is no wonder in talking with many of you, more often than not, there is a real sense of indifference to government, which is rooted in an inability to affect real change. Too many of you believe your voices are simply heard once every four years when your vote is required for re-election, and empty promises run limitless. As your newest City Councilor, my goal will be to create a more diverse and more representative Ward 15. I promise to be the most accessible and visible member of public office our community has ever had. I believe in order to be a true representative of the people, one needs to understand what their constituents want and need. This is why I pledge to not only knock on doors during election time, but between them. I am also committed to holding bi-weekly meetings at different locations throughout our Ward where I can meet as many constituents as possible and take their needs back to City Hall to achieve real results. It is this type of bold, transparent and inclusive leadership our community so desperately needs. As a proud lifelong resident of this community, I cannot wait to get started!

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

    Yes, but only 50 per cent of the inflation rate.

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

    Holding the line on collective agreements and revaluating city process.

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

    No, because councillors need to be able to assist all residents and issues of their own ward.  If we reduce the number of councillors the number of resident each councillor will be responsible for will increase and will make it impossible of the councillor to serve them as effectively.

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

    Yes, I support contracting out garbage collection east of Yonge street at a threshold of 80% so that the city can activate this essential service in case of any eventuality. Services like tree services and maintenance, snow removal, watermains repairs can also be contracted out at the same rate.

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

    The Land Transfer Tax should be gradually be repealed other tools to create revenue for the city or reduce it by half.

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

    The City should have an active role in promoting job creation and skills development. The City should promote job creation by establishing a local and international investment strategy; that may include tax initiatives. Local business should be engaged and encouraged to participate into City programs that provide them with the tools to enhance their business and promote job creation. The City should continue to foster and promote the training and retraining of its residents in areas as language development, business and technical skills and trades.

    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?

    Yes. Also, adopt a much more intermodal approach, including restricting heavy transport trucks and working with the national railways and the trucking association to work toward increasing trailer and container movement via rail.

    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?

    The city has faced several strikes while conducting labour negotiation putting city in an unfavorable situation. We should be firm when negotiating but never forget the hard work that employees put into their jobs.

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

    Yes, there are opportunities in the areas of education, sports and recreation, training and innovation among others. For example; by creating technology hubs at private industries or with private industry support to motivate youth into further education and training.

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

    Safety has been a mayor issue during the years. And although policing and enforcement have been of great assistance the issue persist. By engaging the communities and establishing a two way communication within the residents and the police and re-establishing neighborhood watch programs we can surely eliminate the tension that current programs are coursing. Police carding while being an effective method has being viewed as a profile type of program that results in more damage than assistance.

    Residents and specially the youth should be encourage and engaged in to sports, cultural and educational activities that will keep them off the streets and on the right path.

    Special police task forces like gang relations and substance abuse control more be introduced in programs particularly in schools, community centres and housing.

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

    Yes. However, property values in Toronto and general inflation in Canada have been adjusting at different rates and this needs to be taken into account.

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

    A lot of the City’s services are run inefficiently; police, fire, and EMS tend to all respond to calls which really require only one of the three. We might also re-examine funding for religious schools, if that’s a possibility, to put the Catholic school board on the same footing as Protestants, Muslims, and any other religion.

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

    I can’t answer this honestly without actually having had experience. It does seem like a lot, but Toronto is a big city with a large and varied population.

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

    don’t think adding job insecurity to the people that make our city work would be beneficial at all. Most of the services need streamlining, surely, but notably in the provincial health care sector, where a lot of the HR is contracted, patients are getting longer wait times and less care than before. Contractors work to operate at a profit, purely, while public employees work to serve the public. I live West of Yonge Street, and the service has certainly suffered under GFL.

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

    I wouldn’t support eliminating it, but maybe reducing it, and certainly modifying it. More and more people are buying properties in Toronto as financial investments; that’s fine, but to make money one must spend it, no? It would then become just a COB issue that an entrepreneur must factor into the calculations. I would support eliminating a transfer tax for buyers of principal residences – it does seem a little harsh that the city would grab cash from people for merely trying to establish themselves.

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

    Our economy seems to be gearing more and more to independent contractors and small businesspeople. We could facilitate this by offering education in business startups, tax law, and other related subjects. Also, we seem to be turning our industrial sector into a residential sector, and as our city grows faster than the rest of the province, there isn’t much to be done about that. Incentives could be made for employers that would be more suitable to an urban setting than a foundry or a slaughterhouse.

    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?

    I actually have no idea yet. I do know that we need to look ahead for a much larger population and an ever-widening encirclement of Suburbia. When the Don Valley Viaduct was built, it was built with subways in mind, decades before subways came to Toronto. We need to think like that again, because we are about twenty years too late starting that.The funding ideas brought forth by Ford (and Tory, too, if I’m not mistaken) call for creative financing based on future expected tax income generated by a better infrastructure. It seems to me that many countries borrow from the IMF or the World Bank based on this type of projection, and austerity measures follow soon after.

    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?

    Most taxpayers will say that employees of private companies are not treated as well as city employees, and they are right. For most of them, the answer is to drop the standard of living for city employees. We live in a world where a lot of us have a lower standard of living than did our parents – and it’s often human nature to share the squalor, so to speak. Drastic changes need to be made to our labour laws and the enforcement of them, and that isn’t the bailiwick of a city councillor, but I do think that the government has a responsibility to set an example. That being said, having never been on the union’s side of the table when I’ve come into contact with them, I must also say that most of the time union leaders must be given no free ride to rifle the pockets of taxpayers. Union leaders have been known to bleed companies dry in order to get some short-term gain, but ultimately destroy the company.

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

    I can’t really answer that until I have a closer look at what exists now.

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

    One of them is a homeless shelter that is moving into the ward from elsewhere. I do know that it costs roughly $1600 per month per ‘client’ to house the homeless in communal shelters. I think as a Band-Aid solution, shelters have been on a little too long and we need to start looking at some real solutions. Many of the people on our streets aren’t even from Toronto – most of them come here looking for work from Smalltown, Canada. We do need some specialized shelters for people with addictions or mental health issues, but for many of the people in the shelter system, it’s endlessly cheaper and easier to house them. I actually have a much larger plan for dealing with this that I plan to bring up in some of the upcoming debates.