2014 City Council Election: Ward 23 – Willowdale

The Incumbent:

John Filion

The Race

Incumbent Councillor John Filion sailed to victory in the past couple of municipal elections. Recent votes on City Council and a growing community presents new challenges this year. One of Filion’s opponents took the opportunity to answer our survey and we see some welcome contrasts of opinion in contracting out garbage collection and public-private partnerships for city services.

Candidates Who Did Not Participate: Carmen Kedzior, Kun-Won Park, Chris Penny, Scott Werle.

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Filion, John Will consider based on budgets
    Mousavi, David Will consider based on investments


  • Candidate Response
    Filion, John Re-organize bureaucratic structure to eliminate duplication and lack of accountability.
    Mousavi, David Use new technologies for construction and services that would make city operations more efficient. For example, solar powered compacting garbage bins.


  • Candidate Response
    Filion, John Will consider
    Mousavi, David Will consider


  • Candidate Response
    Filion, John No
    Mousavi, David Yes, and is in favour of reviewing all city services to find similar results


  • Candidate Response
    Filion, John Yes to phasing out, and for modifying for families upsizing or downsizing.
    Mousavi, David Yes to reducing and eliminating if possible


  • Candidate Response
    Filion, John Protect employment lands. Require more commercial development as part of residential projects.
    Mousavi, David Reduce red tape and unnecessary regulations on small business. For example, more free parking. Seek foreign direct investment through Invest Toronto. Work with federal government and local ethno-cultural communities to reduce trade barriers between countries.


  • Candidate Response
    Filion, John Stable, long-term sources of funding: investment from federal and provincial governments, gas tax, HST, and development charges.
    Mousavi, David City should borrow against future property tax revenues based on projected intensification. Residents are open to this if they are engaged in planning and decision-making process.


  • Candidate Response
    Filion, John Smart bargaining
    Mousavi, David Mutual recognition of labour and City's needs. Service quality should be high criterion in negotiation process.


  • Candidate Response
    Filion, John Did not mention public-private partnerships
    Mousavi, David Yes, in the TCHC existing housing stock for repairs and to revitalize TCHC communities. For example, Regent Park.


  • Candidate Response
    Filion, John Traffic congestion and the Yonge/401 interchange.
    Mousavi, David Traffic management including a new Sheppard West subway and smart technology traffic lights, the latter of which is developed in the city and will help Toronto become a leader and standard-setter in this regard.

 

The full responses

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

    That’s a good target. But budget decisions need to be made annually, taking many things into account. Sometimes you can go below inflations, sometimes at and sometimes above.

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

    Completely re-organize the bureaucratic structure. The biggest waste in the system is caused by lack of accountability and lack of clear responsibilities, especially on issues which cover several departments or different areas within the same department.

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

    could argue either side on this. Fewer councillors would make Council meetings go faster but would also mean less accountability to public as more decision-making delegated to the bureaucracy because fewer politicians to handle the oversight.

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

    I do not think the entire city should have privatized garbage collection – better to keep the competitive tension between public and private. There isn’t much I would privatize – only areas that do not relate to the public where there’s no reason to have the public sector involved – e.g. printing.

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

    I think it should be phased out for those moving within Toronto for a primary residence. Families upsizing or downsizing should not be taxed.

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

    Protect employment lands. Require more commercial development as part of residential projects.

    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?

    Transit needs  stable long-term  sources of funding: infrastructure investment from federal and provincial levels, gas tax, HST, development charges. We just need the right leaders.

    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?

    Smart bargaining.

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

    I am more interested in public/citizen partnerships in such areas as parks and recreation. In many cases, community groups can operate programs more effectively and less expensively than the government. The city has been losing touch with many of these organizations.

    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. The most urgent fix is the Yonge/401 interchange.

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

    Assuming we are only raising taxes to maintain current operational activities and levels, then yes. However, if we are to invest in more subways, similar to Scarborough, then it may be the case taxpayers are willing to pay extra. In my discussions with constituents, they have shown they are willing to pay more taxes if they can be assured those extra taxes will be spent on needed infrastructural investments.  Taxpayers want accountability more than anything else, and therefore our governments should always be striving for greater accountability.

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

    I believe the city needs to consider new ways of carrying out its operations, such as using prefabricated bridges and ramps in developing its infrastructure.  Other jurisdictions are employing such techniques with positive results in the form of reduced construction times and costs. Technology can also make our city’s operations more efficient. An example includes solar powered compacting garbage bins, currently used in Philadelphia and other cities.  These solar powered garbage bins reduce the frequency by which city staff must replace garbage bags through compacting, thereby reducing employee costs and allowing those employees to be reoriented to other tasks.

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

    There has been some discussion, including from my incumbent councilor/competitor, that 44 councillors has made it difficult to build consensus and make decisions. My inclination would be to say yes only if the service level constituents receive from their city councillors were not diminished beyond acceptable levels.

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

    Yes, I do support it. I am also in favour of a review of all city services to find similar results as those with garbage outsourcing.

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

    The Municipal Land Transfer Tax (MLTT), although a great stream of revenue for the city, is simply bad taxation policy as it does not promote a culture of governance, transparency, and accountability at City Halll. the MLTT impacts young adults, newcomers, and seniors considerably more than other groups in the city, which illustrates the inequity in the tax policy.  Taxpayers expect to know how and where their tax dollars are spent, but they are not unreasonable about the fact that taxes are required for critical investments, such as infrastructure for the city.  I would support gradually reducing it and eliminating it if possible, but as a new councillor entering council, I want to ensure long-term budgeting for the city can be sustainable without the MLTT that the city now relies on.

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

    Toronto desperately needs to become more business friendly by reducing red tape.  The A la Carte food cart program is a prime example of a good idea gone wrong because of a lack of understanding for business issues.  We need leaders that can empathize and work with businesses, not make them go bankrupt with excessive, unnecessary, or redundant regulations.  In my Ward 23, businesses have complained of a lack of patio space and free parking, both of which can assist with boosting customers and sales. As Councillor, I will work towards solutions to these specific issues in my ward.   From a broader perspective, Toronto is the 6th largest government in Canada, with powers that allow it to seek out foreign direct investment to create jobs through agencies such as Invest Toronto.  My objective is to work with the Federal government, which is reducing trade barriers between our country and Chile, Korea, China, etc, and our local ethno-cultural communities to attract businesses to the city that will in turn create job opportunities.

    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 are powers for the city to borrow against future property tax revenues based on projected intensification. P3 opportunities also need to be better explored. Ultimately, what led to Transit City’s failure was a lack of engagement of residents in the planning and decision process along with an honest and intelligent debate about how to fund public transit that includes all options. Most residents are secure with paying additional property taxes for the Scarborough subway, and that has to be respected and appreciated when considering how to fund future public transit investments.

    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 discussion between labour and the city’s negotiating team will have to be begin with a mutual recognition of the difficulties families are having to make ends meet along with the city’s need to buoy its finances during fragile economic times.  Labour has reaffirmed its commitment to remaining competitive with the private sector and similarly the city should maintain service quality as a high criterion during various competitor analyses and negotiations.

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

    The greatest opportunity for P3s exist with Toronto’s TCHC housing stock, which is in dire need of repairs.  P3 arrangements have been instrumental in the revitalization of some TCHC communities, such as Regent Park, and this model should be used to build integrated, healthy, functional communities.

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

    Traffic management is the most cited issue and my traffic plan includes advocating for an extension of the Sheppard subway westwards towards Downsview Station, and the implementation of smart technology traffic lights. The Sheppard West subway would significantly reduce traffic on streets north of Highway 401 and dissipate TTC riders among both the Yonge and University subway lines while the smart technology (MARLIN System) will reduce traffic gridlock significantly. The MARLIN system is developed right here in Toronto, allowing for Toronto to become a leader and standard setter for smart technology improvements that can help cities around the world operate more effectively and efficiently.