2014 City Council Election: Ward 26 – Don Valley West

The Incumbent:

John Parker

The Race

In 2010, John Parker slid to victory with just under 500 votes more than his top opponent. The 2014 Ward 26 candidates that participated in our survey have very different views on almost all of the topics discussed in our survey. A few thoughtful and “outside the box” ideas were presented by candidates in this Ward.

Candidates Who Did Not Participate: Jon Burnside, Wasim Vania

The Breakdown

  • Candidate Response
    Parker, John Will consider
    Popov, Dimitre Yes
    Sparrow, David No
    Velshi, Ishrath Yes


  • Candidate Response
    Parker, John Police, Fire, EMS.
    Popov, Dimitre Reduce number of City employees, Police budget, Negotiations with the unions, proper and open bidding process and making decisions that serve taxpayers' interests rather than special interests.
    Sparrow, David No specifics provided
    Velshi, Ishrath Rationalization of common functions such as IT, Human Resources, Real Estate and fleet management.


  • Candidate Response
    Parker, John Would consider restructuring of Council.
    Popov, Dimitre Will consider.
    Sparrow, David No
    Velshi, Ishrath No


  • Candidate Response
    Parker, John No – will consider other areas.
    Popov, Dimitre Yes – will consider other areas.
    Sparrow, David No
    Velshi, Ishrath Yes – with conditions.


  • Candidate Response
    Parker, John No
    Popov, Dimitre Yes – eliminate.
    Sparrow, David Will consider.
    Velshi, Ishrath No


  • Candidate Response
    Parker, John Seek ways to do better with less, root out unnecessary costs, shift the property tax burden off business taxpayers, build a more attractive, vibrant, livable city that attracts and retains businesses and workers, address gridlock, improve/expand  transit and other forms of transportation; shift the property tax burden away from employers, get serious about promoting the GTA as an economic entity, improve collaboration/cooperation with surrounding municipalities as we market our region and develop business growth strategies, protect employment lands so that there will be places for the jobs of the future when population has grown, reduce red tape and bureaucracy, and keep regulation limited and reasonable.
    Popov, Dimitre I will invite the public to send ideas they believe would create job growth in Toronto. I would ask the members of the Council to zero in on that issue, to have thereafter a meeting to discuss it, and to outline possible measures. Offer incentive to companies for any job opening in addition to the number of jobs it has.
    Sparrow, David Clean, Green, creative sector jobs are the future. All three levels of government must work to make this happen. I would also consider reducing taxes on small and midsize business, if we could ensure the savings would be put toward making those businesses stronger and creating more better paid jobs.
    Velshi, Ishrath Work with Province to lower business tax rates, invite creative sources such as communications companies, IT companies, entertainment and film companies amongst many industries to develop relationships with Toronto.  The main thing is that we create an environment which invites companies to locate businesses in Toronto, by maintaining and continually improving the infrastructure and facilitiies available to businesses in Toronto such as our highways, access to the US and upgrades to our transportation infrastructure.


  • Candidate Response
    Parker, John Stable, predictable capital funding is a must – transit projects should not be sprung by surprise in each provincial budget. Transit expansion policy must be developed in conjunction with transportation policy and with city planning policy generally.
    Popov, Dimitre I would fund new transit projects from the savings.  Before answering the second question, I need to delve into the issue.
    Sparrow, David I'm 52. My parent's generation should having been building planned transit. My generation should have been building efficient transit. We should have had a vision for the future, for what today would bring. We and our children and our grandchildren deserve an accessible, connected, comprehensive, planned, efficient and affordable transit system. Subways, LRTs, Streetcars, Buses, all of it.
    Velshi, Ishrath Transit needs to be funded by all three levels of govenement.It makes no sense for each candidate to come up with their own plan. It indicates no faith in consultants who have developed plans that address the long-term needs of the city.


  • Candidate Response
    Parker, John We have an outstanding labour relations team at the city. The unions must know that the City is prepared to privatize functions if the unions push too hard, and to take a strike if necessary.
    Popov, Dimitre Try to accomplish the best deal for taxpayers if you’d like to receive incentives and be part of the negotiating team. We are watching you.
    Sparrow, David Recognize that employees (labour) are taxpayers.  Good faith negotiations are never one-sided.
    Velshi, Ishrath The parameters given to the negotiating team need to be discussed by Council, with input from all 44 members including the Mayor.  This is an inclusive process and can not be determined by any one member.


  • Candidate Response
    Parker, John Big projects are good candidates for P3’s. We effectively did one with the Leaside arena expansion project. We could readily set up Toronto Water or Toronto Hydro to undertake capital projects by way of P3, or move toward privatizing them altogether.
    Popov, Dimitre In contracting out garbage collection and I quite sure that there are more opportunities.
    Sparrow, David I think that where majority ownership can remain with the city and where there is a real public benefit, P3s have their place.
    Velshi, Ishrath Yes, I do see opportunities for public-private partnerships in areas such as Economic Development, social services through Community Development and in the area of Parks and the Environment.


  • Candidate Response
    Parker, John Change. Change means redevelopment of land, heavy traffic, and gridlock. I will continue to do what I have always done: face change forthrightly, speak honestly to my residents as to the practical options, and seek outcomes that produce the best achievable results for the communities I represent.
    Popov, Dimitre Culture at City Hall, accountability, taxes, employment, public transit, development, environmental, nose pollution, water infrastructure, …. The list of actions I would take is long and would be updated based on the circumstances.
    Sparrow, David Traffic infiltration and pedestrian safety are very important, especially given the recent tragic death of a 7 year old girl at Millwood and McRae. Other concerns are jobs for young people, landlord tenant concerns, rental building maintenance, TCHC repair backlogs, jobs for newcomers, Seniors housing, homecare, local school capacity, OMB rulings, development issues, petty crime. We need a representative who will stand with the community and defend the services we require to be an active, healthier and happier community in a dynamic city that works.
    Velshi, Ishrath Issues include quality of life issues, poor rental accomodation, traffic concerns, development issues, safety and security, unemployment, lack of services and programs for the youth and for seniors, flooding issues and a lack of collaboration between the elected representative and the community. My approach would be to develop a strategic plan for each area in collaboration with the stakeholders with the full force of the resources of the City behind me.

 

The full responses

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

    I favour a policy guideline to that effect. I do not think a hard cap year-by year is practical, however.

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

    Police, Fire, EMS. Those are big budgets and there is a lot of room for improvement in each.

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

    I favour looking at restructuring council to have local councils with authority over traffic, parking, etc. on local roadways, and an upper tier with authority over more general metropolitan/budgetary matters. The lower tier could have riding by riding representation; the upper tier could be elected district by district. Overall numbers could be reduced but the functions and accountabilities would be altered.

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

    We should privatize where merited and keep work in house where it makes sense. The current balance in garbage collection between half outsourced and half insourced works well and keeps all parties on their toes.

    We should always look at alternative modes of service delivery in all areas of activity.

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

    The value of each piece of land in Toronto is primarily a reflection of the benefit that comes from its location vis-a vis the lands around it. That is to say, the mere fact that land in Toronto is surrounded by other Toronto land enhances its value. It is only fair that the taxpayers capture some of the benefit of that value when parcels of land are traded. So the land transfer tax is in that sense fair. Further, we face enormous capital repair and upgrade costs as we look to the future. We need the revenue that the municipal land transfer tax brings, and we are only fooling ourselves if we pretend otherwise. Realistically, municipal land transfer tax is here to stay for a long time. I certainly do not foresee eliminating it, and I do not foresee reducing it until (a) our capital pressures are addressed, (b) we have other sources of revenue to cover the needs, and/or (c) the cost of land rises so high that we can afford to reduce the rate of tax required to generate the needed revenue.

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

    (a)    Continue the hard work of seeking ways to do better with less;

    (b)    Continue to root out unnecessary costs;

    (c)    Continue the program of shifting the property tax burden off business taxpayers

    (d)    Build a more attractive, vibrant, livable city that attracts and retains businesses and workers;

    (e)    Which means, inter alia, address gridlock;

    (f)     Which means, inter alia, improve/expand  transit and other forms of transportation;

    (g)    Which means improving coordination of planning/transportation services/transit functions.

    (h)    Continue the program of shifting the property tax burden away from employers;

    (i)      Get serious about promoting the GTA as an economic entity;

    (j)      Which means improving collaboration/cooperation with surrounding municipalities as we market our region and develop business growth strategies;

    (k)    Protect employment lands so that there will be places for the jobs of the future when population has grown;

    (l)      Reduce red tape and bureaucracy; keep regulation limited and reasonable;

    (m)  Improve service levels where citizens and businesses come face-to-face with the City – start by making a point of always treating the people at the counter as customers. Help trouble shoot the problems that arise; don’t just stand in the way.

    (n)    A good mayor can be a salesperson for the city – helping to market the City in business capitals worldwide – but the city bureaucracy must follow up by welcoming the resulting enquiries from potential investors.

    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?

    Stable, predictable capital funding is a must – transit projects should not be sprung by surprise in each provincial budget.

    Transit expansion policy must be developed in conjunction with transportation policy and with city planning policy generally. We are talking about billion dollar investments that determine the shape of the city for centuries to come. We can’t keep  doing it by the seat of our pants. Greater coordination/collaboration is needed. We need to settle on a transit growth strategy that fits with our urban planning goals so that policy in each area supports a comprehensive responsible vision. We talk about these things; we need to do a better job of acting on them. The London idea of an overarching transportation planning and administrative authority is not a bad approach to look into.

    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?

    We have an outstanding labour relations team at the city. They already have the respect of the union leadership. They need the full support of council as they approach negotiations relating to disputes and new contracts. The unions must know that the City is prepared to privatize functions if the unions push too hard, and to take a strike if necessary.

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

    Big projects are good candidates for P3’s. We effectively did one with the Leaside arena expansion project. We could readily set up Toronto Water or Toronto Hydro to undertake capital projects by way of P3, or move toward privatizing them altogether.

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

    The biggest single issue is change. Change means redevelopment of land, heavy traffic, and gridlock. It calls on us to improve transportation choices, protect existing communities, and direct the forces of change towards desirable results. I will continue to do what I have always done: face change forthrightly, speak honestly to my residents as to the practical options, and seek outcomes that produce the best achievable results for the communities I represent. We must be prudent with our tax dollars and we must be realistic about our goals. We must make change work for us by directing it towards making improvements in our city wherever possible, and minimize the adverse effects. A growing city cannot avoid encountering challenges; it is important that we never lose sight of the importance of making each challenge serve as an opportunity to make something good happen; we must resist the impulse to turn each challenge into a quixotic battle to protect the status quo.

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

    Absolutely YES.

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

    a)   Cutting out the deadwood. For the past 7 years, the former mayor has hired nearly 10,000 employees.  If the cost of an employee is $60,000 per year, the total taxpayers pay for 10,000 employees is $600 million annually – expenses that do not seem to justify the value taxpayers receive in exchange.

    b)    Police budget.

    c)    In negotiations with the unions.

    d)    Proper and open bidding process in selecting a third-party contractor.

    e)     Making decisions that serve taxpayers’ interests rather than special interests.

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

    a)     I would support such reduction only if that would improve the operations of the Council.  I believe, however, that electing people who are capable of making wise decisions and who are hardworking and whose priority is taxpayers and the City of Toronto is of paramount importance.

    b)    I am going to work very hard for changes in the applicable regulation that would give voters opportunity to remove their councillor from office at any time if the councilor loses the support of the 55 per cent who voted him/her in.

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

    YES, and I would support any contracting out which would be in the interest of taxpayers.

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

    It should be eliminated. The Municipal Land Transfer Tax is in addition to the Province’s Land Transfer Tax.

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

    a)    Through my website, I will invite the public to send ideas they believe would create job growth in Toronto.

    b)    I would ask the members of the Council to zero in on that issue, to have thereafter a meeting to discuss it, and to outline possible measures.

    c)    Offer incentive to companies for any job opening in addition to the number of jobs it has.

    d)       After thorough preparation, I would seek face-to-face meeting with the Premier, discus the issue and urge her with compelling arguments to devote resources and efforts so we can accomplish that goal.

    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 would fund new transit projects from the savings.  Before answering the second question, I need to delve into the issue.

    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?

    Try to accomplish the best deal for taxpayers if you’d like to receive incentives and be part of the negotiating team. We are watching you.

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

    In contracting out garbage collection and I quite sure that there are more opportunities.

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

    Culture at City Hall, accountability, taxes, employment, public transit, development, environmental, nose pollution, water infrastructure, …. The list of actions I would take is long and would be updated based on the circumstances.

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

    I support good fiscal governance, strong oversight and accountability. I support the right of residents to receive quality, consistent, reliable public services. I support the maintenance of our infrastructure and the funding to build the City that future generations will expect from us. I support taxes that reflect the actual cost of providing those services. I support taxes that are applied directly to certain important initiatives and don’t end up in general revenues, leaving important work underfunded. I believe that every level of government should be supporting strong cities. A national housing strategy and transit initiatives would be a great place to start. It irks me that other governments can “balance” their budget by downloading huge files onto municipalities and then crow about a surplus while the same tax payers that support them struggle with daily living. Note: – I do not generally support user fees and other sneaky ways of taking money from our pockets by saying taxes are frozen while our water and hydro rates and other fees go up substantially every year.  (Water 9% each year!)

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

    I’m not sure we should be looking at the grass roots municipal level of government to tighten its belt. Cities are where the rubber meets the road. We live here. This is where government and tax dollars (from every level) can have most direct effect. We rely on the transit schedule and the garbage pick-up and the police and fire. We rely on our fellow residents to earn an income that will support local business and keep us employed. I want to see better transit, stronger services, more good paying jobs and excellent cultural events that will attract tourism. This will make Toronto a stronger city and a healthier and happier place to live.

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

    I did not support amalgamation. I believe in local democracy and local voices. A smaller council will just amalgamate us further. Right now the average City Councillor is representing over 60,000 people – development concerns, traffic & public safety, landlord/tenant issues, school concerns, neighbourhood character and much more – Reducing the size of council will just reduce access to advocates & decision makers. We deserve excellent representation. At a time when the Federal government, virtually uninvolved in local community daily living issues, is expanding the number of ridings in the GTA, why would we consder reducing our local voices at council?

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

    Estimates on the savings generated from contracting out garbage collection West of Yonge range, from what I have heard, from $11M to $25M. This is not in fact a huge savings on a $9B budget. Reports on the standard of care exercised by the private supplier are mixed. So, on the backs of the people who do the work, who live in an expensive city like Toronto, we have gained little and provided a profit to a private collection company. Mr Ford has suggested we’ll never see another garbage strike. Strikes happen at private companies all the time – when workers become dissatisfied with their safety, compensation or working conditions. We have already reduced the employee count to one person operating an automated truck… how much further should we go? As to other services, I’m not sure how service levels can be maintained and/or improved on by building a shareholder or executive profit line into a reduced budget by moving a service from public to private. Something has to give.

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

    First I don’t mind paying taxes. However, I dislike property taxes; they’re unfair… especially to small businesses. (They’re also not equal across the city.) AND, I hate the regressive nature of the land transfer tax. So, If the Province gives the city other revenue tools with which to fund vital public services and infrastructure maintenance and visionary development, then we won’t need our portion of the land transfer tax and we can get rid of it. Toronto has a larger population and tax base than many provinces. It may be time to go to an income tax model for the city. I would be willing to pay my fare share.

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

    As the President of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA Toronto) representing 13,000 audiovisual performers here in the city, we have seen Film and TV production rise to $1.15B in 2013 and become the number 2 employer in the city next only to financial services, creating close to 30,000 FTE jobs. Clean, Green, creative sector jobs are the future. We must begin to “Think outside the BIG-box.” and away from the thought that service sector jobs paying $12 or $14/hour are sustainable careers in an expensive city. Newcomers with academic and foreign experience credentials must be given the opportunity to serve our community with their skills and expertise. All three levels of government must work to make this happen. I would also consider reducing taxes on small and midsize business, if we could ensure the savings would be put toward making those businesses stronger and creating more better paid jobs.

    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’m 52. My parent’s generation should having been building planned transit. My generation should have been building efficient transit. We should have had a vision for the future, for what today would bring. We and our children and our grandchildren deserve an accessible, connected, comprehensive, planned, efficient and affordable transit system. Subways, LRTs, Streetcars, Buses, all of it – You should be able to board at any station and go in either direction to get where you’re going. We must stop changing our minds on the whims of one or two individuals. The planning and Environmental Assessment dollars have already been spent. Let’s get on with the building! It’s not too late. All levels of government must make transit a priority and build it now.

    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?

    Recognize that employees (labour) are taxpayers. They have families; they buy products; they support businesses; they send their children to school; they rely on the same services as everyone else. Recognize that just because the media spins unions as being greedy and threatening strikes, 95%+ of union contracts are settled without a strike. Most strikes do not take place over money, but instead respect and safety issues and the threat of large cutbacks by the employer in staffing, wages or benefits. Good faith negotiations are never one-sided.

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

    I think that where majority ownership can remain with the city and where there is a real public benefit, P3s have their place. I feel it would become silly, however, to have privately sponsored subway stations or such other public venues, especially if the private company can sell its naming rights to someone else and so initiate complicated changes. Skydome, named by the people of Toronto, will always be Skydome to me. Sorry Rogers.

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

    Traffic infiltration and pedestrian safety are very important, especially given the recent tragic death of a 7 year old girl at Millwood and McRae. We need to better enforce the driving laws we have… no rolling stops, pushing yellow and red lights, cutting through parking lots to avoid traffic line-ups. We need better signage and restricted (to local residents only) turns, especially during rush hours. The BIG-box we have now is here to stay, but we need to say “No more!” to BIG-box, one stop shopping and the 10s of 1000s of cars it brings to our neighbourhoods each week.

    Further… jobs for young people, landlord tenant concerns, rental building maintenance, TCHC repair backlogs, jobs for newcomers, Seniors housing, homecare, local school capacity, OMB rulings, development issues, petty crime… there is a lot going on in Ward 26 – Bennington, Flemingdon, Leaside, Thorncliffe & Wynford – It’s a diverse palce culturally, residentially and economically. Some residents have steeper hills to climb than others. There is a lot to do. We need a representative who will stand with the community and defend the services we require to be an active, healthier and happier community in a dynamic city that works.

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

    Yes

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

    The rationalization of common functions such as IT, Human Resources, Real Estate and fleet management.

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

    I don’t support reducing reducing the size of City Council, nor do I support increasing the size of City Council. However,  the enhancement of the 311 service will further support the conerns and issues faced by Toronto residents.  The 311 service should be charged with the responsibility of addressing many of the day to day issues facing residents so that Councillors can focus more on the larger issues which require time and attention to detail.

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

    Yes, I will support contracting out garbage provided that savings do not affect the delivery of service and the savings are a positive value added to the city.  It is up to the city’s senior management to make this case.

    Fleet services may be an area to look at.

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

    Not at this time. Eliminating this source of revenue will require another source to replace it.

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

    Work with the Province to lower business tax rates, invite creative sources such as communications companies, IT companies, entertainment and film companies amongst many industries to develop relationships with Toronto.  The main thing is that we create an environment which invites companies to locate businesses in Toronto, by maintaining and continually improving the infrastructure and facilitiies available to businesses in Toronto such as our highways, access to the US and upgrades to our transportation infrastructure.

    Toronto is a highly diversified city with a highly educated work force.  What is lacking is an aggressive marketing plan to attract new businesses. We may be the best kept economic secret.  If necessary, we should consider offering tax breaks in partnership with the Province.

    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 to be funded by all three levels of govenement.

    Toronto is the economic engine of Canada.  To sustain it, and to make it more efficient we need to address transit issues and it should be a priority of all three levels of government as is the case with London, England and Paris, France.

    It makes no sense for each candidate to come up with their own plan. It indicates no faith in consultants who have developed plans that address the long-term needs of the city.  Rather than stick with it, it is being turned into election rhetoric

    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 parameters given to the negotiating team need to be discussed by Council, with input from all 44 members including the Mayor.  This is an inclusive process and can not be determined by any one member.

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

    Yes, I do see opportunities for public-private partnerships in areas such as Economic Development, social services through Community Development and in the area of Parks and the Environment.  These include partnerships in the cultural and entertainment industries, social service and health institutions and with grass-roots organizations that operate programming at the local level.

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

    Ward 26 is a highly diverse ward.  There are distinct issues in each of the five areas of the Ward.  They include quality of life issues, poor rental accomodation, traffic concerns, development issues, safety and security, unemployment, lack of services and programs for the youth and for seniors, flooding issues and a lack of collaboration between the elected representative and the community.

    Having dealt with many of these issues over the past 5 years as staff,  the need for a collaborative approach has been sadly lacking. My approach would be to develop a strategic plan for each area in collaboration with the stakeholders with the full force of the resources of the City behind me.