Thank you, Toronto!

FullSizeRenderOn Monday, citizens of Toronto made it clear that the complacency which got us Rob Ford in 2010 was not worth repeating. The politics of letting go and looking away had to cease lest we continue to go off the rails on a gravy-train-cum-crazy-train. In the end, a post-amalgamation record 64.2% of eligible voters (compared to 53.2% in 2010) cast nearly one million ballots. From the moment polls closed, two central goals of the Robb Not Ford campaign were already complete: 1) a dramatic increase in voter turnout; and 2) a Ford-free mayoral seat.

This by no means indicates as large a step forward as we would hope for. Many exciting, progressive, and fresh city council hopefuls did not win; 36 of 37 incumbents running for re-election reclaimed their seats, and only seven new faces in total will be representing Toronto at City Hall. Many were rightfully deserved and worth celebrating, such as Josh Matlow, Kristyn Wong-Tam, Mike Layton, Paula Fletcher, and Mary Fragedakis, and others sure to be a source of frustration for four years to come (we needn’t go into names here, they know who they are!).

And in the mayoral seat, with all congratulations to John Tory, and acknowledging that I just can’t get behind him, we could either see what happened on Monday as the election of a Ford with a better vocabulary, or an opportunity for an effective city council to make use of the other 44 votes that John Tory, as mayor, will not have. Councillors being held accountable to constituents who are actively involved in their own communities can do — and prevent — anything from moving this city forward.

Never forget that the mayor is one vote of 45. This was a point I raised during the inaugural mayoral debate in Scarborough back in February, where I was described as the winner against Rob Ford and David Soknacki — who, I will admit, in his pragmatic and concise way, was probably the mayor Toronto truly deserved. Following the debate, I expected an invite to the first televised debate as a simple nod of merit: if the first was a fluke, let him at it for the second. If he bombs, so be it — but it wouldn’t be prudent to exclude him, right?

Well, not really.

Possibly the single most valuable lesson I took away from running for mayor was that the omnipresent disconnect between candidates and communities with respect to income, privilege, access, and lifestyle, are, and will indefinitely be, our biggest weakness. Representatives who are unrepresentative, who (aside from Olivia Chow) have not experienced poverty, discrimination, and culture shock the way so many citizens have, continue to use the political system as a means of power than one through which to empower citizens and communities. They haven’t been able to grasp the realities of not knowing where your next meal is coming from, being unable to make rent at the end of the month or have shelter at all, or not being able to walk let alone rely on a bus for mobility. Even a few so-called “fringe” candidates who did manage to garner press attention — present company aside — were coming from the exact kind of privilege that the great rest of us are excluded from.

Many issues such as transit, housing, and the waterfront (conveniently three debates John Tory pulled out of at the last minute) were some of the most pressing concerns for Toronto in this election. I tend to agree with their priority, but have also held that without bridging the gap between candidates and communities to allow city council to more accurately reflect the citizens of Toronto in their diversity of needs, interests, and socioeconomic status, nothing will change. Every other issue from transit to accessibility to congestion to taxation to the island airport, all begin with a more engaged, involved, represented, and empowered citizenry. If continued civic involvement for the next four years and beyond become a by-product of an increased voter turnout, then I did everything I could have hoped for in this campaign — and I thank you all for allowing me to articulate what you’ve been telling me all this time.

But if Toronto continues to see a system in which only career politicians, executives, lawyers, and other members of a socioeconomic status unattainable to the great 95% of us (as essential as the wealthy still are to the city), speak on behalf of communities without actually being part of them, we will not see change. But as a smaller step, we can hold our representatives accountable, and create the changes we need from the ground up.

The fact that I not only do not come from privilege or wealth but, to take matters one step further, spent a good chunk of the campaign period without income before changing jobs, in the end, makes a 12th place finish of 65 mayoral candidates (for a total of 756 votes) all the more meaningful. My campaign website had a donations portal but nothing was actively pushed. In fact, I saw taking donations as defeating the purpose of this campaign, which was, ultimately, about representing Torontonians who do not have money and who can’t afford to take 9 months off work to campaign. There were no paid advertisements, no high-priced fundraising dinners, no schmooze fests with the upper echelons. Thanks largely to word of mouth, social media, and a platform that came from all of us, whatever was spoken resonated with enough of you to warrant a much higher placement than I ever thought was possible. For the cost a domain name, I suspect my dollars-to-votes ratio compared to other candidates is rather commendable. And I thank you all for that.

I’ve met and communicated with some inspiring and wonderful people along the way who, like me, ran small campaigns and did their part in creating a culture of activism: Jolene Hunt, Saeed Selvam, Peter Fenech, Masihullah Mohebzada, Anshul Kapoor, Lekan Olowaye, Andray Domise, Idil Burale, Dan Fox, and Keegan Kenry-Mathieu. I hope and trust that we will all be working together in various capacities in the immediate and distant future.

To a very wonderful and vocal community online in #TOPoli — keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll surely be seeing and tweeting you around.

To my tiny team, Katherine Cummings and Jonathan Smelcer, without whom this campaign would have never made it to the end.

And of course, to all of you, without whom this campaign would have never even begun.

Many have been asking me: What’s next? Well, first off: my laundry, walking my dog, and cleaning my apartment. Then back to business as usual with my band, Paint, who never stopped being one of Canada’s hardest-working indie bands — even while I was campaigning. Paint has an ambitious 2015 ahead with a film and soundtrack to release, a concert DVD and live album to complete, and world domination from there. I recently told Addicted Magazine that “Being mayor would be like a vacation from fronting Paint.” I hold true to this: being in Paint has been the most thankless, gruelling, challenging, and unrelenting thing I’ve done in my life. But nothing, nothing, nothing beats that moment on stage when the songs are speaking for themselves. So that will never stop.

I’m also playing bass in Rulers of the Moon, working on a number of film projects, possibly a brand new band that I’m excited about but can’t discuss, and working by day in a social housing facility in Toronto.

So, I have more than enough to keep me busy and contributing to a better future for my city.

But in terms of politics? Well, none of this was about politics. There’s no distinction between what I’m already doing and what I’ve done.

I will say that if conservative Liz West had won in my ward (30 / Toronto-Danforth), my next step in civic affairs would have been easy: running for council in ward 30. But, not surprisingly, Paula Fletcher was re-elected and will continue to do my local community justice.

So, Toronto, the only answer I can give is: we shall see.

As we forward, we can pat ourselves on the backs on a job well-done with hope for a brighter next four years.

But we can still do BETTER, Toronto!

Posted in Candidates, Citizens, City Council, Civic Participation, Communities, Democracy, Diversity, Leadership, My Campaign, Participation, We Can Do Better Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Election Day Event October 27

BallotOn October 27, the day will finally arrive when Toronto’s City Council and Mayoral seats will find out their find out who will occupy them for the next four years as chosen by us the citizens. Surely there is much to celebrate as voter turnouts are already at record highs based on advanced polling, and my first dive into public office will splash as the Robb Not Ford campaign comes to a close.

Come join me at Spirits (642 Church Street @ Bloor) to watch the election coverage in real time after the polls close at 8pm. RSVP on Facebook HERE.

It’s early to say, but I know we already did BETTER, Toronto!


Posted in Candidates, Citizens, Civic Participation, Communities, Democracy, Leadership, My Campaign, Participation, We Can Do Better Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ward 12: Lekan Olawoye, A Pledge of Service

Lekan Olawoye, Ward 12 (York South - Weston) candidate

Lekan Olawoye, Ward 12 (York South – Weston) candidate

Lekan Olawoye has been campaigning hard from day one for council in Ward 12 (York South – Weston) — I know because I’ve been getting newsletters and updates from him on the most regular basis of anyone in this election.

Mr. Olawoye’s “service pledge” to citizens involves:

  • Meeting residents at their door every week;
  • Ensuring residents are informed about city issues;
  • Responding to all community inquiries within 48 hours; and
  • Fighting for local issues that concern residents.

On the surface that may seem like a tall order, but based on the way Team Lekan has campaigned alone, I have little doubt he would have trouble advocating for Ward 12 at City Hall on job training, transit, and the best interests of tenants and homeowners. Sounds like the kind of facilitation and bridge-building that Toronto deserves.

Visit Lekan Olawoye’s website.

Posted in Buses, Candidates, Citizens, City Council, Civic Participation, Communities, Diversity, Leadership, Participation, Transit, TTC, Volunteering, We Can Do Better Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ward 36: Masihullah Mohebzada, A True Youth Candidate

Masihullah Mohebzada, Ward 36 (Scarborough Southwest) candidate

Masihullah Mohebzada, Ward 36 (Scarborough Southwest) candidate

It’s only been one term, but Ward 36 (Scarborough Southwest) has been under the hold of Rob Ford fanatic Gary Crawford long enough (with all due respect to Mr. Crawford’s support of enhancing Toronto’s presence as a music centre).

But as is the theme in 2014, it needs to be out with the Ford, in with the new: Masihullah Mohebzada, a true youth candidate, is an informed, insightful, and passionate Ward 36 resident who I’ve been lucky to meet on a number of occasions during this campaign.

Mr. Mohebzada’s platform tackles challenging issues surrounding transit, community housing, child care, seniors, and protecting the waterfront.

Visit Masihullah Mohebzada’s website.

Posted in Arts and Culture, Candidates, Citizens, City Council, Civic Participation, Communities, Democracy, Diversity, Environment, Leadership, LRT, No Jets TO, Participation, Rob Ford, Scarborough, Subways, Toronto Island, Transit, TTC, Waterfront, We Can Do Better Toronto, Youth, Youth Employment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ward 27: Kristyn Wong-Tam, A Shining Star

Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam. (KATIE DAUBS/Toronto Star)

The Toronto Star says it best:

Ward 27 (Toronto Centre-Rosedale): Kristyn Wong-Tam has been an outstanding presence on city council, one of its best and brightest.

I couldn’t say it any better myself. Few other councillors reflect the true diversity and spirit of Toronto more accurately. A re-election for Kristyn Wong-Tam is quite possibly the most obvious thing that can, should, and will happen on October 27.

Visit Kristyn Wong-Tam’s website.

Posted in Accessibility, Arts and Culture, Candidates, Citizens, City Council, Civic Participation, Communities, Democracy, Diversity, Environment, Feminism, Film Industry, Housing, Leadership, LGBT Rights, Olivia Chow, Participation, Pride, We Can Do Better Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ward 24: Dan Fox, From the Ground Up

Dan Fox, Ward 24 (Willowdale) candidate

Dan Fox, Ward 24 (Willowdale) candidate

Dan Fox is a political activist, community volunteer, and public servant with deep roots in Ward 24 (Willowdale), with experience in frontline leadership and policy development. His clearly-outlined “7 point plan,” and A+ Environment Report Card make him a reliable and practical choice in bringing community, diversity, and transparency to City Hall.

Visit Dan Fox’s website.

Posted in Candidates, Citizens, City Council, Civic Participation, Communities, Environment, Participation, We Can Do Better Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ward 19: Mike Layton, The Legend Continues

Mike Layton, Ward 19 (Trinity-Spadina) councillor. Photo by Aaron Lynett / National Post

Mike Layton, Ward 19 (Trinity-Spadina) councillor. Photo by Aaron Lynett / National Post

Similar to Josh Matlow’s Ward 22 (St. Paul’s) campaign for re-election, Ward 19 (Trinity-Spadina) incumbent councillor Mike Layton should expect an equally effortless victory — which is a fair reward for his tireless and outspoken community advocacy on issues that matter to his ward and the City of Toronto since 2010.

Despite my mayoral campaign’s “We can do BETTER, Toronto!” tag line, I must say we can’t do much better than Mike Layton.

Visit Mike Layton’s website.

Posted in Accessibility, Candidates, Citizens, City Council, Civic Participation, Communities, Cycling, Democracy, Environment, Film Industry, Housing, Leadership, LGBT Rights, LRT, Participation, Subways, TTC, We Can Do Better Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ward 20: Anshul Kapoor, Beyond the Waterfront

Anshul Kapoor, Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina) candidate

Anshul Kapoor, Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina) candidate

Previously held by the one and only Adam Vaughan, now the Trinity-Spadina federal Liberal MP, Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina) could be called the “mayoral race of city council.” With 22 candidates to choose from — and yes, not without its comedy and satire candidates that have relegated the mayoral race (i.e. Sarah Thomson withdrew her mayoral run to bring her sideshow to Trinity-Spadina) — just a handful of votes could swing Ward 20 one way or another. It will surely be a closely-monitored ward on October 27.

In just one year, the grassroots community NoJetsTO went from an underground operation to leading a 15,000+ signature petition effort that has helped raised awareness local and environmental concerns around Porter Airlines‘ proposed expansion of Billy Bishop Airport (discussed previously on this website in parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5). At the helm of NoJetsTO was Anshul Kapoor, who I was grateful to meet and consult on efforts to protect Toronto Island a number of times during this campaign. I am pleased to see he has taken his stellar community organizing efforts to the next level in running for council in Ward 20.

But rest assured, Mr. Kapoor is much more than the “No Jets guy”:

I want to continue the framework for development built by Adam Vaughan through community engagement. I will champion sustainable development, public and green spaces, affordability mix and stipulated % of family units in all new builds. Livability in our ward as well as in the city as a whole needs to be of primary concern.

Further discussions on arts and culture and other issues of the community, coming from one of its own, can be read on Anshul Kapoor’s website.

Posted in Arts and Culture, Candidates, Citizens, City Council, Civic Participation, Communities, Democracy, Diversity, Environment, Film Industry, Leadership, No Jets TO, Olivia Chow, Participation, Toronto Island, Waterfront, We Can Do Better Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ward 29 and 30: Mary Fragedakis and Paula Fletcher, My Locals

Toronto-Danforth Councillors Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29) and Paula Fletcher (Ward 30). Photo by Richard Lautens / Toronto Star

Toronto-Danforth Councillors Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29) and Paula Fletcher (Ward 30). Photo by Richard Lautens / Toronto Star

I’ve been asked a few times during the Robb Not Ford mayoral efforts why I didn’t run for council instead and take a stab at an office that may be more attainable. My response is a progressive two-fold: I wouldn’t run in a ward in which I don’t live or work; and as noted in an interview with Skedline: “(Johannes) says the reason he isn’t running for council instead is because he believes his councilor, Paula Fletcher, is doing a great job.”

I’m lucky living in Ward 30 (Toronto-Danforth), which, in conjunction with Ward 29 (Toronto-Danforth) has been a civically-engaged and well-represented community as long as I’ve been a resident, at the civic (Paula Fletcher: Ward 30 incumbent and Mary Fragedakis, Ward 29 incumbent), provincial (Peter Tabuns), and federal (Craig Scott — heir to our former MP Jack Layton) levels. One could infer that my own community and political involvement (formerly a resident of Vancouver East — a highly engaged community facilitated by MP Libby Davies and MLA Jenny Kwan) has found a kindred home where I am today.

A short anecdote that illustrates Paula Fletcher’s presence in my community:

At a community event hosted by Jack Layton, I asked Ms. Fletcher, after introducing her to my dog, Hannah (discussed in a previous entry), if the park at Tennis and Broadview was going to become a designated off-leash area, as we live a superbly dog-friendly community. Paula was acutely aware of the issue and its progress, and knew — by name and address — several neighbours on my street with whom she had already consulted on the matter. She said “expect something real soon.” Within a month we had the designation.

A small example, but a microcosm of Paula Fletcher‘s commitment to results-driven efforts for my community over the past ten years and — hopefully, come October 27 — counting.

To the north side of the Danforth, Mary Fragedakis has been a welcome addition to City Council since 2010 who has helped keep the Ford agenda in check.

I’m proud to support two existing councilors who continue to make me love where I live.

And — if conservative Tory-supporter and television personality Liz West happens to take Ward 30, I guess I know what I’ll be doing in 2018 (but you didn’t hear it from me). Be warned, Ms. West!

Visit Paula Fletcher’s website.

Visit Mary Fragedakis’ website.

Posted in Candidates, Citizens, City Council, Civic Participation, Communities, Dog Parks, Feminism, Olivia Chow, Ontario Election, Participation, Social Services, We Can Do Better Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ward 18: Jolene Hunt, Just Like You (But Actually)

Jolene Hunt, Ward 18 (Davenport) candidate.

Jolene Hunt, Ward 18 (Davenport) candidate.

Jolene Hunt, running for city council in Ward 18 (Davenport), takes former mayoral candidate Karen Stintz‘s notorious “I’m just like you” line and gives it a realistic application, addressing the long-standing divide between candidates and communities that has been at the bedrock of my own mayoral campaign.

I am not an established politician. I am an active citizen with education, life and work experience, drive, and a strong connection to the community – Jolene Hunt

Ms. Hunt’s platform takes aim at transit, affordable housing, fair tax shift, child care, and community-led development from the place where it most essentially needs to come from in order to advance the community: the community itself.

Jolene has been a great support through my own campaign, and I’m proud to have taken the plunge into the 2014 civic election alongside a city council candidate who is genuinely of the people.

And, she has perhaps the best hashtag of the election (after #robbnotford of course!): #JO4TO

Visit Jolene Hunt’s website.

Posted in Accessibility, Buses, Candidates, Citizens, City Council, Civic Participation, Communities, Democracy, Diversity, Karen Stintz, Participation, Transit, TTC, We Can Do Better Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment