ROBB JOHANNES FOR MAYOR OF TORONTO 2014
The extra “b” stands for “BETTER”
More detailed discussions on each issue will be released as the campaign moves along.
It almost goes without saying that transit is one of the most significant issues on Torontonians’ minds. We live in a cosmopolitan age where transit needs to reflect the diverse work schedules and lifestyles of Torontonians; Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 does not apply to all citizens. The hours, availability, and accessibility of public transit should align with that.
- Extending TTC subway hours from 6am to 4am, 7 days a week;
- Rapid bus transit: reserved bus lanes, fewer traffic lights (this would be faster, significantly cheaper, and fully networked in less time than a new subway or LRT — but not as a replacement thereof);
- Expanding the reach and frequency of blue line night buses;
- The Downtown Relief Subway Line from Pape to Dundas West Station (or Donlands given that Pape has just gone through a massive modernization project);
- The 7-stop Scarborough Light Rail Transit (LRT) as opposed to a 3-stop subway;
- Increased wheelchair accessibility at subway stops (presently only 31 of 69 stops);
- Debit and credit card acceptance at every station;
- Time-based transfers; and
- Expanded WiFi coverage on subways.
We have been trying to bring a suburban lifestyle to an urban setting; let’s embrace that Toronto is a diverse and rich urban environment full of community and culture, as well as healthy and more environmentally-friendly living. While more accessible and reliable transit is a major step in reducing congestion and emmissions, short-term pilot projects aimed at long-term solutions to congestion need to be put into practice, looking at examples set by other major cities around the world.
- Reducing or eliminating car traffic and on major downtown streets like Queen and King Streets to become a transit, cyclist, and pedestrian corridor;
- Designated bike lanes on Bloor and Danforth in the summertimes;
- Changing hours of street parking on major streets to accommodate 21st century work schedules;
- Rationing road space with a license-plate restriction system.
My work with VANDU, the organization in the Downtown Eastside Vancouver who helped open and maintain InSite, North America’s only supervised injection facility, demonstrated the value of harm reduction in assisting citizens dealing with issues of homelessness, extreme poverty, addiction, communicable disease, and mental health. Alienation does not belong in my Toronto, and the value of InSite was affirmed the Supreme Court of Canada in Canada (Attorney General) v. PHS Community Services Society.
- The expansion of social services including homeless and women’s shelters, mental health facilities, community support and street outreach, and public education;
- A long-term plan with Toronto Community Housing to repair and expand facilities;
- Making city recreational services free for low-income citizens;
- Increased after school and meal programs;
- Nutritional and recreation support to seniors;
- Improved registration processes for city recreational services; and
- Smartphone apps to pay for public parking, as is done in cities such as Montreal.
Not just for those facing extreme poverty and isolation, Torontonians in general need more affordable housing and less high-priced condos. Too many highly-qualified and talented citizens are suffering from severe underemployment (they are what I would refer to as the precariat).
- A concerted commitment and action plan to eliminate homelessness and increase affordable housing for low-income citizens in Toronto, as has been made in Vancouver and Calgary;
- The increase of basic limits on units designated for social housing in condo developments;
- Preferential tax rates for those who construct mid-rise buildings between six and 12 storeys and communities of affordable townhouses;
- Expanding “laneway networks,” in communities with small homes facing onto lanes. It would increase the availability of living units and an income through rental or sale;
- Greater attention to and facilitation of landlord and tenancy issues including basic facilities maintenance, bedbugs, rental rates, and amenities;
- Regularly adjusting Land Transfer Tax brackets upward to housing price inflation; and
- Indexing tax rebates and raised exemption limits for first-time homebuyers. The average price is almost $600,000; a rebate level of $375,000 isn’t inclusive enough.
We all work hard for whatever money we make. But we also deserve a city and system that provides mobility, day-to-day and crisis support, Toronto, despite the current Mayor’s “gravy-train” rhetoric, is not over-taxed. In order to afford the world-class infrastructure that Toronto more than deserves, City Hall needs to be transparent and accountable about how and where money from citizens is being spent. A BETTER Toronto means BETTER accounting and accountability with taxes, through participatory budgeting.
- Indexing the Land Transfer Tax, especially for first-time homebuyers;
- Exploring the vehicle registration tax;
- Exploring a progressive local sales tax with rebates to low-income citizens; and
- Making city services more user-friendly and accessible with a qualified, knowledgeable, responsive, accountable, and customer service-oriented staff.
Youth are the not only the future but the past and present; change and fresh ideas, and the will to turn them into reality, all come from youth. Young Torontonians (particularly those under 30) are often left out of political discourse, and don’t feel they can identify with their representatives — who may simply not be able to identify with them.
- Dedicated transit lines from and/or for colleges and universities;
- Tax breaks for students who rent within the City of Toronto as well as those who rent to them;
- More affordable and accessible night life. Later hours for bars increases revenue that can be turned into more affordable rates;
- Starting a council on students affairs to be represented at City Hall;
- Youth hiring preferences at City Hall to involve a greater youth focus and voice; and
- A municipally-based version of the Ontario Internship Program to increase representation and employment of youth in Toronto Public Service.
We no longer live an age where conventional, 9-to-5 employment is the standard. We work nights, graveyard shifts, and early mornings. There is no single “happy hour” as is celebrated at bars and restaurants across America from 5-7pm. Where can Torontonians in the hospitality or medical industry go for “happy hour” to relax and have a coffee or drink when they finish work at 3am? This is one reason why illegal after hours venues exist.
Last Call Syndrome is dangerous; it creates a frantic binge before 2am and within 45 minutes sends thousands of freshly drunk adults onto the street, all at once. It breeds aggression, fights, shootings, property damage, more work for police, and more dangerous conditions for transit workers and late-night clerks.
Toronto shouldn’t have to wait for cultural events like TIFF, NxNE, CMW, and Pride to have extended last calls. Many European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand take a harm-reduction approach to drinking establishments and allow alcohol to be served until 6am (or 24-7 as in Japan), which reduces the ancillary harm caused by a mandated closing time and Last Call Syndrome.
- Extending last call to 4am; and
- Giving business owners the freedom to choose extending liquor licenses, even to 24-hours, 7 days a week.
As the singer in Paint and a musician who has spent more of his life touring across Canada than not, I can confidently say that Toronto is not only a rich setting culturally but artistically, more so than any other city in the country. I think of the arts as any other form of employment and education; just as viable, sustainable, legitimate, and enriching.
Arts are not just entertainment but a vehicle for social and cultural change and development. Whereas the historian or the politician provide a rearview mirror to explore and learn from our past, the artist provides headlights and a windshield that gives us insight into the future, and ideas that are outside the conventional boxes of normalcy. Toronto has the talent to bring the arts to the forefront not only in Canada, but the world.
On a practical, day-to-day level, a musician losing a regular gig at a local venue should be treated no different than a factory worker getting laid off. Toronto needs to expand support and funding sources for artists, and as Mayor of Toronto I would explore all the possible avenues to make arts funding more inclusive and accessible to the vast array of talented artists in this great city.
- Music City campaigns such as 44-79, which seeks to make Toronto a music tourism destination like Austin, Texas;
- Strengthening Toronto’s film industry and stimulating local business by reducing taxes through a municipally-based tax credits for film companies provided they hire local crews; and
- Increasing accessibility to the Canadian Federation of Musicians, ACTRA, and other union bodies to ensure employment equity, contracts, and employment insurance are available to arts workers.
In the interests of making Toronto a more accessible, environmentally-friendly, and health-conscious city, cycling needs to be further embraced. Taking BETTER solutions to congestion into consideration, further solutions specific to cycling can also be implemented.
- Bringing back bike lanes on Jarvis Street that the City of Toronto under Rob Ford supported the use of $300,000 to have removed;
- Allowing for dedicated bike lanes along major streets such as Bloor and Danforth in the summer months;
- Expanding the Bixi bike system.
While I agree that Porter provides a superior customer service experience, without conclusive health and noise information, I cannot support the Island Airport extension to include CS100 jets. It does not benefit all commuters, and causes more pollution, noise, and disruption for residents. I would endorse the Up-Link from Union Station to Pearson International Airport in time for Pan-American Games in 2015.
The Supreme Court of Canada, in Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, recently agreed with advocates from the Downtown Eastside Vancouver that Canada’s laws governing sex work were counter-productive and dangerous. A major reason that at least 60 women became victims to Robert Pickton or other predators was that the law put them a position of not being able to assess their safety for fear of being arrested under the s.213 communicating law of the Criminal Code of Canada.
Taking sex work to off-street venues that are governed by the same employment standards as factory or office work has proven to dramatically reduce violence against sex workers in countries such as the Netherlands. As Mayor of Toronto, I would agree to follow the letter of federal law on sex work in light of the Bedford decision.
Toronto is quite possibly the most diverse and beautiful city in the world with rich cultural pockets and unique local businesses. We have been seeing the gentrification of areas such as Queen West, King Street, Ossington, and College into more homogenous areas with the infiltration of condo developments.
As Mayor of Toronto, I would support the development and maintenance of unique neighbourhoods. Community events as simple as Movies in the Park at Riverdale, and a greater emphasis on cultural necessities such as Gay Pride will be further embraced to show the world that, in spite of the blemish Rob Ford has put on Toronto’s reputation, it is indeed the greatest city on earth.
When I worked at VANDU, I had been making arrangements with Elections Canada in the federal election of 2008 to have VANDU’s office deemed a satellite residence for citizens without homes. Thus, they were able to participate in democracy and vote with a valid ID that we helped facilitate. The result was an election that more accurately reflect the Downtown Eastside’s community. Toronto deserves the same, and I am committed to ensuring that youth, students, Toronto residents without homes, and other groups who are being ignored by their represenatives are engaged enough, and empowered with basic democratic tools to participate in their city’s affairs.