Why do you want to be Mayor?
Toronto deserves better than Rob Ford. He has done so much damage to this great city and its reputation that I don’t believe it is simply enough to just vote against him. I believe voting is a responsibility but we can all exercise our basic rights of civic participation; I can’t think of a better way to let Rob Ford know we deserve better than if we all run against him.
What separates you from other candidates?
Youth, diversity, fresh ideas, and a belief that I am only one member of a team. I’m here to listen and to learn. I’m here to work in conjunction with the people of Toronto, and to contribute ideas that we haven’t tried that I believe can work. I’m speaking for people who usually aren’t spoken for but who make up a lot of Toronto’s population. I have a diverse history and background as an advocate, activist, facilitator, teacher, musician, and artist, which I believe is forward-looking.
I don’t know as many numbers, I don’t have advisors; these are ideas that have worked elsewhere that can be adapted to Toronto’s unique cultural environment. I can provide Toronto with opportunity to have a Mayor who will listen to diverse communities and understands that there is more to be learned from them than changed about them.
So you’re a singer. Is this about selling records? Is this about getting people out to Paint shows?
A Mayor’s job is to be the frontman; just like my role as a singer in Paint. I am only one vote on a council of 45 (including the Mayor). I am just the one that talks about the decisions that an entire council makes. Rob Ford has not had a stranglehold over Toronto’s policy directions. In fact, he has lost on many votes, as he is, again, only one vote. As Mayor, I would be not much different from being a singer; I would be the champion, the one who gets the crowd going, cuts the ribbons, walks in the parades. I would be the public face of the Toronto. Not necessarily the most talented, educated, or informed, but I would be the strongest listener. That is the only way I could voice the concerns of an entire city.
Have you ever done drugs?
Compared to Rob Ford, I’m a saint. But I won’t lie to you: I’ve been a musician my whole life, of course I have! I am currently not. At all. And having been an Executive Director and an outreach worker, as well as a facilitator with prisoners and people struggling with addictions, I’ve seen all sides of the issues. I’ve worked in harm reduction, I ran the organization that opened North America’s only supervised injection facility that has saved thousands of lives. I’ve seen the disconnect between communities and resultant policies that don’t reflect the needs of the communities they affect. Policies made by people who don’t have enough lived or hands-on experience to make meaningful change. I am the complete opposite of that, and believe that my experience would provide for a more realistic, long-term approach to drug use.
Do you really think you can win? Why run if you can’t win?
I don’t believe in strategic voting, and I believe everyone has a right to express discontent with their representatives. so long as it translates into positive resistance in the form of art, community mobilization, or in this case, exercising the right to run for office. I am more interested in engaging communities that Rob Ford has alienated and giving them a reason to feel like their voice matters than I am to win an election.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the City of Toronto?
The three things that seem to bother Torontonians the most are: 1) the embarrassing reputation Rob Ford has given a world-class city internationally; 2) transit; and 3) affordable housing. Toronto’s citizens can be made more productive and able to pursue their passions if they spent less time in transit, less time worrying about where their next meal is going to come from, and less time defending this great city’s image in light (or perhaps “in dark”) of our current Mayor.
Are you concerned that your support of working-class citizens is too partisan?
If we empower the precariat, or the poor, it’s not going to make anyone lose their houses in the suburbs. It won’t lead to rampant street crime, used needles in playgrounds, and prostitutes on every street corner. These things are happening all around us and only seem to offend us when they are in view. Empowering groups that are struggling only serves one purpose, and that is to empower the whole even more. We all stand to benefit.
Will you walk in the Pride Parade?
I’ll walk in every parade. Well, except for the white supremacist parade.