It’s not often that candidates for City Council are given the opportunity to run without an incumbent in the ward. This year there are eight wards with seats ripe for the picking. This post is the second in a series on the candidates in these contested wards, and the key issues in the neighbourhoods they seek to represent.
Ward 2 – Etobicoke North
Ward 2 is bordered by Highway 427 in the west, Dixon Road in the south, and the looping, twisting Humber River to the north and east. The ward includes pockets of marginalized areas and very wealthy neighbourhoods, as well as industrial lands.
This is Rob Ford’s ward, and the biggest story so far is his brother Doug’s announcement that he will run for the mayoral candidate’s vacated Council seat in Ward 2. It’s a bone of contention for other candidates; Rajinder Lall insists that a seat in City Council shouldn’t be a “dynasty,” while Andrew Saikaley argues that a Council candidate should not also be the campaign manager of a mayoral candidate. Here’s a look at some of the people lining up to replace Rob Ford:
Cadigia Ali ran for council in 2006, coming in second place behind Rob Ford, and says that she is proud of the work that she has been doing in the community in the last 10 years. She hopes that she can continue her community involvement with youth – her entire campaign office is run by teens, both in high school and university – her work in the Rexdale Community Health Centre, as well as her work as founder of the Etobicoke Conflict Mediation Team. Ali has been campaigning since January 4 in the hope of educating the people of her ward about the importance of municipal politics. She says she hopes to be an inspiration to youth and bring the diversity that is needed in Council.
Jason Pedlar is a mediator with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario who cites his background in dispute resolution and conflict analysis as key qualifications for the Councillor job. “What I do not like is the conflict that exists in the city,” he says. “We’re spending way too much time arguing, and not enough getting things done.” He hopes to make City Hall more collaborative, instead of oppositional.
Andrew Saikaley works in major airports, including Pearson, and municipalities throughout Canada and the United States as a transportation consultant. He says he aims to distinguish himself from Ford by being completely accountable to his constituents, and acting on the committee level where his input on organizing transportation systems will be appreciated.
Rajinder Lall, a real estate agent with Re/Max, describes himself as a simple man with hopes to change Toronto from the inside out. He hasn’t started campaigning yet and doesn’t have a website, but hopes that in talking to people in his ward they will be able to see that he will represent what is best for the common man.
Doug Ford did not respond to Spacing‘s requests for comment. He has not yet declared a platform, and does not have a website. Also running in Ward 2 is Ranjeet Chahal.
THE ISSUES SPECIFIC TO THE WARD
Development – Woodbine
Since 2005, news of the Woodbine development has been ringing in the ears of excited North Etobicokers. The lot has since sat empty, but construction is expected to begin this fall on the billion-dollar retail complex, hotel, racetrack, and theatre.
- Ali is upset that the plans for the development are not designed to incorporate the neighbourhood. The site itself and all its planned amenities are set too far back from the street to truly engage the neighbouring areas.
According to the 2006 Statistics Canada Census, in Ward 2 there is an unemployment rate of 8.3 per cent, which is higher than the Toronto average of 7.6.
- Ali says she fought for the Woodbine development to ensure that 30% per cent of its jobs went to people who live in the area. While the coalition of groups she represented, CORD, were not able to achieve the 30%, the jobs will be advertised and promoted locally, before the Woodbine Entertainment Complex searches elsewhere, for the next 20 years.
- Lall emphasizes the importance of supporting local businesses. He sees businesses opening and closing all the time in the area. His take is that if business in the area is increased, unemployment will decrease.
According to the 2006 Census, only 17% of people in Ward 2 take public transit, 2% walk or bike and the rest drive.
- Saikaley laments the terrible access to public transit in the area. Yes, he says, people can drive their cars to Kipling subway station, park, and take the subway or GO. “But if I want to get downtown from my house, I have to pack a lunch and plan half my day around just getting there,” he told Spacing. He says enough is enough, people want one dollar of services in exchange for one dollar of taxes.
- Ali says that public transit is another example of how the area has been forgotten. Plans for the Finch West LRT were delayed this year, and the fate of the Union-Pearson rail link was up in the air until earlier this summer. She hopes the Woodbine development will spur a transit improvement, and will fight to make this a reality.
- Pedlar doesn’t want to be positional on many issues, but he says that as councillor he would make sure that communities become more involved with each other, allowing him to mediate between them and the City. “I honestly believe that communities are just that,” he says. “They should be the masters of their own destinies.”
- Ali says communities in her ward are trying to be self-sustaining, citing her mediation team as an example, but says that they cannot do so when the City is unwilling to listen and participate. They also cannot create community programs or recreation centres, or fix the condition of their parks, without adequate funding.
As the election continues, and Doug Ford’s campaigning begins, the race in this Ward will heat up considerably. Stay tuned for details on the issues that emerge in this race as October 25 approaches.
Photo by Oliver Mallich