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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

ELECTION: Council Turnover – Ward 29

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photo by Jamie Bradburn

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 nine wards with seats ripe for the picking. This post is the third in a series on the candidates in these contested wards, and the key issues in the neighbourhoods they seek to represent.

Ward 29 – Toronto Danforth

Bounded by Danforth Avenue, Coxwell Avenue, the Don River and Canadian Pacific Railway to the northwest, this ward includes neighbourhoods such as Danforth Village, Greektown, Riverdale, Todmorden Village, and Central East York.

The Candidates

Case Ootes has been a member of council in some form since 1988. He was the first deputy mayor of the megacity, and served on a multitude of other City boards, but announced his decision to retire from City politics in January. With Ootes out, a number of candidates have jumped into the race. Jane Pitfield, who lost the 2006 race for mayor to David Miller, announced her candidacy the day Ootes resigned, while others such as Chris Caldwell had hopes of running against the City Hall lifer.

Jane Pitfield was first elected to City Council in a 1998 by-election, and won re-election in 2000 and 2003 before giving up her seat to run for mayor in 2006. She says that her proudest moments at City Hall were when she (with Joe Mihevc) was able to convince council to pass the pesticide bylaw, and creating the Fraud and Waste Hotline which saved the City $600,000 last year. After the 2006 mayoral campaign, Pitfield came in second place for the job of president of the Board of Trade and has since been on boards of community heritage organizations and non-charitable organizations supporting affordable housing. While many people talk about the need for fresh faces on council, Pitfield says that her four years off have given her time to reflect and research and she comes into the race as a “refreshed face.”

With a background in Urban Planning, Chris Caldwell says that councillors in Toronto need to shift their focus to creating a more accessible and sustainable city. He plans to do this by initiating community-based planning and budgeting, in which councillors are completely accountable to the residents’ needs and wants. He describes his Utopian city as a place where people are genuinely happy, where birds and people talking can be heard over cars, and where street-side vendors overtake big box shopping malls.

As an environmentalist and lifelong resident of Ward 29, some of Mary Fragedakis’ key points focus on bettering the world around her. Her key issues include increasing accessibility to solar panels and acting to maintain current green space while creating more. Endorsed by Jack Layton and former mayor of East York Michael Prue, Fragedakis says her vision is one that is shared by her community members, and constituents.

John Richardson, a self-proclaimed jack of all trades, has an academic background as a lawyer and runs his own business conducting seminars on a number of different topics, including some for university students on how to progress from school into the real world. Richardson is focusing on the issues of taxation on local businesses and the taxing of renters in buildings with more than seven units. He says that it’s unfair for businesses to be taxed four times that of residents, and for apartment tenants to be taxed at the same rate as homeowners.

Also running is Jennifer Wood, a resident of ward 29, who has a bachelor of law as well as a bachelor of science. She is currently a senior manager at RBC for mergers and acquisitions, but is also a board member of the Kiwanis Club of Toronto and volunteers with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Toronto and Covenant House.

Mike Restivo is also running, and has a background in IT and finance as well as philosophy and psychology. His website includes a short biography and a number of blogs that include comments he made in regards to election issues on the websites of newspapers.



Some say that parking is a hot topic in the ward, some say otherwise. Between all the small businesses on the Danforth that attract a crowd, and the residents that live there, parking is certainly tight.

  • Pitfield recognizes that the parking is an issue, but says that there is going to have to be a lot of community consultation before even approaching any solution. Do people want to see more bikes or more cars?
  • Richardson compares the current situation in the Danforth area to what Bloor West Village faced a couple years ago. The solution for that area came via a survey though businesses about how their customers got there. The result showed that most customers were local and therefore have other alternatives including walking or biking to the area and more parking lots were unnecessary. He would like to see the same kind of community study done for the Danforth.

Green Spaces:

There aren’t a lot of parks in Ward 29. The ravines surrounding the Brick Works are inaccessible, both by foot and on bike, except at the Brick Works itself.

  • As a long-standing environmental activist, Fragedakis says the current green spaces in the area are underserved and not maintained. She would like to see a place carved out for more green space, as opposed to paving over green space for a parking lot which was proposed under Case Ootes.
  • Caldwell believes that Toronto should bring in a happiness index that would record people’s levels of satisfaction. He says that green spaces and access to them enhance people’s happiness and those people generally have better relationships.

Community Involvement:

  • Richardson would like to see more space for community centres. He recognizes the need for it, and would love to see recently abandoned buildings such as the Music Hall (which, being on the south side of the Danforth, is not actually part of Ward 29) taken over for community recreational activities.
  • Fragedakis founded the Broadview Community Youth Group in the hope of bringing youth together to build up the community. One of their recent projects included getting local artists, children, and youth to paint a mural on the south fence of the green field just north of the Danforth with a magic garden theme to discourage graffiti tagging.
  • Wood believes in holding regular town hall meetings on all topics in order to generate feedback and interest in issues that involve the community.

Transit and Walkability:

After the Danforth subway stations second exit ordeal, residents in the area are concerned with tactics used by the TTC, and those in the north part of the ward feel that bus routes aren’t properly connected.

  • Caldwell would love to see more attention paid to the northern parts of the ward, which are extremely car-oriented and not walkable. Broken sidewalks and a lack of greenery don’t entice people to congregate in areas north of O’Connor, but instead encourage people to get in their cars and drive to somewhere more desirable.
  • Wood would like to encourage accessible and diverse plan for transportation, one that integrates cycling, walking, public transit and driving.

In this part of the city, Spacing is hoping to see some revitalization of public spaces, such as more parks and a better state of repair on sidewalks and streets. Also the revitalization of the Eastern Danforth and business taxation should be a hot button issue for candidates as debates are scheduled and the race continues.

Photo by Jamie Bradburn



  1. Its very difficult to get specific answers of any of the candidates, which unfortunately reduces the contest to more of a personality-driven affair or a generic sense of ideological disposition/direction.

    On transportation: Yes this area needs more cycling facilities, better streetscapes, capacity relief at Broadview and Pape stations, maybe Coxwell and Woodbine too.

    But the question is how? And at what cost? Do candidates favour a downtown relief line? Where should second exits go? How much will wider stairs and more escalators in stations cost? Should car sharing companies be given reserved on-street spaces on residential streets? Bike lanes on Broadview? Donlands? Coxwell? etc?

    More greenspace (excellent). Where? How much? At what cost. I’m all in favour, but some building or buildings will need to be purchased (possibly expropriated). So that needs discussion too.

    The Music Hall should be a theatre, not a rec centre. But certainly existing rec facilities are very well used, and could probably do with enlargement. But given limit resources, what would a candidate prioritize?

    Fuzzy campaign info. does not help lead to an informed vote!

  2. More greenspace (excellent). Where? How much? At what cost. I’m all in favour, but some building or buildings will need to be purchased (possibly expropriated). So that needs discussion too.
    The Music Hall should be a theatre, not a rec centre. But certainly existing rec facilities are very well used, and could probably do with enlargement. But given limit resources, what would a candidate prioritize?

  3. As a resident in Ward 29 I hope that all the candidates standing are either living here or in the process of moving. If one of our roads is bumpy or our transit is overcrowded, I want my councillor to be suffering along with me (although the curious boundary extension to the west side of the valley meant that wasn’t really true of the current guy, I understand)

  4. Well, Kevin, you could take the initiative and personally e-mail the candidates the specific questions and issues you’ve been ranting about!

  5. Residency in the area would be a welcome change in Ward 29.  At all three levels of government the representative lives outside of ward/riding. Case Ootes lives in Ward 3 and is rarely (never?) seen here.  Jack Layton & Peter Tabuns also lived elsewhere.  It would be nice to have someone who actually has a residential connection to the area for a change. The last time it happened at the municipal level was pre-amalgamation.

    Jane Pitfield used to live in Leaside, but she now resides even farther west, in North Toronto.

    Mary Fragedakis grew up on Langford Ave., went to Wilkinson Public School and now lives on Floyd Ave (that’s the wording on her website)

    I’m not certain, but I believe that Chris Caldwell lives off Broadview, a few blocks south of the Danforth.

    Jennifer Wood lives in the south part of the ward.  She calls herself a “Danforth resident”.

    Mike Restivo is a life long resident of Ward 29, according to his website.

    John Richardson has lived in and owned a house in Toronto Ward 29 since 1984, also according to his website

  6. The anti-Ootes sentiment in this ward is pretty high, and this would be a cakewalk for a capable NDP candidate but the current offering of Mary F is pretty poor, in person she comes across as a bit of an air head, (with the Sarah Palin aww schucks personally) and not very informed or up to speed on the environmental issues that she claims to support. Caldwell looked like a solid candidate until I read this article about the happiness index and his vision of birds chirping, so now I guess I’m voting for Wood, at least she lives in the ward, unlike Pitfield who lives in Leaside.

  7. Somewhat useful, thanks. One issue that is less mentioned is how to fix up the biking situation on the Bloor/Danforth as there are potentially a lot of cyclists who want better biking. Now the Viaduct is safer/better, it’s again a then what? on either side – and why isn’t this done already.
    It’s going to be uphill – the years of Ootes and whomever before have not given a catch basin to drain the crossover at Broadview and Danforth NE corner – sure it’d cost money, but it’s a big puddle with every rain/snow.
    Big City? – nope, an Ootesback

  8. I remember when Mary Fragedakis was doing her Masters degree at U of T. Mary’s a smart, passionate woman. The Sarah Palin in this race is Rob Ford.

  9. I remember Mary from the fight against the big box store here in Toronto-Danforth.  She was one of the leaders of the fight, she was smart and she was articulate.  I don’t remember Jennifer Wood being involved in that at all.

  10. I’ve actually started volunteering for Mary Fragedakis, having been drawn into the election by the mayoral race… and then looking to my local ward for a more hopeful story. I hope Debb takes a second look at her, and particularly at what she’s already managed to get done from outside council.

  11. I don’t think it matters AT ALL if you live in the ward or not. If you are a dedicated, hard-working and passionate leader that gets things done….that’s all that should matter! I’m voting for Jane Pitfield. She is the only candidate with experience and the only candidate I am impressed with.

  12. I attended the candidates debate last night, and my opinion of Mary has not changed. I respect that she has lived in the ward for her entire life, but beyond that she doesn’t have much to offer. Mary has also visited my door twice so I’ve had a chance to chat with her one on one, it’s rather painful to hear her try to explain her view on solar panels and she had a blank and confused look when I explained the issues I’ve had with solar panels and trying to make my house more environmentally sustainable. I also mentioned Jane Jacobs’ vision which she needed me to explain to her (did the NDP vet her at all?). I think the NDP made a big mistake in not backing Caldwell, he is much smarter, much and more personable than Mary. My left leaning vote is now up for grabs between Wood and Caldwell. Pitfield also looked good at the debate but her promise to move to the ward if elected seems hollow.

  13. I also attended the candidates debate last night and I agree with Debb that Mary has nothing to offer. Caldwell, though providing some good points just doesn’t seem to have enough strength for this position, as well no experience or real community involvement in the past. I thought Pitfield had the best points and spoke really well- very professional in my opinion. My vote I think in the end will go for Pitfield, I agree with Eric that it doesn’t matter if they are in the ward or not- just if they deliver. Her history and experience in politics is impressive and she seems like the kind of councillor we need. She has also worked with Ford and Smitherman, so whoever wins for mayor will be more willing to work with Jane then a new candidate……..especially an NDP one.

  14. Jennifer Wood is a banker. Mary Fragedakis is a small business owner. Caldwell is a young IT guy. And the other candidates I don’t even know and haven’t heard of. Pitfield is experienced in politics and knows how City Hall runs, however she doesn’t live in our ward. Still though, I’m voting for Jane. She’s the only one who has knocked on my door and actually talked with my wife and I.

  15. I thought the all-candidates debate was pretty revealing. Jane Pitfield doesn’t even live in the ward, and seems pretty out of touch. She’s got too many pictures with Case for my liking as well!

    Jennifer Wood sounded more like a bureaucrat than a leader and seemed to spend most of her time agreeing with other people. John Richardson seemed like he couldn’t really be bothered to be there, although his emphasis on the importance of voting was admirable. I never really understood what Mike Restivo was talking about at any point, and he’s supporting Rob Ford, so…

    Given that Mary’s supporters were all chain-smoking out front beforehand, I didn’t think that she came across as particularly professional or organized. She seems to be relying more on her ethnicity and the backing of provincial politicians than any real ideas or leadership ability. I don’t want a counsellor that’s beholden to provincial masters. I want someone who’s looking out for the community!

    The only interesting candidate was Chris Caldwell — he seemed like the only one with a coherent, well-planned vision for the ward and for the city. I thought his closing remarks were very inspiring. Having someone with a background in community urban planning background would make sure that things like the Strathmore second exit fiasco would never happen to our ward again. I don’t see anyone else with the qualities or credentials for 21st century leadership.

  16. Chris Caldwell is deserving of consideration. I don’t think anyone should change a vote for him based upon the above article, which paraphrases Caldwell’s views and is incomplete. Jennifer Woods was the first candidate to come to my door. She seemed somewhat interested in listening to my concerns but didn’t seem to have a lot of knowledge or opinions. She seemed to be running on the single platform that she’ll only stay in office for two terms. I think that’s a promise that is naive and difficult to keep.

  17. Hmmm, I found Mary Fragedakis to be down to earth and passionate about the issues. We had an intelligent chat about the complete streets approach to urban design. For me it is between her or Chris Caldwell.

  18. I also attended the candidate debate. I have to say, as a left leaning type person I just can’t bring myself to vote for Mary Fragedakis. I don’t trust that she has researched her issues and every claim she makes seems to come out hollow. In one conversation with her, she did a complete 180 on an issue she was discussing, first supporting one side, and then when challenged, switching to the exact opposite position. I just couldn’t understand it. She doesn’t have enough experience, and although I see some importance of living in the ward, I think it is relied on way too much to cover up for the fact that her politics don’t make sense.

    Jane Pitfield, although she doesn’t live here, seems much more passionate, knowlegable and articulate about the issues that face our community. A good advocate is much more important, in my opinion, than someone who has an address in a part of this ward. The ward is huge – you can’t rely on the fact that someone living in the same ward as you will be fighting for the issues you want.

  19. I agree with streetcar. When Jane came to my door she genuinely listened to what I had to say, and was thoughtful in her response. When I spoke to Mary it was clear we weren’t connecting and instead of feeling like she heard my concerns, I felt like she just talked circles around me. I think a good listener is FAR more valuable than place of residence.

  20. I agree on the need for good advocacy and listening, and I can’t help but feel that Jane Pitfield has had her time in the sun. To me, it seems like she’s just assuming that she can float right back into council just on the basis of her unsuccessful mayoral bid, and she doesn’t even live here.

    Jane seems like part of the same old guard of city politics — I just don’t think she has the kind of fresh thinking we need.

    And if she’s so keen to serve on city council again, why doesn’t she run in the ward she used to hold?

  21. Also, did anyone else notice how Jane tried to take credit for the efforts of the Strathmore residents at the all-candidates debate? To me it was arrogant and offensive. She claims she wants to ‘ignite the local voice’, but I think it’s already been ignited, and she’s trying to parachute in and take credit! And if the strength of the community has supposedly stagnated over the previous years, then why is she so buddy-buddy with Case Ootes?

    I’m with Streetcar on Mary though — I don’t trust that she really knows what she’s talking about. I’m also concerned that the provincial NDP is pulling all the strings in her campaign. If she wins, who is she going to report to — the ward or the party king-makers?

  22. I agree with Vasudha.  Mary Fragedakis is the genuine article.  She started a youth group.  She was a leader in the fight to stop the Big Box store.  During that struggle she showed a real understanding of how density and diversity makes for a vibrant, healthy city.

  23. To clarify, I was speaking too simply in the interview – my faux pas. I wanted to express the importance of biodiversity in the urban landscape and the relationship to health. Also, the need to support and promote small businesses and local economic development planning because of the increasing volatility of global markets.
    I truly believe things will only change if the community has an active participation in the planning and development and fiscal matters of the city.
    Toronto will face many challenges in the future – most of which are not even part of the political discourse with our current administration, which is kind of scary – it would be a shame to wait until we have a social or environmental crisis to react.
    We need a sustainable city. Period. Let’s start engaging in conversation with our neighbours about the future. With my Masters in urban planning, I am the only candidate with the credentials to translate this vision into a realistic plan. Please visit the web site or contact me if you have any comments.

  24. OK, I’m not going to try to manipulate the comment board by pretending a sudden, magical conversion to one candidate. I’ll state my bias upfront.

    I’ve known Jennifer Wood personally for almost 25 years. Of anyone I know, I can’t think of a better person to represent us.

    She is hardworking, intelligent, and honest. She’s approachable, and straightforward. She has always volunteered, at Covenant House working with street youth back when I first met her, and with other organizations in the years following. She’s pragmatic, but compassionate. She has real-world experience, in the corporate world, in small business, and with community organizations.

    Most of all, she will be a councillor who makes reasonable, balanced decisions. Not ideologically based, but decisions that come from listening carefully to all sides.

    The other candidates all seem capable, more or less. Jen is just much more capable than the others.

  25. I couldn’t be happier to see the Toronto Star endorse Jennifer Wood!! She definitely has a lot of sensible ideas to bring to City Hall.
    I like Mary Fragedakis (her parents are my neighbours) but I agree with the other commenters that her platform is weak and she seems overwhelmed and slightly confused when discussing issues in any depth.
    I want nothing more than to see Jane Pitfield defeated and return to her Lawrence Park mansion. She has been parading around ward 29 in her yellow jacket pretending to live here for the last few months, but the reality is that she drives here everyday from a faraway ward. Jane Pitfield is always taking credit for successes of local residents (the local residents did a lot of hard work to fight the TTC on the second exits but Jane takes all the credit, ditto for Ozark laneway).

  26. Faraway ward………uhhhh across the bridge? Wow what a distance she must drive to get to our ward.

  27. driving from a faraway ward is bad PR for Pitfield- Jane would have been wise to ride the TTC to the ward everyday (Leaside 56 bus would get her to her office from Eglinton Stn) and make an issue of the transit service to the north part of the ward, subways are great but a lot of us rely on the bus routes which aren’t as efficient, at least riding the TTC from Lawrence Park to Ward 29 would have given her some local street cred (her home is a fair distance, and farther than “across the bridge” both economically and geographically)

    Toronto Star endorsement- I found it rather hilarious that while the Star clearly endorsed Jennifer Wood, Jane’s website quoted the star article “Jane Pitfield, a former councillor and past mayoral candidate, has political experience.” to make it appear as if the star had endorsed her. Jane’s poor judgement that has been displayed lately, with her letter urging jennifer wood to drop out to her faking the Toronto Star endorsement, and the stuff listed in the comments above, having her as a councillor would be a disaster.

  28. For me it was between Fragedakis and Chris. I don’t want Jane or Jen – they’re both very right wing. Jane had Rita Smith on her team and she was working for the Stephen Harper Tories in Ottawa. Jennifer has the backing of the most right wing city councillors.

    Fragedakis was involved in the fight against the big box store and against the high-voltage power line. She created a youth group from scratch. She’s got an MA from U of T and the street/political smarts. Plus Fragedakis can win and that means one more vote for the progressives on City Council. We are going to really need that in the next 4 years – time and time again. The Star nod means nothing to me – prefer NOW and they endorsed Mary Fragedakis.

  29. Have huge concerns about what a fit, decent and moral person Jennifer Wood is after her campaign literature showed a family picture with her son wearing an Arsenal soccer shirt. Over the past 15 years, Arsenal have accumulated the most red cards(player expulsions for foul or violent play) of any team in England. To the point where rival fans sing ‘Same old Arsenal, Always cheating.’ If she allows her son to support such an unworthy team, she’s obviously not paying the attention to her children that she should be. And to let such an image appear on her campaign literature is a huge error in judgement. Can’t have those sort of worries about my councillor. Jane from The Lane for me.