(Above: Diane with her children David and Kay)
Will our kids be able to live in the neighbourhoods where they grew up? Where can parents find affordable, quality childcare? How can we keep our streets safe for everyone? What can we do to make this a resilient city where everyone belongs? How can we create neighbourhoods that offer opportunities for all?
These are some of the questions we are wrestling with as a city and as neighbours. Many of these questions have political solutions, which is why I am running for City Council. Our community matters to me and I want to help find these answers.
The changes at Queen’s Park and at City Hall mean the role of councillors will be more important than ever. Our community needs effective representation at the neighbourhood level and strong leadership city-wide.
I am not a political insider, but I have proven leadership experience. As senior staff for the past decade at a large, non-profit community agency here in the East End and as a community advocate, I have experience turning ideas into solid solutions.
Through the past two decades, I have successfully pushed for:
- adoption of poverty-reduction strategies at the municipal and provincial levels, including decent work provisions, tenants’ rights and restrictions on payday lenders
- led work on schools as community hubs, leading to the provincial framework and resource supports for them
- neighbourhood improvements including improved local service coordination, and
- revitalization of the Danforth through the Pop-Up Shop project and the elimination of the Vacant Commercial Property Tax rebate.
Great cities are built, and we need thoughtful approaches to playgrounds, parks and green spaces; childcare and subsidies; libraries, the arts, and recreation; community services and income supports; transit and transportation; zoning and housing; safety and policing.
This is also very personal for me. I raised my family here as a single mum, and we enjoyed what the city has to offer us all: a healthy place to grow. I understand how hard it can be. Yet, we live in a place where we still see growing gaps. These divides between us, along income and racial lines, must begin to close.
So I am stepping in because I sincerely believe we are a community that cares and that can live well together. If we are going to find ways to achieve an affordable, welcoming city where everyone belongs, I need your support now. On election day, let’s move forward together!
City Council Candidate
Talk, talk, talk about community hubs! We all know it's an idea that makes sense.
When I mapped hubs a few years ago, we found many players in the game: the City of Toronto, United Way Toronto, the school board, faith communities, cultural groups and other local heroes. Community hubs are one of those rare policy ideas driven both by the grassroots and by the “grasstops.”
Yet, if community hubs are going to work, it's service-providers, funders and government who need to do the hard work of coordinating services, so that individuals looking for supports don't have to do that for themselves.
It's why, large as we are, I led WoodGreen's initiatives to get the players in the same room. We worked with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Ontario Public School Boards Association, and provincial Ministries to develop a framework to work together. This led to the provincial framework on community hubs.
Under my leadership, we also developed the resources for the new Community Hubs Ontario network, with the Ontario Nonprofit Association, and a Best Practice Guide for school boards.
If we are going to make government work for people, government needs to do the work! I am glad to have been part of that and want to continue to push for good local services.
Today, while canvassing, I met an older woman who cried with frustration at how empty political promises are and how little change happens.
I listened and agreed with her frustration. Then I explained that instead of walking away, it's why I feel compelled to lean in harder. If we all do, we will have a better place.
Come visit us at 2084 Danforth Ave! We've moved in and are setting up.
Our new campaign office is located steps from the Woodbine station, along the Danforth. We have a fabulous view of downtown and the neighbourhood where Diane partnered with DECA to eliminate the Tax Rebate for Vacant Commercial properties. We are glad to be in a central of hub of Beaches East York.
Join us on Sunday, Sept 30, 1 - 3 p.m. to celebrate the opening, pick up some literature, sign up for a canvas.
Why are City Councillors important?
How do we create community and build a city where everyone belongs?
A lesson from a local park:
Today, the provincial government is introducing a new bill called the Better Local Government Act.
This act is Orwellian doublethink in more than its name. It attacks the free and open structure of our society, ignoring any due process or democratic principles.
We have been here before. The Harris Conservatives introduced both a Better Local Government Act (Bill 86) and a Fewer Politicians Act (Bill 81).
The Ford provincial government proposes to merge the City's wards into provincial ridings mid-stream, after campaigns are already well underway and after City Council had already affirmed its new 47-ward strurcture as the most fair representation of the city's residents.
In Beaches East York, Matt Kellway and I standing for democracy. Join us Thursday, August 2, for a joint canvas from East Lynn Park. We will be collecting signatures from Ward residents calling for a reversal of the provincial government act.
More info here:
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More to come
In some of our neighbourhoods in the ward, 1 out of 20 every child comes from a family with a low income. In other pockets, half of the children you see come from a family who is struggling to get by.
Municipal government does not have the power to improve these family incomes, but we do have the ability to make a difference.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi tells this story of growing up in the city. “We were low-income,” he explains, “but we were not poor.” He waits for a pause before he explains further. There was a public pool and a library in his neighbourhood. And a quick transit ride downtown let him into the museum on the days it had free admission.
We have the power as a City to make sure every kids gets a fair chance. Part of the Toronto Poverty Reduction Plan will do that. Our Youth strategy will also help. But we also need to look at every proposed city action, and ask, is this making us a poorer city or a richer one?
I will be a voice to ensure we are not letting our city become more unequal.
Traffic and speeding cars are one of the most common areas of concern I hear from people. This is especially important as most schools are located on residential streets!
If streets provide a dual function:
- as places where we live, meet neighbours, children play and also
- as links between destination, providing a way to travel between places,
then surely our residential streets should lean towards the first of those. They, above all, should be safe places.
Yet, too many of our streets are designed as small highways, with sidewalks as an afterthought. I have seen mothers pushing strollers alongside other children, end up off the curb as they negotiated many of our narrow sidewalks.
So I want to see bulb-outs at street corners (where guerrilla gardeners can play!), wider sidewalks, two-sided parking and other creative ways we can slow traffic in our neighbourhoods, better than speed bumps.
The AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) will impel more sectors to provide appropriate accommodations over the course of this Council term. These are needs which will only grow with our aging population.
Yet Council is not relieved of an obligation to respond. It has both an important role at the leadership level and fiscally. We still have work to do on our transit system as those changes role out now. We must continue to examine how our programs and services are delivered, and whether they are done with an inclusive, low-barrier model.
We pay the lowest property taxes in the GTA although we receive some of the highest levels of service. For even just an added one dollar a day, we could move on many of the city-building initiatives that would make this a better place to live, to travel around, to work and play in. I think most people would be willing to pay that if we could see the improvements around us. We have to be mindful of sticker-shock. People will not willingly hand over more money if improvements are not apparent. So we need to respect tax-payers and trust them with more transparency.
The City also has a number of options besides raising property taxes, tools under the City of Toronto Act, which we should explore further. My work on the elimination of the Vacant Commercial Property Tax Rebate is one example of creative workarounds we can look at. I also believe the Vehicle Registration Tax should be restored. The “McMansion” tax on homes worth over $4 million has also been proposed and is something I am in favour of.
The City has a Revenue problem that it must get on top of if it is to be fiscally sustainable.
Inclusive zoning is one of the new tools that cities have to make sure that some affordable housing is being built. The legislation means that cities can require that developers offer part of any new building as an affordable rate – rather than at a market-driven one. Through my time at the Federation of Metro Tenants Association, I fought for these new municipal powers, and in April of this year, the province granted them.
So the new City Council will have to develop the new regulations to carry this forth. Unless Toronto adopts a strong program, we risk becoming more and more like Manhattan in New York city, where only the richest people can afford to live.
The policy of inclusive zoning provides an important source of new housing, as government is not able to meet the full demand. Channeling the richer resources of the private market into a positive direction is much more impactful. In my conversations with the Development community is that they will adapt to the new regime, as long as all other developers are also bound by the same rules.
We need to channel the building boom in this city so that everyone benefits.