Dear Friends and Neighbours,
It was great to see some of you at last night’s demonstration in Nathan Phillips Square! What a day it was, with actions happening at Queen’s Park as well as the “Defend Toronto” organizing meeting at Holy Trinity. We had an impressive crowd down at the City Hall rally, where I was invited to speak alongside a number of other strong Toronto voices. Check out the crowd here.
Today Toronto City Council met for the third emergency session in six weeks in order to discuss and respond to provincial Bill 31 (otherwise known as Bill 5 + the ‘notwithstanding’ clause.) We successfully passed a number of motions in an effort to protect the freedoms of Torontonians as well as the fair and democratic nature of our election. I am pleased that my motion, asking Council to reject the bill and calling on the federal government to disallow Bill 31, was also passed.
The “Tipping Point”
However, in our questions to the City Clerk and City Solicitor, it was evident that there are still many unknowns about what happens next. The new legislation allows the Clerk to opt not to hold advance voting days, but this would be bad news for many Torontonians who don’t have the option to vote on Election Day. In particular, the City Clerk has said that she does not believe she will have enough time to conduct a fair and democratic election by October 22. In her words, we have now reached “a tipping point.”
All this chaos lies at the feet of Premier Ford.
Now, it’s down to the federal government as the last line of defense for our rights and freedoms to disallow the use of S. 33 to override the Charter. The City of Toronto has exercised all avenues in its power to oppose the province’s bullying tactics to disrupt our elections.
I don’t believe that the issues before us are partisan ones. We are all impacted by the upheaval of our municipal elections, and we all have a stake in any decision that overrides our Charter rights.
I am reminded of Lilla Watson’s wise words:
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Ford’s chaos by design is meant to pull us apart. Instead, let’s pull together.
I invite you to come to my campaign launch this Saturday, September 15. This gathering is the perfect opportunity to meet some neighbours, engage with local politics, and exercise your democratic muscles.
661 St. Clair Ave. W.
(click here for map)
11 am – 2 pm: Campaign Launch
2 – 5 pm: Group Canvass
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Dear Friends and Neighbours,
Today has been a rollercoaster in the world of Toronto politics revolving around the future of our election and the state of our local democracy.
First, we received a historic decision from the Ontario Superior Court which struck down Bill 5, the provincial legislation that sought to cut Council in half. Justice Belobaba declared the law to be unconstitutional because it violates freedom of expression (Charter S.2(b)). Then, just hours later, Premier Ford announced his plans to call the Ontario Legislature back into session this week in order to reintroduce the same bill – this time, invoking the ‘notwithstanding clause’ (Charter S.33).
Ford is “going nuclear” to get what he wants.
He and his government are saying that their desire to win this fight is more important than our rights and freedoms. The ‘notwithstanding’ clause has never been used in Ontario before and it should be used with great care, as its purpose is to override our constitutional freedoms. It should not be used to pass legislation on a whim. Bowling over the constitution is no way to govern – a province, or the City of Toronto.
The Path Ahead
There is more uncertainty ahead. At present, the law of the land states 47 wards, although the Premier is hellbent on getting this law passed. If the provincial government invokes the ‘notwithstanding’ clause, there is no recourse for any challenges for at least 5 years.
We always knew these next 4 years would be tough. The Premier is intent on steamrolling over Toronto, and he has shown the lengths he is willing to go. There has never been a situation like this in Toronto politics.
This is a critical time for Toronto. There is an election before us. That’s why we need to come together, right now, and demonstrate our strength as a community from the ground up.
Join me this Saturday, September 15 for my campaign launch.
Let’s take this opportunity to come together in solidarity and in comfort. I’ll bring the party, you bring the passion, and together we’ll put democracy into action.
Saturday, September 15
11 am – 2 pm: Campaign Launch
2 – 5 pm: Group Canvass
Light refreshments will be provided. If you’ve never canvassed before, I encourage you to stick around for a brief training and head out to knock on doors with new friends!
Shana Tova to my friends who are celebrating Rosh Hashana. May the new year bring sweetness and justice to us all.
Dear Friends and Neighbours,
I am writing to notify you of my election intentions in light of the ward boundary changes.
Later this week, the Ontario Superior Court will hear arguments from the City of Toronto individual residents, candidates and civic organizations to strike down Bill 5, Doug Ford’s so-called Better Local Government Act. This legislation is an affront to democracy, and I am optimistic that the Court will rule it unconstitutional. While, the fallout from Bill 5 has been dismaying and painful, I am buoyed by the strong resistance I have heard from you – at our neighbourhood meeting, through the more than 25,000 Torontonians who signed petitions and wrote emails against it, and in the hundreds phone calls to the Premier’s office. Many of you reached out to me directly to talk about the future of our city and our neighbourhood.
Be assured that, regardless of the Court’s decision, I will be running for re-election.
This community is my home. I was born and raised just to the west of here, I attended St Mike’s College School, and my partner Rosalee and I have lived in the Humewood community for more than 20 years. This neighbourhood is where we raised our family, and it’s the area I have been privileged to represent on Toronto City Council since amalgamation.
The next four years will be tough for the City of Toronto. It is clear that Premier Ford has set his sights on meddling in Toronto’s affairs, including disrupting our elections, planning a hostile takeover of the TTC, and cutting social assistance. On the new council, whether we are 25 or 47, our task will be to defend our city, to present a positive alternative vision for Toronto, and to do the work to make it happen.
We love Toronto because it’s a place that nurtures and inspires, it is welcoming and inclusive, and of course, it is home.
We need to continue nurturing the growth of this great city in turn. It will take creativity, energy, passion, and above all, a commitment to do this together.
I am so proud of everything we have accomplished during my time representing the western part of St. Paul’s. Together, we’ve pursued our community vision with determination and success: we turned an abandoned piece of industrial land into the Wychwood Barns, the beating heart of our neighbourhood. We have made several improvements to Cedarvale Ravine, which has become a green sanctuary for young and old, dog walkers, tennis players, skaters, and walkers. We secured millions of dollars for local investment – in new transit and utilities on St. Clair, and now on Eglinton. We have built and furnished new parks and playgrounds, and commemorated our shared cultural heritage, whether with the Charlie Roach Laneway, Indigenous murals in Wells Hill Park, or the Sousa Mendes Parkette. And, along with these positive changes, our neighbourhoods are growing economically and socially, with hot land development, hip new businesses, and a thriving arts scene.
And yet, there is so much more we can do, in our broader community of St. Paul’s and across the city, to make Toronto more livable.
My commitment to you
I will continue to work with you to champion the kind of city we want. We have work ahead to invest in our community’s infrastructure, to facilitate responsible development and to maintain stable neighbourhoods. Across our city, we must do more to tackle rising social inequality, lessen the burden of poverty, and provide relief for the opioid crisis.
I see my role as a facilitator and convenor for issues that matter to all of us. I was with you through the turbulence of amalgamation and through the dark days of the Rob Ford mayoralty, and in spite of these challenging political circumstances, I have always found ways to move forward on matters of significance.
Regardless of the Court’s decision, I am asking you to again put your trust in me as we steer through the years ahead.
With a larger ward and almost double the number of residents, the work of city councillors will change. I will not compromise the values that have underpinned my work in our neighbourhood over the years. I will be accessible, I will work with you, I will be a leader in our community and at City Council. I will consult, and it will be my job to make difficult decisions. When we have disagreements, we will work through them with respect and with open dialogue.
For many of you, we have had the privilege of working together already on projects in the western parts of St. Paul’s. For residents in the east, we will be getting to know each other better over the coming weeks and years. I look forward to working with you to build the fair, inclusive community and city that we all want.
I hope that I can count on your support.
Candidate for City Council
P.S. I can’t do it without you. Please let me know if you can volunteer or take a lawn sign.
Joe has served the midtown area for the former City of York and the new City of Toronto since 1991. His deep concern for social issues has led him to advocate for strong neighbourhoods, healthy communities, a clean environment and safe streets.
Joe has has served the public in a variety of capacities at the City and beyond which have helped shape his perspective on municipal policy. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Theology and Social Ethics (theses on Holocaust Studies and Canadian Mennonites, respectively). His early career as an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto involved teaching and writing as well as coordinating active learning courses in Latin America. He has a long history of civic engagement on issues of social, economic, and environmental justice.
As a city councillor, Joe has helped transform his neighbourhood with a variety of innovative projects. These include reclaiming the historic Wychwood streetcar barns into a new community arts hub and local park; the revisioning Cedarvale Ravine Park including the addition of an outdoor rink and warming room; the rebuilding of St. Clair Ave. West to accommodate light rail transit and an improved public realm. Joe is an active supporter of public libraries and local heritage, including facilitating the construction of the Oakwood Village Library and Arts Centre, securing a home for the Tollkeeper’s Cottage, and overseeing the redevelopment of both the Maria A. Shchuka and Wychwood library branches. With the support of many community leaders, Joe has spearheaded the refurbishment of playground and fitness equipment in parks across his ward.
Joe is a hands-on Councillor who believes that a healthy ward is active and engaged. To this end, he facilitates many community-building initiatives. Town hall meetings, information sessions, shop local campaigns, visits to seniors’ buildings, environment days, cornfests, and family movie nights are among his priorities to promote civic engagement. He also supports and facilitates many locally-led initiatives like Secondhand Sunday, Supper With Syria, and Wychwood Open Door’s annual Trivia Night.
On Council, Joe has a reputation for approachable leadership and consensus-building. Colleagues and collaborators across the spectrum know they can trust Joe to deliver progressive policy solutions.
- As Chair of the Board of Health, Joe led the way on a public health approach to drug policy during the rise of an opioid crisis.
- As a champion of parks and green spaces, Joe increased the number of free activities in our parks and expanded our community gardens.
- As the Poverty Reduction Advocate, Joe hosted community conversations to help formulate “Poverty Reduction Strategy 2.0.”
- As a food access champion, Joe shepherded the growth of the Student Nutrition Program to 20% City funding, reaching 208,000 students.
- As a TTC Commissioner, Joe secured the implementation of the low-income pass, the system-wide 2-hour transfer, and new low-floor streetcars on St. Clair.
- As a Newcomer Advocate, Joe helped form a bridge between a global demand for Syrian refugee resettlement and a grassroots desire to provide relief.
- As a long-time shelter advocate, Joe was instrumental in securing Council’s commitment to 1000 new shelter beds and $178 million to build them.