The veteran will not seek re-election in 2010
His take on the voters, his colleagues and the city
By Kris Scheuer
(Written Dec. 21 for Town Crier.)
Toronto Centre-Rosedale Councillor Kyle Rae will miss consulting with constituents, but not the narrow mindedness of some colleagues at city hall.
The veteran politician will finish his 19th year on council next year and then call it quits, he announced in mid-December.
“I love the public meetings,” he tells the Town Crier Dec. 14.
Yet he’s often referred to the outrageous demands or unrealistic expectations of some voters who want to halt change.
“That’s the most hilarious part. That’s the fun part,” says Rae, who turns 55 in January. “A lot of my constituents want the status quo also, but that’s an unacceptable perspective to take in the downtown core.” Rae prides himself on pushing for change in his development-heavy downtown ward while some colleagues fight against change in their neck of the woods.
“A lot of my colleagues on council were elected to maintain the status quo,” says Rae.
“The downtown needs to grow or it will die. It needs a different perspective than the sleepy hollows across (Highway) 401.”He says council needs some new blood so it better represents the changing demographics of the city.
“Many of the politicians who’ve been at city hall 20-25 years must realize their constituency has changed,” says Rae. “New communities have moved in. (Councillors) may not be as representative as they used to be of the community.”
Rae is known as the first openly gay politician at city hall.
He spent his first five years in office fighting for the rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.
“I didn’t think I’d be a politician,” says Rae who married his partner Mark Reid in 2003. “I have a degree and masters in medieval history and library sciences. I was on an academic trajectory. (But) my activism in the gay community led me into politics.”
When it comes to issues such as Toronto’s economic development, he advises councillors to look outside the city at best practises in other municipalities.
With city councillors far more interested in their residents, by-laws and by-law enforcement, it has meant that they have given little time to foreign investment, economic sector identification and support, as well as employment strategies,” Rae wrote in a Dec. 11 email when he first announced he would not run in 2010.
But he says there is greater focus on the city’s economy now with the creation of Invest Toronto for example, says Rae the chair of the city’s Economic Development Committee.
He also listed many accomplishments he is proud of in terms of city-building including: creation of Dundas Square, cycling lanes on Davenport, Sherbourne, Wellesley, Gerrard, College and Shuter, more affordable housing, heritage districts and successful redevelopments.
Rae is still deciding where his career will take him next.
“I can’t even remember what I used to pursue (before elected),” Rae says. “I haven’t figured out what I want to do next.”