Former Toronto Centre MPP George Smitherman running for mayor
Byelection to be held Feb. 4, meet the candidates then vote
By Kris Scheuer and Christopher Reynolds
(Written Jan. 13 for Town Crier. Election night UPDATE.)
There are fabulous candidates running: Greens Stefan Premdas, NDP Cathy Crowe, PC Pamela Taylor and Liberal Glen Murray in the Toronto Centre byelection Feb. 4.
Here’s a snapshot of each of them based on interviews by myself and colleague Chris Reynolds. Scroll down to read each mini profile. We didn’t interview Freedom Party candidate Wayne Simmons or Ontario Libertarian Party candidate Heath Thomas for our story but they are both running in the byelection. And for more on how the horse race in Toronto Centre is shaping up, read my colleague Karolyn Coorsh’s article.
Candidate: Liberal Glen Murray-by Kris Scheuer
Occupation: CEO Canadian Urban Institute, former politician
Family: Partner Rick Neves, 1 grown son.Current residence: Lived in Toronto-Centre over five years.
Hometown: Montreal, Quebec.
Community involvement: Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, member of Premier McGuinty’s Advisory Panel on Climate Change and the Places to Grow Expert Panel, 10 years on homeless issues including as a fundraiser.
He is active in the community as a board member of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research and as a member of the Toronto City Summit Alliance and the Greening the GTA Taskforce. He was mayor of Winnipeg from 1998-2004, where he cut the city’s debt by 50 percent and increased its credit rating three times.
Provincial priorities and issues: Environment and Homelessness. “Here in Ontario (much) is happening on the environment with the Green Energy, Places to Grow, the electrification of transit.”
“I have done a lot of work with homeless. My commitment to them is within 10 years every person in Ontario has a key in their pocket for (place to live).”
Local priority: Sustainable communities. “Toronto Centre is an example of how most of us will live. It’s transit friendly, has walkable neighbourhoods. This kind of urban environment is the way of the future.”
Stand out quotes: “I am a strong believer in community-based action. In 1982-1983, I was part of the gay patrol in Church and Wellesley trying to blow the whistle and scare gay bashers. No one saw police as helping against (anti-gay) violence. I came back here (Toronto) in 2004. The police are now recruiting gay and lesbian officers. If you asked anyone in the 1980s if they thought police would be recruiting us, they’d have laughed.”
And: “I believe making a difference in this world is the single most important thing you can do.”
Candidate: Progressive Conservative Pamela Taylor –by Kris Scheuer
Occupation: Lawyer, certified mediator
Married with two sons, 20 and 24.
Current residence: Lived in Toronto-Centre riding over 20 years.
Community involvement: Volunteering in Toronto Centre since 1984 including more than 15 groups such as Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre and the St. James Town Safety Committee.
“I made the conscious decision to only work part time as a lawyer. I wanted to devote myself to this (community work).”
Provincial priorities and issues: “HST is huge … The NDP and PC parties
came out to rally at Queen’s Park (against it). It’s never a dead issue. And
the waste and mismanagement of public funds E-Health and OLG.”
Local priority: Homelessness “One of the main groups I am working with is
Fred Victor Centre. Their primary concern is moving homeless into permanent housing.”
Stand out quotes: “At this point it’s not even a dedication to community
work, it’s who I am. I’m walking the walk and talking the talk. My hope is I
can do this (advocacy) within government.”
Candidate: NDP Cathy Crowe -by Chris Reynolds.
Hometown: Cobourg, then Kingston, moved to Toronto in 1970.
Occupation: Internationally recognized nurse, “street nurse” and advocate for the homeless.
Community involvement: “It’s been at least 20 years I’ve worked in the area… Wellesley Outreach Clinic in St. James Town, Regent Park Health Centre doing street health and most recently at the Sherbourne Health Centre. I also taught at Ryerson. I’ve lived in the riding for 25 years.”
Priority issue provincially: “Advocating on behalf of the majority of people who are concerned about the underfunding of social services, the lack of moving forward on building more housing, the misspending that diverted a lot of money into the e-health tracts that could have gone to other important health services and really speaking out for folks.
“I know I’m going to hear about problems with the HST, so I will be another voice complaining about that.”
Priority issue locally: “Addressing the hunger and poverty in the riding.”
Family: Has “a wonderful ex-husband” in Roger Hollander, who used to represent the area as both the city and metro councillor. Also has a daughter and two grandsons.
A fun fact: “I’m a huge movie fan.”
Stand out quotes: “I just got mad as hell. As a nurse, especially, about the money wasted in the e-health thing. I also invited the former MPP Mr. Smitherman out on walking tours to show him the issues first-hand. I just felt that there was no excuse for (the problems) to go on this long unresolved.”
Candidate: Green Party Stefan Premdas interview by Chris Reynolds
Family: One brother, three sisters in Canada
Hometown: San Fernando, Trinidad
Occupation: Job creation and employment specialist. Stefan works from home as a consultant helping businesses, churches and other organizations with human resources, diversity, disability or other issues. Most recently drew up a proposal for a Parkdale church’s planned community outreach program.
Community involvement: Has worked in community service for 17 years. “I was just a teenager when I started working with the Out of the Cold at St. Paul’s. We were doing it as a pilot project, going into the prisons and the churches and out in the street.
“I grew up in the community. I was raised by the community. Went to school at Jarvis. Sang and served at St. James cathedral and at St. Paul’s Anglican.
Have volunteered at St. Michael’s hospital. Have always worked in the social justice arm of the ecumenical communities. At 20 I started working at home and internationally with Kiwanis.”
Priorities provincially: The Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works.
Priorities locally: “The business community is concerned about the rent on
Church St. It’s a huge issue. Another issue in the district is the prostitution.
Residents have been talking to former MPP Smitherman, councillor Kyle Rae and the 52 Division for a while about this issue and nothing seems to be happening.”
Fun fact: Stefan’s younger brother is a Dominican Monk based in Cork, Ireland. He issued a prayer circle worldwide through the Dominican Order supporting Stefan.
Stand out quotes: “I’m running to win. It will be amazing to have all of our junior Kiwanis clubs at high schools and universities come out to support me as well as the seniors within the charitable service sector, which is something the Green Party hasn’t traditionally gone after.”
I am covering Glen Murray’s camp on election night and a colleague is writing about Cathy Crowe and Pamela Taylor. I will post the story as soon as it’s edited. Meanwhile Toronto Centre voters, get to the polls Feb. 4 before 9 pm.
To read a story by Karolyn Coorsh on the horse race in the bylection, click here.