Veteran councillor recalls three decades in politics
Walker not seeking re-election in St. Paul’s
By Kris Scheuer
(Written for Town Crier March 24)
It is with certainty that for the first time in 28 years, Michael Walker won’t be among the decision-makers guiding Toronto’s future come October.
The longtime St. Paul’s councillor has decided it’s time to retire, announcing in March that he won’t be seeking re-election.
The born and bred Torontonian has long political history, winning every election he’s ever entered — with the exception of his first try for school board back in 1976.
Recalling that first race, Walker says he refused offers of help, even from then MPP Margaret Scrivener, and knocked on doors alone. He came in third.
“I was naïve,” he said, in his city hall office March 23. “But it was good. It was nice to be able to speak out.”
With the help of friends and family, he was voted into a school board seat in 1978, and never looked back.
As a trustee, Walker made an annual salary of $7,200 and also held down a full time job. But he honed his political skills, fighting for a community centre at Maurice Cody PS, and tennis courts and skating rink at Hodgson PS.
Over the decades, the Ward 22 councillor has represented parts of Rosedale, Lawrence Park and Forest Hill Village as boundaries have changed over time.
Walker comes from a long line of politicians dating back to the mid-1800s in Kingston on his maternal grandmother’s side of the family. His uncle David James Walker was a senator and former MP who represented Toronto’s Rosedale.
He’s known as a maverick, independent politician who often took the role of opposition to the mayors he served with.
“I believe in a politician who acts on principle and takes a stand and is consistent,” said Walker, who studied political science and history at the University of New Brunswick.
“Over time, you get respect because voters know what to expect.”
Some of his city hall work over the years has included calling for a ban on handguns, leaf blowers, and delivery trucks during rush hour, and asking the city to donate money to help victims in disasters such as Tsunami in Indonesia.
He’s successfully championed to create a lobbyists registry and election finance reform to ban corporate and union donations.
Walker says he relishes knocking on doors, running into constituents at the grocery store and consulting with residents.
“I have a high regard for citizens, even the ones who are demanding and tough. Sometimes their criticisms are valid. You can’t have a democracy without alternative views,” said Walker, who will turn 70 this June.
He said he’s now hanging up his political shoes to travel with his wife Anita whom he married in 1972. They have two daughters, Anne and Lisa, and a granddaughter, Molly Jane, who is named after his departed sister Jane.
Walker still has some fight in him and is pushing for an Eglinton subway rather than a light rail line. He wants to save the open space on the northwest corner of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue that is set to be redeveloped by site owner RioCan.