Mayor-elect’s biggest support in suburbs
Downtown not a fan, Midtown voters were luke warm
Will a Ford administration be good for Midtown Toronto?
(Written for Town Crier Nov. 4)
New mayor Rob Ford got mixed reaction from voters in midtown, but one’s thing for certain: This is definitely not his core electorate.
So his sweeping victory — he won easily with 383,501 votes — has midtown wondering: what will he do for us?
Overall, there’s a cloak of secrecy surrounding Ford these days as he bunkers down with his transition team lead by Councillor Case Ootes.
What campaign policies will Ford stand by and which will he soften?
Calls to Ford’s team were directed to Ootes, who said he could not discuss any policy direction now. Period.
“The objective of the mayor is to deliver on his commitments and to get costs under control,” Ootes said earlier this month. “I won’t get into what’s doable and what’s not doable. That’s what the transition team is discussing now.”
And while they’re behind closed doors talking, so is midtown.
There’s mixed feeling among business owners, residents and Ford’s midtown council counterparts: fear, hope or downright uncertainty of what a Rob Ford Toronto will mean for midtown.
Ford: a boon to business?
There’s a perception by some Ford will be more business friendly than his predecessor.
“There are 71 (business improvement areas) around Toronto and many of them are very much looking forward to the new mayor,” said Steven Petroff, chair of the Upper Village Business Improvement Association. “We were very disappointed with Mayor David Miller, who spoke about the importance of helping small businesses, but didn’t back that up with lowering businesses taxes.”
Miller froze commercial taxes and lowered small business taxes incrementally over the years, but that may not be the perception among the business community.
Ford doesn’t outline any specific small business policies in his platform on www.robfordformayor.ca.
The newly formed Mt. Pleasant BIA is chaired by Neil Siomra, who’s happy with Ford, so far.
“I support Rob Ford. I am pleased he is in there to shake things up,” he said.
Currently, the city does 50/50 cost sharing of some BIA initiatives, but will this funding stay under Ford? “Perhaps that could be part of the cost-cutting. No one really knows what’s on his list,” Siomra said.
Death to Transit City?
One very local issue on Ford’ platform was the canceling of Transit City, including the Eglinton light rail transit plan. His transit policy states: “It’s time to stop the Transit City disaster.”
Ford’s plan is to take the $3.7 billion the province committed to phase one of Transit City and use it all, plus $300,000, on a Sheppard subway between Scarborough Town Centre and Downsview and turn the Scarborough RT into a subway route.
This would mean scrapping the approved Eglinton Light Rapid Transit line, which includes underground components between Laird and Keele.
Any decision would have to be made by the new council, province and Metrolinx.
If the Eglinton LRT is scrapped, it will be a disaster for midtown, residents and local councillors agree.
“I think it will be a mistake if they cancel the Eglinton LRT,” said George Milbrandt, co-chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations.
FONTRA’s key focus is city and neighbourhood planning.
“Although we hope it’s not the case, Ford may pay less attention to planning issues,” Milbrandt said.
In Leaside, the key issue is planning: heritage preservation, design guidelines and protecting industrial lands. But also the Eglinton LRT.
“The Leaside Property Owners’ Association would support the Eglinton LRT continuing, subject to some fine tuning,” said Brian Athey, president of the group. “Streetcars are an invaluable way to move people.”
Re-elected Councillor Joe Mihevc said, “I think people along Eglinton would be very mad at those decisions (to cancel the LRT).”
And it would also mean the $120 million spent on engineers, environmental assessments and four Eglinton-specific tunnel boring machines would be money down the drain, said Mihevc, vice chair of the TTC.
For now though, Mihevc is giving Ford the benefit of the doubt.
“We are in a policy fog right now. The mayor, premier and city council all have weight in on it,” Mihevc said.
New St. Paul’s Councillor Josh Matlow is ready to push for the Eglinton LRT.
“It’s my understanding all midtown councillors, whether incumbents or newly elected, will fight for an underground LRT to be built as soon as possible along Eglinton,” said Matlow. “So this is an area where I will respectfully disagree with mayor-elect Ford.”
Ben Daube, president of the Sherwood Park Residents’ Association, said balanced intensification of neighbourhoods and the Eglinton LRT are key issues now, not years in the future.
“Most people want something built (on Eglinton) soon and they know changing the LRT to a subway would be a delay for a few years,” Daube said. “I don’t think there will be a lot of people happy if things are delayed.”
Ward neighbours unite and weigh in
Over in Ward 16, reelected Councillor Karen Stintz is confident the Eglinton LRT will proceed.
But for her, a big midtown issue is what will happen to the abandoned TTC lands on the southwest side of Yonge and Eglinton.
Not only that but, “I got emails from people who are saying regardless of whether they supported Ford, they want (council) to work together. People hope we can maintain investment in parks.”
Ford has spoken out against Jarvis bike lanes that effectively removed one traffic lane from the busy thoroughfare.
“Huge significant feedback I got was to reverse the bike lane decision on Jarvis,” Stintz said.
Supporting small businesses is a priority, said Stintz, who had already talked to newly elected Don Valley West Councillor Jaye Robinson about what they can do to help local business improvement associations.
“I think we in midtown are in the unique position of having a lot of small businesses along main streets. It’s up to us to bring those (business concerns) to council and work with Rob Ford on solutions,” Stintz said.
Another issue Ford campaigned on was repealing the vehicle registration and land transfer taxes and councillor-elect Matlow said he’s heard huge support for that in Ward 22.
“But first we need to have a conversation at council about how to replace that revenue stream in a way that allows us to protect services,” said Matlow. “It would be premature to predict Rob Ford’s (other) policies…I haven’t had a conversation with him. I plan to listen to what he has to say about his agenda.”
Too soon to say?
While knocking on the doors in Ward 21, Mihevc heard no real support for Ford’s policies and instead heard concerns.
“People are worried their funding will be reduced or cut and arts organizations and festivals worry his view is that (these) should be funded by the private sector,” Mihevc said. “But there is a difference between Rob Ford candidate and Rob Ford mayor. His people are huddling together now to figure that out.”
Ford is sworn in Dec. 1 as the city’s next mayor for a four-year term, whether Midtown likes it or not.