Crowded field in race to represent Spadina-Fort York in upcoming Toronto election

Ausma Malik knocks on the door and waits with a handful of campaign literature.

When the door opens and a potential voter named Barb appears, she begins her quick speech. Barb was unaware that the municipal elections were only a month away, but she is happy to see the candidate for city council.

“That’s why I’m here,” Malik said as he handed her a flyer. “The election is October 24.”

Barb chats with her for a while and thanks Malik for running, she worries there aren’t enough people willing to take public office. But in Spadina-Fort York, that might not be a problem. Malik is one of twelve city council candidates vying for the vacant seat left behind when incumbent Joe Cressy decided not to run again.

Spadina-Fort York is one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city and the race to represent it has produced some of the fledgling campaign’s greatest ideas.

Malik, who has served on the Toronto District School Board since 2014, says she is bidding for the board because she is concerned about affordability in the inner city.

“To me, it is unacceptable that people and families in Toronto are being pushed out of our city,” she said. “And in the city of Toronto, we’re actually losing more affordable housing than we’re building.”

A growing community in the center

Spadina-Fort York stretches from Ossington Avenue in the west to the Port Lands in the east. It extends north to Dundas Street and its southern boundary is Lake Ontario.

According to data from the 2021 Canadian census, the population of Spadina-Fort York has jumped nearly 18% over the past six years. More than 136,000 people now live in the neighborhood’s 12 square kilometers, mostly in condominiums. The average age of a resident is 36 years old.

CityPlace is just one of many high-rise condominium neighborhood projects that have been built in Spadina-Fort York over the past two decades. (Makda Ghebrelassie/CBC)

Malik says the intense level of development has created its own problems and the disparity between those with high incomes and those with low incomes continues to grow. The city needs to spend money on services that help residents and will need revenue to do so, she said.

“That’s the other big priority when it comes to addressing affordability and livability issues in our city, investing in services, parks, transit and supports that keep pace with growth and keep pace with it,” said Malik.

Wide range of candidates with big ideas

Rocco Achampong, a lawyer who fought Premier Doug Ford’s decision to scrap the council in 2018, is also seeking the Spadina-Fort York neighborhood seat. He agrees the city needs more revenue to provide services and has introduced a congestion charge for people entering the city centre.

The fee would raise funds for municipal services and help solve traffic problems in the city centre. People who live in the neighborhood would be exempt from the charge, he said.

The neighborhood is home to many of Toronto’s tourist attractions, theaters and sports venues, so it makes sense to ask visitors to pay the fee, he adds.

Rocco Achampong, right, is seen here in September 2018 talking to reporters with Selwyn Pieters. They were reacting to Doug Ford’s decision to appeal to a lower court and invoke the rarely used notwithstanding clause in the Canadian constitution to reduce the size of Toronto’s city council. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

“If you can pay $15 for a beer at a Blue Jays game, you can contribute $10 to a low congestion tax,” Achampong said.

In Trinity Bellwoods, longtime neighborhood residents Steve and Simone Spring say green space is scarce and candidates need to address it.

“You see it in the park that we’re sitting in now, that on hot summer days, so many people who live in these condos don’t have access to green spaces, unless it’s a big park like this one,” Steve Spring said. .

“So it ends up feeling like Woodstock every other weekend,” he said, referring to the legendary rock festival that drew half a million fans to a farmer’s field in northern New York State 53 years ago.

Candidate launches pedestrian bridge to Ward’s Island

April Engelberg, who placed second to Cressy in the 2018 vote, is running again and wants to build a pedestrian cycle bridge between Port Lands and Ward’s Island. Most of the neighborhood’s green space is on the Toronto Islands, and ferry service can be slow and expensive for some residents.

“I will advocate for the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle lift bridge to the islands so that all Torontonians can access this public park for free,” she said on her campaign website.

Neighborhood resident Josh Cockerell said he was concerned about the pace of growth in Spadina-Fort York and would like to see “more thoughtful development” from the city council.

“It seems to me and the people of this neighborhood that the developers are really getting a free pass,” he said.

A Ward’s Island ferry arrives at the Jack Layton Terminal in 2020. Toronto City Council candidate April Engelberg, who is running for Spadina-Fort York, is advocating for a pedestrian and cyclist lift bridge to the Toronto Islands. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

“And there’s not enough listening to people in these communities who are raising big issues and not being fairly represented in city hall.”

While following the town’s politics, he doesn’t hear his friends and neighbors talking about the election and worries that too many people feel disengaged.

“I think there’s probably some complacency and settlement for the status quo. …. Hopefully we can create change instead of just the path we’re on.”

Here is the full list of candidates running in Spadina-Fort York from the city’s website:

  • Rocco Achampong
  • Robb Cook
  • April Engelberg
  • Kyle Enslen
  • Peter George
  • Ausma Malik
  • karlene nation
  • Laura-Maria Nikolareizi
  • Arber Puci
  • Igor Samardzic
  • Stephanie Solterman
  • Andrei Zodian

The Toronto election is less than a month away. Here are some other stories you might want to check out:

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Denise W. Whigham