And here’s where I want to begin; by acknowledging that we are all better off when those of us with the least are better off.
We are all better off when immigrants, women and children are better off.
We are better off when youth in Scarborough have the same opportunities for arts and cultural programming as youth in Toronto’s downtown core.
We are all better off when young men from our low-income communities have real educational and training support to help lift themselves out of poverty.
We are better off when the people leading our city reflect the diversity of our city. And fundamentally, we are all better off when we understand that some things are just non-negotiable for our quality of life.
We can’t do it all at once. But we can start by focusing on a few things. I call it:
Six for the 6ix:
1. Right to Housing: Recognize that housing is a fundamental human right and that incremental targets alone are not enough. This means we must set in place aggressive plans to provide adequate and sufficient housing for everyone. My first priority will be addressing our housing crisis. To do this, part of what I will focus on will include:
- Setting and meeting aggressive targets for new affordable housing units — both purpose built rental units and ownership units. This means going beyond the lip service of past administrations. We want to set a target of 20,000 new affordable housing units over the next 4 years and tracking their full development.
- Re-defining the definition of “affordable housing”. Right now, there is no clear definition of affordable housing. Various levels of government use differing approaches and this means that nobody is actually able to keep track of what’s changed in the marketplace. The city currently utilizes average market rent as its baseline. Utilizing proper definitions for differing unit types and maintaining an awareness that our current definition is out of reach for low-income families should be the first order of change. That means recognizing that any definition of affordable housing should be based on the year over year income level increase for individuals in the median and lower income brackets. This way, we can attach a definition of ‘affordable housing’ to increase or decrease in real wages.
- Engage the co-op housing sector to help develop affordable co-op housing options and set inclusionary zoning targets at 20-30%.
- Focus specifically on purpose built rental housing
- Utilize Section 37 Benefits in a more creative fashion and move aggressively on rezoning strategies.
- Work with federal and provincial partners to develop policies that ensure that our city shelters and other institutions can soundly manage and support refugees and their families
2. Right to Transit — Towards Free Public Transit: Yes, it’s possible! And the benefits are immense. I will focus on developing a strategy that will set Toronto on a path towards free transit. Free transit will help address climate change, urban gridlock and sprawl, and cut down on spending for road maintenance.
3. Right to fair allocation of city resources: Re-prioritize our spending towards more targeted youth employment as well as arts and cultural programming so that no one is left behind, especially from low-income areas and the inner-suburbs. This means – among other things – setting a 4 year target of generating at least 1,000 new jobs for youth in low-income neighborhoods and our most crime-affected areas as opposed to hiring 200 new police officers.
4. Right to employment outside of the downtown core: We have to develop proper and sound incentives for businesses to invest outside of downtown Toronto, among other strategies. This can include waving business registration fees and commercial property taxes for a set period of time. It can also include offering targeted grant programs geared towards these new offices to assist them with providing new employment opportunities in those areas.
5. Right to Mental Health and Accessibility: Develop an overall mental health and accessibility framework that underpins all aspects of city planning and budgeting. This means that our city’s budgeting should also be filtered through an overall mental health framework that assesses how our policies contribute towards developing positive mental health outcomes.
6. Right to Diversity in City Politics and City Hiring: Increasing Diversity in Our Politics and City Hiring. I will call for electoral reform that will create space for fresh faces and voices that reflect diverse backgrounds. I will move towards creating a city-wide employment equity regime that will ensure our city’s workforce and senior leadership reflects the city itself.