January 5th. It’s Almost Christmas Somewhere

(Hey, hey, hey! Before you take down all those holiday decorations, there’s still some seasonal cheer coming from City Hall. Today, Councillor Ana Bailão, Ward 18, Davenport answers our two questions about looking back on the year that was and forward to the year ahead.)

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1) The Gift of Councilling: What is the one moment in 2012 that struck you as the best example of why it was you became a councillor?

Both March 5, 2012 and October 30, 2012 stand out as very important days as my mind – the day Council approved the creation of a Special Housing Working Group to investigate alternatives to the mass sell-off of Toronto Community Housing scattered homes, and the day that Council approved this group’s report.

The overwhelming approval of the Special Working Group’s Report by Council was an important chapter in our City’s life; it reconfirmed our role in providing equitable living standards, mixed-income communities, and affordable living spaces.

It also recognized that, by reaching out to existing partners, and forming new relationships, we were able to find ‘in-house’ solutions to the big problems we face. While never forgetting the critical responsibilities of other levels of government, the recommendations of this Working Group guaranteed 90% of our scattered housing stock will remain affordable.

Of course, the recommendations are not the only benefit, the process – the numerous meetings, long briefing sessions, tenant feedback, and stakeholder sessions – was just as important. Throughout the many months of this process, I came to learn of the incredible complexities regarding the TCH repair backlog, how systematic the challenges were, and made me keenly aware: there are no one-word answers.

The one-word wasn’t “Sell”, and it wasn’t “Upload”, it was recognising that we are a complex city, and so too should the issues we face be seen as equally complex – and be given the respect, the time, and the resources necessary to be considered carefully.

When a problem is so large, and presents so many challenges, it is incredibly intimidating. It is the kind of intimidation that humbles any policy maker, that challenges us, as we realize how immense and far-reaching our positions are.

But even humbled, it reminded me why we began this exercise, the desire to be a public official and to champion and lead issues fuelled by our passions and sense of justice. I look forward to implementing the recommendations of the Special Working Group’s report and continuing to work hard to increase the quantity and quality of Toronto’s affordable housing. I also look forward to future challenges, asking difficult questions, and listening closely to the residents of this City.

2) Going Forward: In 2013, what is the one aspect you would like to see happen that would help develop better civic discourse?

The partisanship demonstrated at recent Council meetings must absolutely be repaired if the next two years are to offer any promise of progress. The level of discussion at Council must rise to a higher standard, one that the people of Toronto expect of us.

The localized partisanship of North vs. South or East vs. West serve no end goal of a better city, only a divided one, and continue to be a barrier against city-wide vision, city-wide investment, and city-wide prosperity.

I have also seen many positive changes of the last two years which I would like to see continue. Among them, community consultation plays a much larger role than any time in our amalgamated City’s history. We have longer deputation lists, greater amounts of feedback and more active and organized resident groups than ever in recent memory. Residents are also becoming more informed and aware of what Council discusses.

More and more often city representatives are reaching out to the public to ask for opinions, ideas and solutions about the important issues that face us; and by participating in this consultation we face these issues not as a collection of separate neighbourhoods, but as a City.

Every citizen of Toronto has a stake – and a responsibility – in these decisions and I will continue to work in ensuring that an opinion voiced is an opinion heard.


seasonally submitted by Councillor Ana Bailão

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