Challengers To Watch XII

This one’s a tough one.

I know J.P. Boutros. I’ve chatted with J.P. Boutros. jpboutrosHad drinks with J.P. I like J.P.

It’s going to be difficult to be seen maintaining any sense of unbiased perspective here. So be it. Take it into consideration as you read on.

J.P. Boutros is running for city council in Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence. He was an advisor on transit for the former Ward 16 councillor, former TTC chair and former mayoral candidate, Karen Stintz. To say he had a fiery baptism in the heated cauldron of city politics would be whatever’s under an understatement. Rob Ford. Public transit. Subways, subways, subways. Let’s get rid of streetcars.

The death of Transit City. Service cuts. Fare hikes. Gary Webster. The coup against the mayor to take back control of the file, put the Eglinton Crosstown LRT back on track. One City.

This kind of turmoil might’ve put off public life for some people, apparently not J.P. He cites “loving city politics” as one reason for deciding to enter the race. fierycauldronThe second, and probably more important reason?

Well, it starts with the Scarborough subway.

We all know this story, pretty much by heart now. The mayor’s dream of the Sheppard subway extension dead, reborn in the form of a subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line instead of the planned LRT line. How’d that happen? Well, your guess is as good as mine but it was probably a toxic mix of both political ambition and cravenness at a couple levels of government.

Its appearance as an item at the TTC commission meeting caught J.P Boutros by surprise. When he expressed a WTF after the fact, he was pulled to the side (not by his then boss, I’m assured) and told to know his place. “You’re an advisor not an elected official.”

Correcting that situation is reason #2 Boutros is running for city council.

Since announcing, he’s been stridently hitting that anti-Scarborough subway note, specifically the property tax increase needed to pay the city’s portion of it. ward16It’s absolutely unnecessary since the proposed Scarborough LRT extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway was going to be paid for entirely by the province. A better transit option, as he sees it, with none of the costs.

If we’re fine with a bump in our property taxes, why not use it instead for things the city actually needs? Which Boutros has pledged to do if elected, and if he’s able to help put council back on the LRT track in Scarborough. Yes. As city councillor for Ward 16, J.P. Boutros would push to have that debate opened up again.

“We have something on the books that’s signed right now [the city’s Master Agreement with Metrolinx to build a Scarborough LRT], that’s good to go,” he told the Globe and Mail’s Oliver Moore. “Let’s do it.”

Instead, the city could spend some of the additional revenue in the wider community, better and more parks and green spaces, for example. hitthegroundrunningBoutros has proposed that the city buy some school land the Toronto District School Board is trying to sell off, Bannockburn, keep it as a park for Ward 16 residents. Spending money where you need to rather than where you don’t.

This would put J.P. Boutros at odds on a couple of important levels with the ward’s outgoing councillor and his former boss. Even more so than on the TTC file, Karen Stintz stands as a rabid penny-pinching conservative of the most extreme kind. Not for nothing was she regarded as one of the leaders of the Miller era Responsible Government Group, a de facto opposition band of councillors including the likes of Mike Del Grande, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Frances Nunziata and Case Ootes.

Is that the kind of representation Ward 16 expects from its city councillor?

Boutros doesn’t think so. At the doors he’s been knocking on, taxes haven’t really been much of a talking point he’s hearing. Development, and the proper managing of it, is always a big issue in Ward 16. goodeggTraffic and congestion. Minimizing the impact on the community as the Eglinton crosstown makes its way through. Parks. Ward 16 loves its parks.

People want to believe their money is being spent wisely. It’s a constant refrain I’m hearing from candidates. If that’s not what you’d call fiscal conservatism, then the phrase is utterly meaningless.

In what is now an open ward, J.P. Boutros brings some actual City Hall experience to the table. Some serious City Hall experience. I asked him if there was any baggage that comes with it especially given how acrimonious the transit debates were. Did he make it on many councillors’ shit list?

He shrugged. Not that he knew of. Thought he was able to talk cordially with all the councillors, regardless of political stripe. This time around, if he gets elected in October, he’ll be able to do so as a colleague not as someone’s assistant.

Again, let me re-iterate here. I know J.P. Boutros. I like J.P. Boutros. So, I’m very biased when I say this but it would represent a notable shift at City Hall if Ward 16 elects him as city councillor. shiftgearsKaren Stintz was something of a polarizing figure during her time in office, even before she became TTC chair. I think Boutros brings less ideological division with him. The tone will be different.

“If you can’t run on your own beliefs,” he tells me, “you’re doing it all wrong.”

I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt with that statement and take him at his word. I hope voters in Ward 16 do too.

hopefully and helpfully submitted by Cityslikr

4 Responses to Challengers To Watch XII

  1. G Man says:

    “Its appearance as an item at the TTC commission meeting caught J.P Boutros by surprise. When he expressed a WTF after the fact, he was pulled to the side (not by his then boss, I’m assured) and told to know his place.”

    Slick, this totally stretches credulity. The item didn’t just appear before the commission; it was on the agenda, with materials available in advance. All the staff materials were in favour of sticking with the LRT.

    I find the last sentence interesting too, since, as a political staff, he saw fit to corner me and lie to my face about the subway. He should apologize. More importantly, once he’s elected, I hope he tells his staff to leave the lying to the elected officials.

    • JP Boutros says:

      As you have decided to not reveal yourself, G Man, I can’t respond in the familar. But you are wrong.

      On October 24, 2012, I was focused on the DRL (DRTES) study. Andy was, too. The item you question me on publicly DID just appear before the commission.

      The motion by then-Vice Chair Glenn de Baeremaeker for a Scarborough Subway feasibility study was NOT on the agenda. For the record, was I not aware of its possibility at any time prior to it happening. That was the day Commissioner Parker, my friend, became rightfully upset. I was as shocked as he was.

      As GdB’s motion came forward, Commissioner Milczyn turned to me and said, “Well, since he can ask, everyone can ask.” His motion asked for Sheppard, knowing that it would result in a negative response from TTC Staff, as happened in March, 2012.

      As for subway, you will not find a defense of the Scarborough Subway by me once CC39.5 was on the floor for a vote. CC37.17 had conditions; they were not met, specifically the $1.8B from the province instead of $1.48B. I never liked the play for the Subway from the start. A deal is a deal, but defending my boss is part of the job, to a point. The conditions were not me, and I was out.

      As Slikr said so eloquently, “This time around, if he gets elected in October, he’ll be able to do so as a colleague not as someone’s assistant.”

      Below is the Commission item highlight on Glenn’s play, which you won’t find in the agenda for October 24, 2012. Thank you, and if you wish to reveal yourself to me to answer your rather strong accusation, I’d appreciate it.

      Glad to clear the record and your misinformation. JP

      “Commission requests feasibility studies

      Commissioners approved motions by Vice-Chair Glen De Baeremaker and Commissioner Peter Milczyn requesting that TTC staff report back at the January 2013 Commission meeting on the merits and feasibility of converting the Scarborough RT to a subway — instead of the currently-approved light rail — from Kennedy Station, north through the Scarborough Town Centre, continuing on to Sheppard and McCowan, and the further extension of such a subway from Sheppard and McCowan to Sheppard and Don Mills.”

      • G Man says:

        Mr. Boutros,
        I apologize for my misstatement regarding you being taken surprise. I was not aware, or had forgotten, about the manner in which staff were requested to undertake the feasibility study and was thinking only of the report they produced, which obviously was not a surprise.

        I had thought the impetus for that report was proceedings at council and, as I said, was not aware or had forgotten there were shenanigans also at the Commission.

        Sadly, I cannot retract the other part of my complaint, which is that you directed a too-vigorous defense of the subway, based in non-truths, at me after a town hall meeting in Ward 6 in February.

        I sincerely hope you win your election and have spread word about your candidacy among my own, admittedly small, networks. I just hope, as I wrote in my third paragraph, you’ve learned from your own experience and won’t expect your staff to publicly defend or promote wrong positions you may take as a councillor.

        G Man

  2. G Man says:

    Dear JP,
    And with Duguid’s announcement today, I may indeed owe you an apology. It sure does feel like the Provincial government is going to force Scarborough subway upon us. Ugh.

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