Learn Ward 13 ‘Toronto Centre’ Council Candidates’ platforms for Toronto parks

11 Oct

dogs-at-polling-stations-photos-pictures-election-2017-voting-polls-pets-dogs-962238To help residents in our community make informed choices in the October 22nd municipal election, the Friends of Berczy Park working Committee asked candidates in Ward 13 to state their position on the Park People Parks Platform, a list of policy positions designed by the Park People non-profit organization, to improve funding for Toronto parks programming, operations, maintenance and community engagement.

Below we have published the responses received to date by the registered candidates in this ward. Please note, we contacted all candidates with published contact information on the list of candidates on toronto.ca. We have published their responses in the order to which they were received. We twice invited these candidates to respond and we thank those who found the time to do so.

Note: Berczy Park is located in Ward 13 ‘Toronto Centre”, the new ward designation for this location, following the amalgamation of wards by the provincial government in fall 2018. Previously, Berczy Park was included within Ward 21.

Keep in mind that many Berczy Park users actually live in Ward 10 “Spadina – Fort York”, since the ward boundary runs down the middle of the Esplanade. Residents on the south side of The Esplanade now reside in Ward 10. This Councillor should also be responsive to Berczy Park issues although the park does not sit directly in that ward.  See our separate blog post regarding park promises by candidates in Ward 10.

You can find Ward and Councillor contact information at www.toronto.ca.

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IMG_0406Response from Candidate Joseph Richard Forget (received Oct 3, 2018):

“I support parks and communities entirely as the main means to fight crime and ensure no groups are left out.  Parks bring peace and harmony.  The city cannot ignore parks and comunity centres any longer.”

  1. Overall, do you support the broad policy positions of the Park People Parks Platform? No response.

2.     In terms of paying for parks, do you support an increase in the parks operating and maintenance budget and commit to clear, multi-year funding for park plans? This would enable the creation of dedicated park supervisors in heavily used parks and reduce workload on park staff. (Parks Platform points #1 & #2): No response.

3.     In terms of people in parks, do you support including funding for long-term engagement, including community programming, within capital budgets for new park designs? (Parks Platform point #6): No response.

4.     Do you support a free and easy “community event permit” open to recognized, local community groups to organize open activities in the local park for less than 75 people? (Parks Platform point #7): No response.

5.     What other elements of the Parks Platform do you support? No response.

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Response from Candidate Tim Gordanier (received Oct 4, 2018):

“I am a big fan of the Berczy Park and Pam’s work on making that happen.  I currently reside in the new River City and have been here since it was being built, along with Canary District and the beautiful Corktown Common park as well.   I have a black lab named Hurley and she adores the parks too and I see first-hand the benefits of ensuring public parks are here and integrated properly and responsibly – and at the cost of developers who wish to build within our ward.  Responsible development is one of my core focus points with my platform.  The rest of where I stand can be found on my website at www.timfortoronto.com ”

1.     Overall, do you support the broad policy positions of the Park People Parks Platform?  Absolutely – I like the ability for community groups not having permits and insurance hassles and the ability to use the parks in meaningful ways that benefit our districts within Ward 13. The Green Line Master Plan is also one I would endorse as Councillor.

2.     In terms of paying for parks, do you support an increase in the parks operating and maintenance budget and commit to clear, multi-year funding for park plans? This would enable the creation of dedicated park supervisors in heavily used parks and reduce workload on park staff. (Parks Platform points #1 & #2):  Yes I would endorse responsible budget planning for the operation and maintenance of our parks, however, I would be creative in how we find money at the same time to lessen the burden on taxpayers and instead create a fund that developers would pay into.  Pay-for-Play, so to speak.  Corktown Commons is a great example of how developers contributed to making that happen in order to get awarded the contract for new builds, in addition to building social housing as well.

3.     In terms of people in parks, do you support including funding for long-term engagement, including community programming, within capital budgets for new park designs? (Parks Platform point #6).  I would absolutely support finding funding for long-term engagement.  My focus as President of my board for the last 3 years at River City 2 was based on building a social foundation within the community.  This was achieved through budgeting a social spend each year and organizing events for residents that most buildings don’t enjoy.  Our reward has been a strong social community within River City 2 .. this same method can be applied to this.  There is alot more we can do with our parks and bringing residents out to feel at-one with their city and neighbours!  

4.     Do you support a free and easy “community event permit” open to recognized, local community groups to organize open activities in the local park for less than 75 people? (Parks Platform point #7):   I answered this above, already. 🙂

5.     What other elements of the Parks Platform do you support?   I have addressed everything I support and explained in detail above.  I am familiar with the Parks Platform and endorse its current mandate and focus. 

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IMG_0408Response from Candidate Walied Khogali Ali (received Oct 9, 2018):

  1. Overall, do you support the broad policy positions of the Park People Parks Platform?  Yes. As an environmental advocate, I see Toronto’s park system as critically important for helping people of all ages to build a strong connection to the natural world. Parks contribute significantly to residents’ health and wellbeing, and provide vital space for activities that build social cohesion and promote cultural expression. As the former President of the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA), I’ve also become a proponent on the role that parklands can play in mitigating climate change and building resilience to extreme weather.

2.     In terms of paying for parks, do you support an increase in the parks operating and maintenance budget and commit to clear, multi-year funding for park plans? This would enable the creation of dedicated park supervisors in heavily used parks and reduce workload on park staff. (Parks Platform points #1 & #2): Yes. Properly planning and maintaining our park system requires stable, multi-year funding. In addition, the creation of dedicated park supervisors would provide an opportunity to train and employ local people from the communities served by the parks and deepen community relationships.

3.     In terms of people in parks, do you support including funding for long-term engagement, including community programming, within capital budgets for new park designs? (Parks Platform point #6): Yes. Funding this type of programming is critical for advancing community engagement. Well-resourced programs can create welcoming and safe public spaces in parks where people of all ages can play, relax and interact with one another and natural world. In addition, this funding will advance more equitable enjoyment of the park system, since it removes the onus on residents to resource their own programs – a practice that disadvantages less affluent neighbourhoods. There are many local groups in our ward that could do tremendous public programming in our parks if they had access to funding.

4.     Do you support a free and easy “community event permit” open to recognized, local community groups to organize open activities in the local park for less than 75 people? (Parks Platform point #7): Yes. I am a big proponent of a more streamlined and accessible process. Many community members have spoken to me about the lack of community space as a major barrier that prevents them from organizing activities that promote social cohesion and community engagement.

5.     What other elements of the Parks Platform do you support?

  • The greenway corridor projects (#9). In my platform, I describe my commitment to providing residents with access to a range of travel options supported by transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

  • The stormwater fee for impervious surfaces (#10). It is appalling that John Tory’s Executive Committee shelved this initiative when our city continues to experience flooding that puts residents and risk, and does major damage to our infrastructure. Council must institute this fee and direct funds to green infrastructure to help the City to mitigate flooding (#11).

  • Explore a tiered system for land/cash provided by developers based on building density (#3). It makes no sense that smaller and bigger towers pay the same levy, despite the differential in demand that these buildings generate for park infrastructure. This is a critical element of responsible development, which is a central tenet of my platform.

  • Commit to maintaining the 50/50 redistributive policy (#5). It is vital that an equity lens be applied to how park levies fund new parkland acquisition and improvement. I wholeheartedly support that half this funding be directed to areas of the city that are under-resourced.

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IMG_0407Response from Candidate John Jeffery (received on Oct 10, 2018):

  1. Overall, do you support the broad policy positions of the Park People Parks Platform? Yes.
  2. In terms of paying for parks, do you support an increase in the parks operating and maintenance budget and commit to clear, multi-year funding for park plans? This would enable the creation of dedicated park supervisors in heavily used parks and reduce workload on park staff. (Parks Platform points #1 & #2) Could explore contracting out park maintenance and re-purpose supervisors to ensure standards maintained and interact with public.
  3. In terms of people in parks, do you support including funding for long-term engagement, including community programming, within capital budgets for new park designs? (Parks Platform point #6) Yes.
  4. Do you support a free and easy “community event permit” open to recognized, local community groups to organize open activities in the local park for less than 75 people? (Parks Platform point #7) Yes.
  5. What other elements of the Parks Platform do you support? Support exploring a tiered system rather than a firm cap on the amount of land or cash a developer must provide. Establish green-way corridors where practical and desirable.”

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Response from Candidate Jon Callegher (received Oct 11, 2018):

“As someone who loves Toronto’s parks, I am honoured to support the Park People Parks Platform and the long-term commitment to a strong park system for Toronto.  Should I have the honour of representing Ward 13, I would  seek an appointment to the Parks and Environment Committee to be a strong voice for the Park People Parks Platform platform.”
1.     Overall, do you support the broad policy positions of the Park People Parks Platform? Yes.
2.   In terms of paying for parks, do you support an increase in the parks operating and maintenance budget and commit to clear, multi-year funding for park plans? This would enable the creation of dedicated park supervisors in heavily used parks and reduce workload on park staff. (Parks Platform points #1 & #2) Yes. We must increase the operating and maintenance budget to keep our parks safe and well-maintained. 
3.     In terms of people in parks, do you support including funding for long-term engagement, including community programming, within capital budgets for new park designs? (Parks Platform point #6) Yes. Long-term engagement is essential to keeping our parks friendly for children, families, seniors, and tourists. In many cases, local businesses will also benefit. An increase in funding is justifiable and would be well worth it. 
4.     Do you support a free and easy “community event permit” open to recognized, local community groups to organize open activities in the local park for less than 75 people? (Parks Platform point #7) Yes. Let’s streamline the permit process and expedite the approval wait time. Booking an event should be free or at very low cost (i.e. no more than $20 for the day). 
5.     What other elements of the Parks Platform do you support? I support a tiered system for funding based on building density.
I’m highly supportive of prioritizing park system connectivity to promote exploration. I support a stormwater fee for large property owners.
The more parks with direct green infrastructure (like Corktown Common, which we enjoy daily), the better for the climate and neighbourhood enjoyment.
As a growing city, especially one with a growing number of young families and seniors, there will always be a need for more places to sit outdoors. I am a big supporter of having more creative seating in our parks and a No Net Bench Removal policy.

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Response from Candidate George Smitherman (received October 13, 2018):

1.     Overall, do you support the broad policy positions of the Park People Parks Platform? Yes, I support Park People’s overall platform of investing in our environment, our economy and our physical and mental health.

2.     In terms of paying for parks, do you support an increase in the parks operating and maintenance budget and commit to clear, multi-year funding for park plans? This would enable the creation of dedicated park supervisors in heavily used parks and reduce workload on park staff. (Parks Platform points #1 & #2) Yes, with some reservation about the management of the funds and the sustainability of the model if it isn’t “evergreen”. Philanthropy alone is not a sustainable substitute for a thriving, well-funded public park budget.  Dedicated park supervisors are required for uniformed maintenance of the parks and also to serve as a regular source of contact for local residents, should they have the need to connect with park personnel.

3.     In terms of people in parks, do you support including funding for long-term engagement, including community programming, within capital budgets for new park designs? (Parks Platform point #6) Yes. Committing capital towards the long-term engagement and extended functionality of parks, including making them secure, would provide more levels of opportunities for people.

4.     Do you support a free and easy “community event permit” open to recognized, local community groups to organize open activities in the local park for less than 75 people? (Parks Platform point #7) Yes. This would allow local groups, not necessarily non-profits, to organize more community unity events in addition to the arts, music and movie events that free permits are currently available for.  

5.     What other elements of the Parks Platform do you support? I have reviewed the Park People Park Platform and was very impressed. It reveals a strong recognition of the crucial role that the parks play, especially how much more expectations they – the parks and the staff- are being asked to take on in the context of population intensification.

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Response from Candidate Kristyn Wong-Tam (received Oct 16, 2018): 

1.     Overall, do you support the broad policy positions of the Park People Parks Platform? I have reviewed the policy positions,within the Platform, and I support them, overall.  I have worked closely with Parks People over the past 8 years towards achieving many of the aims of their platform.

2.     In terms of paying for parks, do you support an increase in the parks operating and maintenance budget and commit to clear, multi-year funding for park plans? This would enable the creation of dedicated park supervisors in heavily used parks and reduce workload on park staff. (Parks Platform points #1 & #2) As the Councillor for many heavily used downtown parks, I have specifically asked city staff to increase the maintenance levels and supported a motion that saw an increase to the Parks Ambassador Budget, so that there were more dedicated staff to visit our busiest parks. Downtown parks are heavily used, and require a commensurate level of maintenance.  Our neighbourhoods have high population densities, and they are continuing to grow. Many of us are living in vertical communities, making our parks a vital and necessary amenity. Downtown neighbourhoods also see increased use, from those who travel downtown to work, play, and access services.

During my time in office, I have had countless conversations with Parks staff regarding maintenance.  The staff are dedicated and diligent, but they simply cannot hope to keep up, without increased staffing.  They deserve the resources to successfully do their jobs, and our communities deserve clean and usable park space.  I have, and will always, support funding the Parks budget at a level that allows our green spaces to flourish.

3.     In terms of people in parks, do you support including funding for long-term engagement, including community programming, within capital budgets for new park designs? (Parks Platform point #6) Community engagement is what makes parks come alive, and it is also what keeps them safe.   I have worked closely with local BIAs and community groups to animate local parks with festivals, music and events.  Our parks need to be vibrant, dynamic spaces, with activities and events that engage residents of all ages and abilities.  For this to occur, we must invest in and prioritize programming that utilizes existing and new park features. Using and enjoying our green spaces, not only makes sense, it enhances and supports community health.   Animating our parks takes resources and many communities and businesses are already struggling. Our City should be investing in supporting communities so that programming can be sustained and expanded. These are investments we must make to benefit our quality of life in an urban environment.

4.     Do you support a free and easy “community event permit” open to recognized, local community groups to organize open activities in the local park for less than 75 people? (Parks Platform point #7) I fully support easier access to permits for free community events.  Over the years, I have had the privilege to work with several active BIAs and community groups.  They have been an essential partner in programming our parks with positive activities, such as concerts and family events.  Unfortunately, the park permitting process has been prohibitive both in cost and in time, and while some changes have been made to accommodate arts events, much more can be done.  Prohibitive fees and complicated applications should never be the barrier that prevents community groups from accessing our parks. The application requirements for community groups must also ensure accessibility, so that complex processes, and long wait times do not create further barriers.  There are wonderful ideas within our own communities, that could lead all of us toward greater engagement with our green spaces. These ideas must be encouraged and supported.

5.     What other elements of the Parks Platform do you support? I support all of the elements of the Parks Platform and will be pleased to work with Parks People to realize these changes.  I am especially interested in looking at Section 42 development funding, to develop a funding model and system that secures more funding for parks, particularly in the downtown and allows city staff to move more nimbly to secure new parkland.  While negotiating the acquisition for a new 1.6 acre park at 25 Wellesley Street West, I saw how difficult it was for city staff to move quickly to negotiate the purchase of the land. In Toronto’s busy real estate market, we need to move quickly on opportunities to acquire and build new green space.   New parkland acquisition is a necessary priority that will support many other strategic improvements, including park connectivity, and climate-responsive initiatives.

6.     IF you are unfamiliar with Parks Platform, we encourage you to provide a paragraph summarizing your platform regarding Toronto parks. I believe that the first step in making new green space available to everyone is making existing parks and ravines more accessible. I have achieved this through pairing accessibility infrastructure with slope stabilization work in major parks and building out new all-ages infrastructure for more communities. This includes the dynamic new playground installed at Allan Gardens, the new all-ages Cloverhill Park, and family-friendly event spaces at Trinity Square and College Park.

I have also supported the expansion of accessible public park spaces along the Don Valley, the diversion of zoo waste to renewable energy production, and has called on the Province to improve fill remediation standards for debris and materials excavated at development sites in Toronto.

As City Councillor, I have fought for the investment of more than $40 million back into public parks downtown to enhance and revitalize neighbourhood green spaces. Toronto’s ravine infrastructure is a defining feature of the City, but is some of the most under-utilized green space available to residents. I initiated new ravine access infrastructure projects to open up the Vale of Avoca for increased public use and has worked with Evergreen to promote the Lower Don Valley into a super-park worthy of international attention. I led the revisioning work for the mouth of the Portlands through the Expo 2025 initiative.

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