Canada's Toronto Centre (Ward 28) city council candidates speak

Saturday, November 4, 2006

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Toronto from space.

On November 13, Toronto residents will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward's councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto's ridings is Toronto Centre (Ward 28). One candidate responded to Wikinews' requests for an interview. This ward's candidates include Howard Bortenstein, Holly Cartmell, Baquie Ghazi, Connie Harrison, Yaqoob Khan, Pam McConnell (incumbent), and Catherina Perez.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.

Howard Bortenstein

52-year-old Howard Bortenstein is the founder/owner of Miller Bortenstein Consultants, "a management consulting firm specializing in information technology strategy and change management."

Q: Describe the three most important issues in your campaign.

A: There is a tremendous undertone of despair and apathy when people talk about the current situation of Ward 28 and the city in general. I am deeply concerned about the downward spiral of our neighbourhoods: no vision, residents feel unsafe; businesses struggling; crumbling public housing; no "at risk neighbourhoods' youth funding and an absentee councillor battling windmills elsewhere, leaving the ward in auto-pilot. I strongly believe our city government must be accountable to the neighbourhoods that elect it.
My top three priorities are:
We need a full-time councillor for everyone
  • Voting record clearly linked to broad public consultation
  • Create new Neighbourhood Leadership Council to unify us
  • Develop Ward strategy and long term plan to build consensus and guide us
  • Implement open responsive complaint resolution process
Affordable Housing
We need innovation and more choices to break the cycle of poverty
  • Redirect funding to major expansion of portable housing allowance and ownership programs
  • Improve living conditions for tenants by enforcing property standards
  • Promote private development of new affordable housing
  • Develop plan and strong commitment to end chronic homelessness
Crime Prevention
We need to feel safe & secure everywhere
  • Strengthen neighbourhood-police relationships
  • Create "Safe Neighbourhoods" volunteer organization

Q: What one election issue do you feel is most relevant to your ward in this election?

A: Ward 28 faces serious social housing problems specifically Toronto Community Housing:
  • poor living conditions
  • crime
  • infestation
  • massive poverty
Residents from all neighbourhoods and all income levels share these concerns. Tenants must have more options and flexibility to break the cycle of poverty and get back their dignity that has been taken from them. Dramatic change from the current model of building "monuments to poverty" is required. Tenants need choice offered by portable housing allowances, to relocate closer to new job opportunities or schools anywhere in Toronto. We must return Ward 28 to socio-economic diversity.

Q: Why have you chosen to involve yourself in the political process?

A: Had anyone asked me a few years ago if I had any political aspirations, I would have thought they were nuts. But a couple of years ago, when our then two year old daughter was put at risk by picking up a discarded condom in Riverdale Park, things changed. So after the trauma of hepatitis injections and HIV screening at Sick Kids and fighting city hall to clean up the park the question remained "How did this happen?" The simple answer is: "because we let it happen". We took it for granted that our local councillor was making the right choices to keep us safe and to improve the quality of life of all neighbourhoods and all residents. Well, I found out the hard way that isn't true and I decided this needed to be changed.
Party politics are paralyzing City Council, literally crippling this city. Asa candidate, the question I receive most often is, "what is your political party?" I am not aligned or a member of any political party. I am not an ideologue from the left or the right. I believe in consensus, not compromise, and building bridges on issues from the centre.

Q: Why do you want to represent this particular ward on council?

A: I want my daughters to grow up in Cabbagetown. I am tired of having their school-age friends leave the area for the suburbs. Ward 28 has become an economically depressed area. I have a bold vision for Ward 28 to restore ward 28 as a place of innovation and growth.

Q: How are you currently involved in the community?

A: I was a founding board member of the Don Vale Cabbagetown Residents Association which is now over 500 members. I am also a member of the Community Police Liaison Committee, where I am working to broaden and increase neighbourhood membership in the committee via community outreach. I am also a long time member and volunteer of the Cabbagetown Preservation Association, working to protect our remaining heritage properties.

Q: If you were elected as a "rookie" councillor, What would you bring to the table beyond the incumbent?

A: I will instil a sense of hope for everyone and build consensus around a vision, no matter what your individual political stripe, or neighbourhood you live in, that if we work together, we can change things around. The residents of ward 28 are patient people and they deserve more than political rhetoric. They want results not aspirations. They want accountability from their elected representatives. They want a councillor responsive to all residents, all businesses and all neighbourhoods! I will be that councillor.

Q: What does Toronto mean to you?

A: I care very deeply for our downtown neighbourhoods and the city of Toronto. I have lived in Downtown Toronto for twenty-five years including fourteen in Cabbagetown. I have always liked living in Downtown Toronto. This is not my Toronto and this is not the Toronto I want to leave as a legacy to my young daughters.

Bortenstein did not respond to the question "Which council decision (since the 2003 election) do you feel the city/your ward should be most proud of, and which was least desirable?"


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.