By Kelsey Mohammed
“Where’s Mark Grimes?” one man in the audience called out, which started a string of murmurs and laughter the among other audience members.
Wednesday evening at the Assembly Hall – Humber Lakeshore campus, brought a full crowd of Etobicoke residents in attendance for the All-Candidate Meeting.
The debate, which featured live audience questions, proceeded with only six of the 10 councillor candidates present.
Determined to connect with their community, candidates Iain Davis, Pamela Gough, Robert Gunnyon, Michael Julihen, Amber Morley and Peggy Moulder articulated their platforms’ focus especially as it pertained to housing affordability issues in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore region.
“Who here believes that housing in the city is too high? These are the issues that matter to me and to us,” Davis said to the audience during his opening remarks.
Davis, who has been an Etobicoke resident for the past 25 years, emphasized that his platform relies on dealing with property taxes and how the government taxes property owners in the city.
He referred to the thousands of units in the Toronto community that are empty. “They’re not being used because they’re not livable, before we start talking about building new houses, let’s fix the housing we already have.”
Pamela Gough, Etobicoke-Lakeshore’s public-school board trustee for the last eight years, highlighted her leadership, elected experience in both Wards 5 and 6 as well as her community initiatives.
In terms of housing affordability, Gough said she promises to use “inclusionary zoning, co-ops and creative solutions for seniors to team up with the city. ”
Robert Gunnyon took the floor next, “I’ve never really worked in government, but I’ll tell you straight up as far as a smile-and-nod politician, that’s definitely nowhere near where I’m at,” said Gunnyon said during his introduction.
Gunnyon took a very personal approach to answer the evenings’ questions. His platform stresses that as a candidate, and if elected, he will be a representative of the people.
“We’ve had government promising us 10, 000 housing units in the last election, we got half that,” Gunnyon said. He also noted that the current mayoralty candidates just pass around the blame.
“I believe the primary function of what we are supposed to be doing is to stand up to government and outright say to them ‘We need results’,” said Gunnyon.
Longtime political advocate, Michael Julihen suggested asking the “apartment building owners if they can accept a reduction in rent of 25%.”
Julihen has spent time living in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, he compared policies and said: “There’s no cap here in Toronto for rent.” Further, a rent reduction would be “like a reset button — unless people have two jobs to make ends meet, it’s very high compared to other cities,” Julihen said.
Lifelong Etobicoke resident, Amber Morley pleased the crowd her response to the housing issue.
“Advocating that there are affordable units in new developments. We are not building for people, we are building for profit and leaving a lot of people out,” Morley said to loud applause from the audience.
Morley, who was raised in co-op housing, knows the importance of community support.
Peggy Moulder said she believes “it is imperative that legislative, resident-run community boards are established to ensure taxpayers, community interests are protected by city council.”
She feels that forced changes in government producers means “the interest of residents will take last place.”
Advance polls for voting are currently open and end on Sunday, Oct. 14. Election Day is Monday, Oct. 22. More information available at www.toronto.ca/elections