Councillors share New Year's resolutions for the city, from building housing to balancing budgets
Toronto's 26-member council has big plans for 2019 and beyond
It's that time again, when Toronto residents are making New Year's resolutions.
For some it's walking more, or working less. Maybe it's a weight-loss goal, or taking up a new hobby.
For councillors, goals for 2019 are all about city-building — tackling transit, housing, homelessness, gun violence, you name it.
We reached out to the new 26-member council for their top priorities for the New Year, and heard a range of issues they're hoping to take on, from participatory governance to gender-responsive budgeting to supporting subway projects. (And they shared a few personal ones, too.)
Mayor John Tory
His mayoral resolution: I hope we go back to the time when we had more of a social contract with each other, and that applies to a whole bunch of areas of life, including pedestrian and road safety. There somehow seemed to be more of a deal that people had in days gone by that we looked out for each other.
There are such great examples when we do that, like in the aftermath of the [Yonge Street] van attack and in the aftermath of the Danforth shooting, and yet other days it seems that we are heading in the direction of other big cities where it's just this place where everybody is running around doing their thing and it's all important and it's all positive in terms of economic growth and jobs and so on.
I think we've just got to keep reminding ourselves that we mustn't let ourselves drift in the direction of cities that have become big and rich and powerful — but really are not the kind of place to live that we would pride ourselves on.
His personal resolution: I don't particularly have one yet, but it probably has to do with making sure I have proper balance in my own life. The notion I'm going to suddenly start changing to be a person who spends gobs more time having a meaningful personal life, well, I was no different in business or law. But I find when I'm by myself for some reason, it is great thinking time.
That, and probably lose 10 pounds! (laughs)
Shelley Carroll (Ward 17 Don Valley North)
Her council resolution: I'm determined about this and it'll come as no surprise: I am dedicating myself, the first year of this term, to developing a truly participatory model of engagement that will really form a model for all 25 wards.
People wonder, 'why is Shelley always harping on participatory budgeting?' I've seen enough of it, probably more than any other councillor, to know that the small-but-labour-intensive exercise means more participation for the residents to develop ideas — instead of just going to meetings to yay or nay them.
You get people coming to engage in that work who are not just the usual suspects.
Her personal resolution: Finding work-life balance is top of mind for me right now. I'm dealing with an aging parent's illness, and I have to find a way to make that work while taking on the super-ward.
But it's possible to do; you often forget how many people are willing to help.
Jim Karygiannis (Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt)
His council resolution: Subway, subway, subway. My greatest resolution is that I need to work on the Sheppard subway extension from Don Mills out to McCowan.
It's important to my constituents because of the development happening — there's 60 to 70 towers coming along, a lot of them along Sheppard. When you have this great density intensification, you will need means of transportation.
His personal resolution: To spend more time with my granddaughter, Evelyn. If I get to see her for 10 to 15 minutes a day, I am in heaven.
Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 13 Toronto Centre)
Her council resolution: I have four priorities, I would say, this term.
I'd like to advance poverty reduction work, and specifically the Youth Equity Strategy — I want to make sure that's entirely funded in the 2019 budget. We've had a number of shootings and incidents involving young people, and I think that if we can somehow catch them upstream, we won't be carrying them out in body bags downstream.
I also want to make sure we can advance gender equality and in particular, gender-responsive budgeting. Fifty-two per cent of the population are women and girls, and they don't see themselves reflected, always, in the urban agenda.
The third would be the Yonge Street Environmental Assessment — it's important for us to carry that work forward, which will help us re-imagine, re-envision and re-build Yonge Street from the waterfront to Davenport, which will be Canada's main street for the next 100 years.
And finally housing, housing, housing. The city needs to do more to build, and we can't squander opportunities, including identifying city-owned lands.
Her personal resolution: To try to be the best parent I could possibly be, because my partner and I are starting a family.
Michael Thompson (Ward 21 Scarborough Centre)
His council resolution: To engage with the community and to ensure that areas where we have some challenges, that we're going to put in a plan.
From a city-wide perspective, in my new role as chair of economic and community development — the community file is a big one, it has shelters, services, and working with neighbourhoods across the city to create opportunities.
For a lot of young people, jobs are a big concern. As I look at the economic forecast for 2019, it does state there will be challenges, and we need programs and policies in place, and expanding our relationship with the private sector to create opportunities in conjunction with city resources.
His personal resolution: Just to stay healthy and strong.
Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York)
His council resolution: First and foremost, my resolution is to build more supportive housing in 2019 so we can actually create a path out of homelessness for the far too many Torontonians out on the streets.
How? It's two-fold. One is to use more city-owned land, and the other is to further breakdown the pushback we receive from people who say, "Not in my backyard."
If we're going to build an inclusive system, then when we talk about creating pathways out of homeless with supportive housing, every neighbourhood needs to be a welcoming neighbourhood.
His personal resolution: After a hectic 2018 with all the twists and turns and [Premier Doug] Ford announcements, my resolution for 2019 is to have a better and healthier work-life balance. I'm hoping to continue learning how to cook, to jog more often, and to spend far more time with my wife.
Jennifer McKelvie (Ward 25 Scarborough-Rouge Park)
Her council resolution: 2019 will be a year full of learning as a start this new adventure at city hall representing the residents of Ward 25. I'm really excited I'll be on the budget committee and the TTC board.
My resolution is to provide a Scarborough lens to the discussions at those committees so we can ensure Scarborough gets its fair share in investments like transit.
I'd really like to make sure we advance the Scarborough subway extension and the Eglinton East LRT extension out to Scarborough and Malvern. It's really important we don't forget that LRT project, with all the discussions about subways.
Her personal resolution: This year I did more than 700,000 steps on the campaign trail. I'd like to keep counting steps next year, and see how many I can get for the whole year.
Mike Layton (Ward 11 University-Rosedale)
His council resolution: I think that our city needs to look at how we're treating our most vulnerable citizens, and how we're ensuring everyone in our community is cared for.
My resolution, in a ward with a lot of urban development, is to ensure that every new development file pays attention to affordability, and if the project can include affordable housing.
His personal resolution: It's spending more quality time with my family, outside of this job, which does take a lot of time out of the day. I want to play ukulele with my little Phoebe, and watch my little Chloe turn two.
Stephen Holyday (Ward 2 Etobicoke Centre)
His council resolution: I've given them some thought because they've developed over the last couple of months coming out of the election we just had.
The first one is to communicate better and to be available to all of my constituents. With the reduction in council, some of the things I heard from people was they were worried about being able to access their councillors' services because maybe we'd be serving a larger number of people and it would spread us thinner.
With our smaller council of 25 people, it shouldn't come as a surprise — things seem to be a little bit more polarized. So an important thing I want to resolve to do is be a diplomat at council to work with others. Those debates can have more tension now because of those very direct and clear viewpoints on things, but in order to move this city forward, councillors need to make sure they work with their colleagues and recognize their differences. I want to remain constructive.
His personal resolution: Going through a tough election, many councillors had to do a lot of door-knocking and be out there, and I was lucky enough to lose a number of pounds, and I want to make sure I keep those pounds off. The best way to do that is to be out and about in the community that elected me.
James Pasternak (Ward 6 York Centre)
His council resolution: My new ward brought two very diverse wards together, at least geographically and through policy.
So my goal is unity, friendship, and creating a common community — because the two wards were quite distinct, and it's incumbent on me to bring the two wards together as one neighbourhood and one community.
His personal resolution: It's a very stressful job with the loss of 40 per cent of our council, so I have to stay physically active: Dates to the gym, keeping the bike riding going, making sure I'm active around the home, and running around the ward and making sure people have all their concerns addressed.
From a personal perspective, it's just staying fit, staying healthy, staying alert, and working hard.
Brad Bradford (Ward 19 Beaches-East York)
His council resolution: I think we have to make some big moves on the housing and transit front.
Toronto, of course, has experienced a ton of success and a ton of growth over the past decade but that hasn't been felt equally, and ensuring people have access to housing across the spectrum, and ensuring people have ubiquitous transit all day, all directions, is a huge part of that. It really is about access to opportunity.
Something else I'll bring forward in the new year at council is a discussion about term limits. It's more important than ever that we have processes in place where we can get new voices at the table, fresh faces, and open the democratic process to everyone.
His personal resolution: Haven't put too much thought to that at this point. We've got a lot of work going on, so that's my focus right now.
Gary Crawford (Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest)
His council resolution: In my continuing role as budget chief of the city, I'll be balancing the budget, keeping property taxes low, while at the same time doing the key investments like transit and affordable housing. That's the big thing I'll be working on.
At the local level, we have a road — Brimley Road — that goes into Bluffer's Park, one of the most beautiful places in the city, and we're looking at getting it reconstructed. It's a very dangerous road right now and I think that's going to be the big New Year's resolution for my local community.
His personal resolution: I want to be able to walk again! I had some recent surgery on my ankle and I haven't been able to walk. I'm hoping to be able to get back on my feet in the next couple of months.
Jaye Robinson (Ward 15 Don Valley West)
Her council resolution: My big one for the year is to continue to push for the relief line. It's something I've talked about for eight years and I've often referred to transit as a political football in this city. I'd just love to see the relief line accelerated; it's such a critical piece of the transit puzzle and it'll take pressure off the Yonge line that I use, and my residents use, and most of the city uses.
I'd love to see the relief line become front-and-centre with the plans and design work laid out. It would divert 2,500 riders an hour off the system. It would be a huge benefit to our city, and make it much more livable.
Her personal resolution: I hadn't thought about that. I'm really excited about the new neighbourhoods in my ward, and collaborating with them. I guess my resolution would be to work hand-in-hand with the new and old parts of my ward.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.