Toronto council term kicks off today as new members get up to speed
Council will meet for the first time next week
Toronto city council's new term kicks off Tuesday and with seven new faces added to the mix, life at city hall is about to change.
Since election day three weeks ago, those new councillors have been taking their oaths of office, attending briefings, and preparing for the work to come over the next four years. And with a massive $815-million budget gap, a housing crisis and concerns about affordability, the pressure is already on.
Chris Moise, the newly-elected councillor for Ward 13, Toronto Centre, is doing double duty. He has been ensuring a smooth transition for his successor as school board trustee even as he gets ready to join city council.
"I've absorbed a lot, and there's a lot more to learn," he said as he stood outside what will be his office at city hall as staff prepared it for him to move in.
Moise is part of the largest group of new Toronto councillors in recent memory. They'll be introduced when council meets for the first time on Nov. 23 and 24. The first day of the session is expected to be largely ceremonial, with council moving to new agenda items on the second day.
Housing, homelessness big issues, Moise says
Apart from Moise, the list includes the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman on council, Ausma Malik, who was elected in Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York. Amber Morley, a community activist and former city hall staffer, defeated incumbent Mark Grimes in Ward 3, Etobicoke-Lakeshore.
Corporate lawyer Jamaal Myers, the son of Jamaican immigrants, will replace Cynthia Lai, who died during the campaign, in Ward 23, Scarborough-North. Chinese-Canadian Lily Cheng will represent Ward 18, Willowdale, and Alejandra Bravo, whose family immigrated to Canada from Chile in the 1980s, was elected in Ward 9, Davenport.
Jon Burnside, a former police officer, was elected in Ward 16, Don Valley East, while former deputy mayor Vincent Crisanti won the council race for Ward 1, Etobicoke North.
Moise said since election day, he's been immersing himself in his new role and thinks there's no time to waste on important issues like housing and homelessness.
"I feel the pressure and the urgency," he said.
"This is why I've had meetings through the last two weeks, to help address some of these issues before it becomes even more critical."
Diverse citizens will see 'themselves reflected,' Myers says
Myers said he's spent the last few weeks hiring staff and attending city briefings while closing out his old job at TD-Canada Trust.
He said he's excited to be part of the new, diverse group of councillors elected in October. He is one of four Black politicians who now have a council seat.
"When you bring that lived experience to the decision-making table you have an impact because people start seeing themselves reflected, and their own experiences reflected, in their city government," he said.
Myers said he's already heard from constituents about increasing access to transit and also wants to move to legalize rooming houses.
"We have got to make sure those places are safe, not just for the residents but also for the people living beside them," he said.
Burnside is making his return to council after losing his seat during the 2018 vote. Last month, he won the race to replace departing councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.
He said he feels like he's been able to hit the ground running because of his experience on council.
"I already know the procedures and my way around city hall," Burnside said. So, I actually have a huge advantage as a quasi-new councillor coming in."
Burnside said the city will need to press the federal government and province for support to address the budget gap.
"It's just getting prepared for the big issues that are going to hit us. And of course, I think the biggest is the budget."