Toronto

Outgoing councillors weigh in on what's at stake in Ward 19 Beaches East York

Councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Janet Davis weigh in the on the future of Beaches East York now that their wards have combined.

Race is only 1 of 2 in the city where incumbents are not running

Incumbent councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon, left, and Janet Davis are not running for re-election in Beaches-East York. Their wards were combined to form one large one that stretches from the Don River and Sunrise Avenue in the north, to the waterfront in the Beach. (Jasmin Seputis/CBC)

Premier Doug Ford's move to slash Toronto city council almost in half this year has led to something you rarely see in politics — instant demographic change in wards all across the city as the number of council seats shrinks from 47 to 25.

Beaches-East York is no different.

Now, as the two wards in the area suddenly become one in time for the Oct. 22 election, more than half of the new ward is made up of visible minorities, and the councillor who wins will be representing 110,000 people.

Outgoing councillor Janet Davis represents the East York portion of the ward, north of Danforth Avenue.

"We have a large population of people living in high-rise apartments. Newcomers and people of low-income and moderate-income working-class families.They are struggling to make sure they can stay here and afford an apartment and the increased cost of living," Davis told CBC Toronto.

Outgoing councillor Janet Davis points to the former Beaches-East York ward she represented. Now the ward is double the size. (Jasmin Seputis/CBC)

"The big issue here is affordability. Affordable public services, housing, transit, childcare and recreation," she said.

"The new ward is going to go from way up to almost Eglinton, all the way down to the waterfront. Some areas with lots of needs, and others that are pretty well heeled."

Outgoing councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon has represented the Beach part of the new ward for eight years. It stretches south from the Danforth to the waterfront and includes multimillion-dollar homes and condos along the boardwalk.

Mary-Margaret McMahaon says the new councillor will have a heavy workload representing almost 110,000 people. (Jasmin Seputis/CBC)

McMahon agrees her constituency is different from Davis's socially, economically and ethnically.

"Absolutely, there are different demographics, and different neighbourhoods," McMahon said. 

"I know my ward very well. But north of the Danforth is a whole other community ... so they have different wants and needs and issues and concerns," she said.

"For my Beachers, they are concerned about parking. They are concerned about festivals in the park. They are concerned about other things than north of the Danforth. The Beach is a very busy place. It's like a resort town in the summer. Tens of thousands of people are down there."

Both incumbents are throwing their support behind different candidates. Davis has endorsed Matthew Kellway, a former NDP MP who represented the riding federally until 2015.

Former NDP MP Matthew Kellway is being endorsed by outgoing councillor Janet Davis as her candidate of choice to represent the ward. (Kellway campaign)

He's got deep roots in the community, lots of experience and knowledge of urban issues.

Initially, Davis supported another one of the 16 candidates.

"I supported both Diane Dyson and Matthew Kellway when there were two wards and now there is just one. It was a very difficult decision."

McMahon is backing Brad Bradford, an urban planner who worked for the city.

"I know Brad Bradford is very hungry for it. He's young, which I like ... We need fresh ideas, a fresh face, fresh energy. And we need to hear from our younger demographic," said McMahon.

Brad Bradford hopes to represent Beaches East-York. He has the backing of outgoing councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon and Mayor John Tory. (Twitter)

"He's also independent, not connected to any political party, as you should not be down at city hall down at the municipal level. There's too much partisanship down there," she said.

McMahon says name recognition is everything in a ward with no incumbent in the race. 

McMahon believes Kellway has an unfair edge in the campaign. 

"Absolutely, having the NDP party machine behind you is an unfair advantage."

But Davis says Mayor John Tory backed Bradford, and that gives him the advantage.

"I am not sure the mayor, who brings with him a lot of resources and power, should weigh in in the way he did," Davis said. 

"There is a lot of influences there. And it worries me that someone might be beholden to the mayor when he's weighed in to support him during the election."

But both McMahon and Davis agree the councillor who wins the seat on Oct. 22 is going to have a hard time representing everyone.

"Absolutely, competing interests," said McMahon. 

"For example, we hear a lot from our Beach residents all the time.  Emails, phone calls, on the social media. Whereas I would say new immigrants north of the Danforth they are not on social media. They are not familiar with contacting your government," she said.

"Their concerns are valid and valuable, but they might not be reaching out. So if they are not reaching out you are going to have to be proactive and reach out to them." 

Davis wonders whether her constituents north of the Danforth will be well-served in a new larger ward. 

"I worry that the high-rise apartments might get lower priority. I think the challenge will be to make sure that all areas of this ward get the attention."

Double the staff will be needed in the office, said McMahon.

"And you will need people from both communities to work for you so that they know the individual concerns."

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