Darren's view on being committed to the 2023 Toronto Mayoral race, democracy and the issue with career politicians and the "status quo".
My vision for Toronto includes Our Hopes and Dreams, sustainably funded so I can help create a city that is livable - a place where we can live out the rest of days.
Unfortunately we have been effectively bankrupted as we have (at the least), a budget shortfall of 1.6 billion and likely many unknown financial obligations to many mega projects underway. There should be no more pilot projects and we really need to assess out current obligations and withdraw from any that are not essential services. Only this way can we preserve what we have over the next term and show the provincial government - whomever they may be - they need to respect Toronto's place as the economic engine of the country There will be no new money from the province until next year's budget.
It is time to be frank about the current state of affairs without the drama of blame and unfounded promises. We can get down to getting control of the city back from the Province and all the Status Quo players. For example, one key disruptive idea I propose is to fund the changes needed to be made with micro loans. Micro Loans swiftly effect change and address public needs immediately. No hands off funds to the big players and hoping it will trickle down.
With over 1 million potential detached. semi detached. row or duplex homes – Toronto has the ability stimulate the creation of 1000's of affordable apartments within 6 months and here's how we could do it. Be lead partners in apartment creation by canvassing and assisting homeowners to renovate part of their property to create an apartment. A reorganisation of Toronto departments would provide consultation where planning, fire, permit and inspection would redeploy with added staff to assure and bring homeowners and renters together with an affordable lease. Next, the city would provide an interest free loan of up to 30 000 dollars matching the homeowner's expenditure in creating the apartment. As partners in creating this relationship the city would provide a lease for 20 % less than market value for a minimum term of 5 years. As a partner the City would ensure the homeowner is not an absentee landlord or AirBnB or income property speculator. Property owners no longer have to pay consultants exorbitant fees to inspect or develop plans to meet code - the city would be ensuring it's own codes are met and skeptical homeowners or nervous empty nesters would no longer have to be worry about what’s legal, vetting tenants alone or coming up with a solid lease document. Homeowners also would have a strong partner in the city as they have a chance to create a money stream to help cover costs and retire in place of pay an escalating mortgage. The homeowner could come up with their own tenant or the city could help match an applicant off of the social housing wait list (speculated to have have backlog of up to 80000 applicants) - if they can’t find a prospective renter themselves.
I predict a knock on benefit to Small Business contractors based in Toronto and most of the money involved will cycle within the boundaries of Toronto. KEY TO REMEMBER - these loans will be repaid and I propose a system where a small amount comes off each months rent. NO Province, NO Big Business, NO home building from scratch and waiting years for a drop in the bucket of what we really need. This could ramp up over the next 4 years to create 10's of thousands of affordable apartments while stabilising neighborhoods. If the affordable housing market stabilises, it could be reviewed and phased out if supply outpaces demand.
In these times, I believe we are in a housing crisis and a implicit mandate exists that all existing affordable housing must be preserved or replaced. Starting immediately, at the permit level; developers must be good corporate citizens and replace the same number of low cost housing units they tear down and offer replacement units to those displaced. Otherwise instruct city hall to deny permits if they fail to pass this test. I will push proof of this mandate in to the courts, tribunals and bureaus of the Province, it's applicable departments and so to the Federal Government until they support the economic engine of Canada as they should. If The Province of Ontario needs to write record numbers of "MZO's" then so be it until we are equal partners again
Create a Foreign Property Investment levy of 20% of the value of any real estate project permit where the project is funded by international investment, be it an individual or Ontario corporation that sources money from international sources or individuals. For years the Province charged their tax on foreign real estate investment and now are swimming in revenue made here in Toronto. The behavior of the Province has another name and it is disgusting when they deny funding Toronto's current budget shortfall. We can directly help fund ourselves to recovery with the direct input of revenue like this. Furthermore, I seek to ban new Airbnb's and establish guidelines and quotas for a set number while creating a "good neighbor" set of guidelines for thoses AirBnB's already in existence - if they want to continue forward. .
Harmonize all street-level TTC vehicles to a common type vehicle/bus (electric or hybrid) and increase the numbers. I have a SOFT spot for the red rocket but common sense says it is time to begin phasing out streetcars and the expensive infrastructure associated with it. For the cost of the streetcar infrastructure we can put many more buses on the road that will move many more passengers. The ability of the buses to reroute, lane change and carry bicycles at all times will work better with the changing use of the city streets. Did you know that during peak hours streetcars do not carry bicycles? I want bring back the concept of trained Conductors to triage Rider concerns in real time. We can redefine job descriptions of inspectors and train them to ride as conductors. The mandate will be to create tourism ambassadors of the city who enforce fare collection with a smile yet are trained to speedily bring the right public safety services to bare when and when needed. This is much cheaper than heavily relying on the police to do this job. I will also discontinue Red Bus lanes and make them more appropriate HOV lanes during rush hour times like is commonly done everywhere in the world except Scarborough it seems.
Grant property tax breaks to seniors, who own their home, up to the full value of property tax when they invest in mobility upgrades that allow them to safely stay in their homes. Stability for seniors as they retire in place, creates stability for neighborhoods. They hold the wisdom and history of our communities and fewer properties will be available to fuel the "income property flip market" . The city of Toronto only operates 10 Long Term Care Homes and I aim to get plans rolling to double that as Toronto will lose 4 Private Long Term Care Homes by 2025 when contacts with "For-Profit" Private Long Term Care Homes renew. Did you know that? Long Term Care spaces will diminish and we are all headed here as the demand will rise. This was a crisis before Covid, Covid came and "For-Profit" Private Long Term Care Homes performed horribly and post Covid we seemed to have learned nothing as the crisis is worsening and now the status quo of Toronto's elected politicians pay no attention to it! Long Term Care Homes play a critical role in everyone's future. This is not the topic of the day for candidates for mayor but featured in my platform in the 2022 election for Mayor and is still a part of my vision for a humane city.
Create an Indigenous park as a Indigenous community hub with sweat lodges and Indigenous entrepreneurs who offer financial pathways back to home nations. It will be curated and guided by Indigenous communities as we seek meaningful reconciliation at Ontario Places' West Island. Better future focus here has many benefits for all. On the land ceremonies that include non-indigenous attendance days would create opportunities for non indigenous to learn. I believe it will also be an international model that will attract attention as visitors to this country experience something truly Indigenous.
We also need to accurately provide funding for the right number of Indigenous Torontonians as I believe we are wildly underestimating the number of urban indigenous Torontonians. Increased funding for urban indigenous outreach agencies operating in Toronto is a commitment of mine.
Introduce performance clauses and rigid timelines in contracts we issue to contractors and pursue penalties if not met. Widen the bid process and hold in escrow, sufficient funds when the potential damage to local neighborhoods in terms of disruption, noise and pollution are a substantial concern.
If Toronto could be imagined as an independent business right now, it would be considered bankrupt! With a 1.6 billion shortfall we are aware of, the AA credit rating is probably double B but financial concerns may be overlooking this for fear of the repercussions? The truth has to be the truth so we can pick up the pieces and restore a accurate accounting of what's going on. Let's find out comprehensively what the bottom line is. Completely review line by line the Toronto Budget and share the findings with the public as it unfolds in real time, including social media updates so elected officials, staff and Torontonians' eyes share the data. Wages are by far the largest ongoing chunk of the budget. Find out which departments can be directed differently to create financial efficiency and redefine the role of city staff where possible to address the city's most urgent needs. No more pilot projects. Unfortunately, no new parks. No Mega projects by the Province. Also, I will give up all the freebee;s from the city for the mayor's office and seek the same commitment from all councilors to do the same
As a lifelong musician and as past Managing Director of a World Wide Guitar Amplifier Manufacturer in the U.K., I can reach out and organise Clubs, Bars, Live Music production companies, Canadian and International Artists to make Toronto a destination city for live music as Nashville is to The United States. For example, I want to encourage and work with our many coffee shops; to commit to have small live music stages. At least twice a week, at appropriate times that suit their clientele, the Toronto coffee house network could act as a new artist incubator. Singer songwriters, rappers, poets, performance artists, unplugged bands, and spoken word performers in the early stages of their career could hone their craft in smaller venues before they move up to larger rooms. Again, we could make small micro loans to create those stages and it would reap large benefits in our future and make Toronto the livable city we share. I would also work firsthand to connect suppliers, live venues, recording studios and local artists and connect them with international counterparts.
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