News / Toronto

Dear John Tory: Ideas from downtown voices for the mayor

Mayor John Tory recently said if he's re-elected he'll work more closely with downtown councillors. Metro spoke with some downtowners about their priorities.

Social entrepreneur Kevin Vuong said the city should focus on expanding other innovative approaches to improving transit like the King pilot project.

Social entrepreneur Kevin Vuong said the city should focus on expanding other innovative approaches to improving transit like the King pilot project.

In a year-end interview with the Toronto Star, Mayor John Tory promised to work more closely with downtown councillors if he's re-elected next year — a shift from his initial approach of allying himself with more suburban, right-leaning colleagues. Metro spoke to some downtown voices on their priorities:

Gil Penalosa

Gil Panelosa, founder and chair of 880 Cities.

Torstar News Service

Gil Panelosa, founder and chair of 880 Cities.

The chair of 880 Cities, a non-profit group aimed at improving mobility and public spaces, said it's "shameful" that it has taken four years for the mayor to realize he needs to focus on the downtown.

As a priority, Penalosa wants to see Tory expand the network of protected bike lanes. The two-kilometre pilot stretch of the Bloor bike lanes "is nothing," he said. "Other cities are doing hundreds of kilometres of good bikes lanes in their downtown areas."

The mayor should also invest more money in safety initiatives like Vision Zero and improve on transportation issues. For Penalosa, investing only $80 million for a five-year action plan is "nowhere near enough to bring about the safety that's needed on our streets."

Cathy Crowe

Toronto street nurse and longtime homeless advocate Cathy Crowe.

Torstar News Service

Toronto street nurse and longtime homeless advocate Cathy Crowe.

The Toronto street nurse and visiting lecturer at Ryerson University has only one wish: accept the federal government's offer of using armouries for more emergency shelter beds.

"The mayor continues to say it's inappropriate and can't be used, but there's hundreds of people without shelter in the downtown core," she said.

The city has opened six overnight drop-in centres for the cold months, but Crowe says the armouries at Moss Park and Fort York have more space for more people.

"I think he's holding homeless people hostage trying to get more provincial and federal money," she said, adding the downtown councillors have been supportive of opening the armouries.

Kevin Vuong

Former Toronto Youth Cabinet member Kevin Vuong.

Torstar News Service

Former Toronto Youth Cabinet member Kevin Vuong.

A social entrepreneur and former member of the Toronto Youth Cabinet, Vuong would like to see Tory focus more on improving transit in the downtown area. He decries the fact that Bombardier keeps delaying streetcar delivery and said the city should focus on expanding other innovative approaches like the King pilot project.

"Hate it or love it, it’s made travelling along that corridor faster and more reliable for over 65,000 Torontonians," he said.

Vuong also believes improving public transit goes a long way in reducing poverty. "For some of our most vulnerable communities, public transit is the only form of transportation for them to get to school, work, interviews, accessing different social services," he said.

Mike Layton

Mike Layton, city councillor for Ward 19.

Torstar News Service

Mike Layton, city councillor for Ward 19.

As one of the city councillors representing the downtown area, Layton welcomes the mayor's move but doesn't see why it has to wait until the next election.

"We've got an opportunity now through the budget to have that greater dialogue and involve those other councillors in helping craft that budget," said the Ward 19 councillor.

Including a downtown perspective on the mayor's executive committee may mean Tory has to review his position around property tax rates, said Layton.

"There are those of us who want to continue to invest in the city and are willing to work with a mayor who will do that, but we can't in a world where his political promises are the letter of the law," he added.

Kristyn Wong-Tam:

Another downtown city councillor thinks Tory's move is a political calculation to try and beat Doug Ford in next election. Wong-Tam says Tory's priorities should be about real outcomes and ‎and measurable service improvements.

"A number of important plans adopted by Council remain unfunded, from climate change to poverty reduction to road safety," said the Toronto Centre-Rosedale councillor.

"The cost of housing is at an all time high, the shelter system is in crisis, streets and parks are dirtier than‎ before and the Scarborough transit file is a disaster. Enough talk, it's long time for action."

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