This afternoon at 5:30, city council will hold an “emergency” meeting to determine whether tenants of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation will have a voice on the body’s interim board of directors. Seven citizen members and two council members of the board resigned last week after two audits revealed reckless abuses of TCHC procurement and accounting policies. Mayor Rob Ford is now seeking to remove the remaining four directors, two of whom are elected TCHC tenant representatives Dan King and Catherine Wilkinson. The mayor reportedly plans to replace the board with Case Ootes, the former councillor who also led the mayor’s post-election transition team, to serve as a lone interim director of the TCHC.
Yesterday city council held one of its regular planned monthly meetings; we spoke with several councillors in the evening, after a lengthy and divisive session. Among those most vocally opposed to the TCHC board restructuring is councillor Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale), who maintains that the tenant representatives “are elected by tenants, and tenants are the only people who should be able to rescind them.” McConnell expressed concerns about replacing elected tenant reps with a lone director, even on an interim basis. “If, for example, [Councillor] Doug Ford doesn’t like the job I’m doing, he can’t just ask council to get rid of me. He has to accept that I’ve been elected by my constituents, just as he has. ”
An excerpt from Adam Vaughan’s open letter on the TCHC, sent to constituents yesterday (and from which this post’s title is taken).
McConnell’s sentiments were strongly echoed by Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), who warned that mayor Ford was threatening to end “a tradition of tenant representation that dates back over more than fifteen years, to the Metro Housing Authority.” Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park) agreed, adding that council has options for ensuring continued board representation for tenants. And while many TCHC residents are very upset with the reports from the auditor detailing misconduct, they are also rejecting calls to summarily dismiss their chosen representatives.
When council approved Wilkinson and King to the TCHC board in 2008, it also approved as alternate tenant reps the two candidates who placed third and fourth respectively in the tenant elections. Perks said the alternates have not attended any TCHC meetings nor made any official decisions—they aren’t touched by the current scandals, in other words. “We can let them serve, or we can allow the current reps to serve until tenants can hold new elections,” said Perks. “Anything else would mean we are hastily, intentionally pushing tenants out of the decision-making process.”
While Councillor Raymond Cho (Ward 42, Scarborough-Rouge River) has publicly said little about keeping tenant reps on the board, he intends to retain his own board position as one of the remaining representatives from city council—the other who has so far refused to step down is Maria Augimeri (Ward 9, York Centre)—stating in a letter to the city clerk [PDF] that since he is a new appointee, “I do not believe that [the] motion will resolve the issues surrounding TCHC by forcing my resignation.”
Other councillors insisted that a swift removal of the remaining board members is a necessity, although none accused these board members themselves of any wrongdoing. Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday (Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre) is the one who moved the motion in council yesterday to vary regular procedure and open the debate about dissolving the current board of directors, a motion which failed to get the required two-thirds support needed to pass. He told us that he has received “calls from [TCHC] tenants saying they’re not happy with things that went on.” Holyday added that while he supports the immediate removal of the tenant reps, “they will have a chance to be re-confirmed and regain confidence” in the next round of TCHC elections.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) suggested there are no clear parameters for the length of Ootes’ interim service, and the installation of a new full board of directors. “We’d like to see [tenant] elections happen as quickly as possible,” he said, but rejected any notion that tenant reps should be treated differently from other board members, emphasizing that “they have, in my opinion, even more responsibility…a higher moral obligation to their fellow tenants. They’ll have to defend the decisions they made.”
Tenants and the public can attend tonight’s emergency meeting—it will be held in the council chamber at City Hall—but will not be able to make deputations or address council to share their views.