As budget season approaches, Toronto Public Library has eight new citizen board members. Three of them are lobbyists.
Until late last week, the Toronto Public Library board was chaired by Eman Ahmed, project manager at a nonprofit that advocates for Muslim-Canadian women. It was vice-chaired by Adam Chaleff-Fruedenthaler, a left-leaning activist who was recently directly responsible for forcing Rob Ford to defend, in court, his methods of financing his mayoral bid. The board was otherwise populated with bookish types, including Tina Edan, a Maytree Foundation manager who described herself, in her official bio, as a “poet.”
At its September 22 meeting, council appointed eight new citizen members to the TPL board, effectively replacing the library system’s existing political leadership with a set of fresh faces. (The other five members of the 13-member TPL board are city councillors.)
The credentials of the new members suggest a significant change in criteria for appointment to the library board. This was to be expected: the now-former board was recruited while David Miller was still Toronto’s mayor, and may have made enemies at City Hall during 2011’s budget deliberations, when most of them attempted, unsuccessfully, to defy a city council decision that required TPL to close down its Urban Affairs branch, as a cost-saving measure. The new board will be responsible for vetting and adopting 2012’s budget, which is likely to be more contentious than any TPL budget in the past decade.
The new board is composed primarily of people with government and business credentials, including two former provincial Liberal operatives and a lobbyist who used to work as a management consultant at KPMG. Also: a retired optometrist.
Some now-former TPL citizen board members are questioning the wisdom of city council’s decision not to retain any of them. “In terms of continuity, it would have been a sensible decision to keep people on the board,” said Tina Edan.
Chaleff-Freudenthaler had stronger words: “Refusing to reappoint a board that advocated strongly to sustain and improve Toronto’s library system speaks volumes about the Ford administration’s attitude toward libraries,” he said.
Four citizen members of the former board—including Edan, Chaleff-Freudenthaler, and Ahmed—were eligible for reappointment.
Here’s what we know about those among the new board members we were able to track down:
Cameron MacKay: A vice president at the Devon Group, a government relations and public relations firm, MacKay is registered with the provincial government as a lobbyist for a number of different clients, including SmartCentres and the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores. He’s a graduate of Queen’s University and the London School of Economics. While living in Winnipeg (his city of origin) he worked as a management consultant for accounting giant KPMG. Now 41 years old, he has lived in Toronto for about a decade. He hopes to preside over modernization at TPL. “What is the library in the age of Google going to look like?” he wondered aloud when asked what he might like to accomplish during his time on the board. “And what does the library provide in terms of Toronto’s competitive advantage?”
Benjamin Wulffhart: Originally from South Africa, Wulffhart came to Canada in 1973. He practiced optometry in the GTA until his retirement in 2004. “Toronto has given quite a bit to me,” he said, “and I just felt it was time to give back to Toronto.” The 66-year-old has served on the board of a private library located in his condo building.
Ken Stewart: A Liberal party insider since his days working in Pierre Trudeau’s office, Stewart has more recently served as chief of staff for two Liberal MPPs: Sandra Pupatello and Kathleen Wynne. Currently, at 54, he’s a senior consultant at the Capital Hill Group, a government-relations firm. He is registered as a lobbyist with the City, and has recently approached councillors on behalf of technology vendors, and also Imperial Tobacco Limited, who evidently would like council to ban contraband tobacco. “I was very involved with a number of major funding decisions supporting literacy and numeracy,” said Stewart, referring to his days in the provincial government. He hopes to expand services at TPL during his tenure, but concedes that doing so might be difficult. “It’s a matter of aligning resources and making some decision on where funding has to be allocated,” he said.
Mike Foderick: Foderick is a law student with a long history of civic engagement. He was, for a time, executive assistant to Councillor Cesar Palacio (Ward 17, Davenport). At just 30 years old, he qualifies as a “youthful perspective” for the board, by the City’s definition. “The Toronto Public Library is in the stone age, in my opinion, when it comes to RFID,” he said, referring to the automated checkout system that TPL is contemplating using in order to cut its staffing costs. “They could run those branches with a fraction of the staff that TPL is running some of those branches.” He hopes savings from automation will be used to improve library service, citywide.
Andrea Zammit: Another 30-year-old, Zammit is currently an assistant manager at the Brampton Multicultural Community Centre. She has a master’s in immigration and settlement studies from Ryerson, and wanted to join the library board because of her longstanding passion for government and policy. She hopes to approach the 2012 budget season with an open mind. “I think that obviously everybody would like for services to remain the same,” she said, “however the reality is that sometimes we may need to make some cuts.”
And here’s what we know about the new members whom we weren’t able to speak to:
Ross Parry: A well-known provincial Liberal operative who resigned his position as chief of staff to MPP David Caplan in 2006, Parry now works as a government-relations consultant, and is registered as a lobbyist with the province. He has met with MPPs on behalf of a number of different healthcare providers, and also GlaxoSmithKline, the drug manufacturer.
Stephen Dulmage: We have so far not been able to confirm that this Stephen Dulmage is the same one who was appointed to the TPL board.
Kimberly Korinek: The only trace of Korinek that Google seems to know about is this LinkedIn page, which may or may not belong to the same person who was appointed to the board.
CORRECTION: September 30, 2011, 12:50 p.m. This post originally stated that Andrea Zammit’s master’s degree was in “information and settlement studies.” It is actually in immigration and settlement studies. In addition, we mistook Cameron MacKay’s alma mater. It is Queen’s University, not Queen’s College. We regret the errors.