The former City staffer, who finished a close second to incumbent councillor Frank Di Giorgio in 2010, is making another run.
Nick Dominelli made a bid for council seat in Ward 12, York-South Weston, during the 2010 election, finishing a close second to incumbent councillor Frank Di Giorgio—and now he’s preparing to face Di Giorgio at the ballot box once again. But when Torontoist sat down with Dominelli, a restaurant owner and former City of Toronto staffer, he was far more eager to talk about his aspirations for office than about Di Giorgio, who has held the seat for four terms and was first elected to the former North York city council in 1985.
“I’m not gonna sit here and point out all of Frank’s faults,” said Dominelli in an interview at his campaign office on Keele Street. “I will tell you, our community is ready for change. After the last election, a lot of people called me and said, we hope you stick around…I’ll let the community tell you what the councillor hasn’t done.”
Dominelli said his love of politics and engagement has fuelled his continued involvement in the area, which is where he grew up.
“I studied political science, and I worked in the bureaucracy at the City of Toronto. I have a better understanding of the mechanisms for change. It’s one thing to know the local community issues and city issues; it’s another thing to know how to bring about positive change.”
During his time at City Hall, Dominelli wrote policy in the city’s economic development department and served as a technical advisor for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority. The former Liberal party member has recruited Joe Pantalone, the former Toronto councillor and deputy mayor with strong ties to the NDP, to chair his campaign. “I’ve worked with various politicians over the years,” Dominelli said, adding that he prefers the environment at City Hall because of the lack of party affiliation in municipal government. “We’re dealing with the grassroots, day-to-day operations of Torontonians.”
Dominelli expressed frustration with ongoing inaction on public transit. “We’ve had this discussion over the years—we need to stop debating, re-opening and revisiting,” Dominelli insisted. He pledged support for replacing the aging Scarborough RT with a subway. “There’s been a decision, all three levels of government have committed funds. Let’s focus on that and make it happen.” Dominelli also commented on transit issues closer to home, saying his ward has suffered from cuts to local bus routes, and arguing that Ward 12 has been overlooked for transit service improvements. “We’ve found resources in other wards. The money is there— it’s just a matter of how we disperse it.”
Residents in Ward 12 also want more options for cycling, Dominelli argued. “Knocking doors over the last seven months, a message we’re hearing from residents is, ‘I get in my car, with my bike in the trunk or on a roof rack, and I drive downtown to ride the bike path because it’s safe.’ There are no bike paths in our community.” There are opportunities to create bike paths alongside the CN rail lines that run through the ward, he said. “It’s time that someone takes the lead here.”
When it came to the subject of housing, Dominelli focused on the lack of affordability for many residents. “I think the City of Toronto has to mandate that all new developments have accessible, affordable housing in the permits,” he said. “We have a ton of new condo developments downtown: if 20 per cent of each one of those projects was set as affordable housing, we’d be much more ahead of the game.”
Dominelli also outlined a plan to expand Ingram Road and connect it to Caledonia Road, the site of a growing design district. The plan involves the expropriation of a business along Dominelli’s proposed route. “They’re doing onsite mining and stone quarry. We disagree with it from a community perspective,” the candidate said. “It’s not an ideal business for this community, and it hurts business opportunities around it.” He noted that a direct route to Caledonia would improve traffic flow and create a more favourable environment for local businesses.
The relationship between police and community members has been an issue in the ward, and Dominelli raised concerns about the impact of police carding, the controversial practice of stopping residents and documenting their personal information. “They brought in TAVIS [the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy] a few years back, but TAVIS hasn’t been renewed this year, and we’re actually excited about that,” Dominelli said. “I hear it firsthand from community members: the colour of their skin or the area they live in shouldn’t determine the need to show ID, to answer police questions just because they’re walking. I don’t think it’s fair to subject people to that environment, and I’m not sure it translates to being more safe.”
Dominelli also touched on the need for better maintenance in local parks, and for water-play areas. “In our community, it seems to be the trend to shut parks down. Let’s install lighting in our community and make sure the equipment is operational.”
Residents’ expectations are currently low, Dominelli suggested, because the ward has been lacking leadership from sitting councillor Di Giorgio. “We need measurables and accountability. I plan to have a community advisory panel; I plan to have a fully functioning office which responds to calls within 48 hours. These are simple things that aren’t being done.” Dominelli added that his experience at City Hall will help him hit the ground running if he becomes councillor. “I’m proactive, I’m very progressive in my ideology, and I’m excited to get to work for this community.”