The political newcomer's Ward 3 election campaign is focused on public space and infrastructure development.
Peter Fenech, council candidate for Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre, is quick to admit he has limited experience in politics and community involvement. “I haven’t been as active as I would like to have been in my community,” he says.
But in this year’s provincial election, Fenech canvassed for Liberal Yvan Baker in the latter’s successful campaign for MPP of Etobicoke Centre. Fenech describes himself as a Liberal through and through, and his views on budget policy reflect a fiscally liberal mindset. “A lot of people want the city to be run like a business … but it’s also a city,” he says. “We need to spend on important issues. We need to spend money on housing, on infrastructure, on transit. We’ve been so afraid for so long to tell people it’s going to cost money to fix the things we need.”
Fenech is in favour of keeping property tax levels moderate—increasing roughly in line with inflation—and protecting Toronto’s Municipal Land Transfer Tax. The MLTT has come under fire from politicians and public interest groups alike, but with an annual benefit to the City of nearly $350 million, Fenech says it’s too valuable to scrap. “What are we going to replace that money with?” he asks. “That’s a lot of social programs, that’s transit, that’s improvements to our city that we’re going to have to get rid of.”
Also on Fenech’s radar is electoral reform, which he considers a priority for Toronto. While he doesn’t believe in term limits, he does support ranked ballots.
Within his own ward, Fenech wants to enhance the public realm by improving existing parks and creating new green spaces and bike paths. He’d like to bring a Bike Share station and bike path to Centennial Park, and dedicate the hydro corridor between Kipling Station and Eglinton Avenue to cyclist routes.
Another of Etobicoke Centre’s needs, according to Fenech, is infrastructure that would prevent flooding and blackouts of the kinds Toronto has experienced in the past year. “Infrastructure is one of those things that you don’t notice until something goes wrong,” Fenech says. “We need to start being proactive instead of reactive. We need to start thinking, ‘How are we going to fix it? What’s the strategy?’”
Fenech also wants to push for construction on Phase 2 of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project to begin as soon as possible. The second leg of the Crosstown would run through Etobicoke—which is important, Fenech says, because it would connect Ward 3 residents to jobs and post-secondary education facilities across the city.
It’s unclear whether Fenech will be taking on an incumbent councillor in the race for Ward 3. With just three weeks until the September 12 nomination deadline, Councillor Peter Leon has yet to declare his candidacy. The right-leaning Leon was appointed by council last October, after predecessor Doug Holyday made the jump to provincial politics. At the time, Leon pledged not to run in the 2014 election—a condition to which, the Toronto Star reported, council asked potential appointees to agree. Recently, however, Leon has hinted that he might run anyway.
“I don’t think he should run,” Fenech says of Leon. “He was nominated and appointed based on the fact that he was going to be a caretaker of the ward. By running, it’s disingenuous and I think voters will have the final say on that.”
Regardless of whom he faces, Fenech hopes that voters will take an interest in the political process, and that City leaders will hear them out. “Being involved and being informed, an everyday resident can have a say in what goes on at city council,” he says. “It’s a good thing…. There’s some great ideas from people that aren’t the political realm.”