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politics

Keegan Henry-Mathieu Setting His Sights on Ward 7 Council Seat

First-time candidate will be facing off against incumbent councillor Giorgio Mammoliti in York West.

Detail of an image courtesy of the candidate.

Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) remains competitive in his riding despite a fundraising scandal and his own erratic-at-best behaviour over the years, but Keegan Henry-Mathieu isn’t very interested in discussing Mammo’s foibles. More important to him is Mammo’s record. “[Ward 7 residents] can point to a stop sign, but anybody in that position—the bare minimum is coming up with those small wins for residents. Anybody who’s been elected can do that—and I’m hearing from lots of people that Giorgio Mammoliti isn’t getting back to them any more. I think residents should be looking for more than that. You can call 311 and get a stop sign. It’s not brain surgery just because Mammoliti wants to make it seem that way.”

Henry-Mathieu is new to politics, and yet he isn’t: he’s new in that this is his first council race, but he’s been regularly involved with City Hall since he became a member of the Toronto Youth Cabinet in his teens. “I had the opportunity to work with City staff, city council members, members of the community, especially here … I decided to run because I know that, as an activist, you can only get so much done.”

When questioned about Toronto’s budget shortfall, Henry-Mathieu affirms his belief that the City’s property taxes and land transfer tax can be raised as a short-term solution; he also supports reinstating the vehicle registration tax (although he would prefer that it be dedicated for transit use). More ambitiously, he expresses interest in sin taxation and discussing a municipal income tax. His viewpoint is straightforward: Toronto’s needs will not be funded by higher levels of government, so we must do it ourselves. “You look at cities across the world, you look at European cities, you look at American cities—none of them rely so heavily on federal or provincial funding—or state finances—to be able to run their city. What happens is we fall victim to politics at the federal or provincial level.” He also wants to explore the potential for a fee for non-Torontonians driving into the city. “I want to see us start with road tolls for out-of-city residents … I want those residents to understand that driving into our city creates a cost.”

When we talk about the City’s difficulty in delivering social services to the non-English-speaking sectors of the city (and particularly to new Torontonians), he grows animated. “We need to work on a clear mechanism for community-led social organizations and service providers, connecting with community development workers to make sure that those services help people get on their feet … we’ve gradually declined funding social services in this city over the last four, even the last eight years, and poverty is on the rise in this city, especially in Ward 7, and we’re never going to get any meaningful results unless we fund it.” He also wants to make sure that new Canadian women know that they can get police assistance in instances of domestic abuse.

Henry-Mathieu is calling for new approaches to and sources of funding. “Only 28 per cent of the people in Toronto who qualify for the city’s childcare subsidy here can get it; that has to be a priority. Everybody who qualifies for that subsidy should be able to get it, not just the first 28 per cent who fill out the form. Arts funding—we need a permanent and dedicated stream for that, like so many cities have. And I know we need permanent revenue tools to meet these things. Cities weren’t meant to handle what we’re handling today. We need a new paradigm.”

On housing, the candidate wants to expedite repairs by increasing TCHC’s budget, preferably through a dedicated revenue tool. “The only way we’ll be able to tackle [TCHC] is by approving or implementing some new source of revenue to make it happen … we need to educate, to make it clear … the province downloaded housing to this city in the first place, with no intent of uploading any cost whatsoever.” He points out that TCHC properties at Bluegrass Way and Chalkfarm are far below standard and that these are only two examples of many; when asked about the need for new units, he suggests a strategy that would require property developers to make a certain number of units in any new condo or apartment development affordable. (He also prefers this option because he is concerned that there is not enough interaction between social classes.)

Henry-Mathieu supports reducing the police budget. “When we see stats saying that crime is on the decline…? I would like to see a serious reduction in the Toronto police budget. We need to have a smaller and nimbler approach; I’m not a fan of TAVIS, but I’m a fan of what TAVIS has the capability of doing, to build relationships in the community rather than card 400,000 people per year. We need smarter policing.” He wants to use at least some of the police budget to bolster Toronto’s EMS service, arguing that the Toronto Fire Department is being forced to act as proxy for Toronto EMS too often, thanks to EMS being overstressed and underfunded.

Henry-Mathieu’s transit priority is clear: Ward 7 needs the Finch LRT. Moreover, he supports the Scarborough LRT and LRT for most Toronto transit expansion, citing the lower maintenance costs and ability to deliver more transit more quickly than other forms of rail. He also supports increasing bus service across the city, particularly on Jane Street, and wants to explore whether dedicated bus lanes would be feasible as a low-cost alternative to rail in some areas. Henry-Mathieu also supports the Downtown Relief Line subway.

Although Henry-Mathieu understands that, as a city councillor, he has to have opinions about Toronto’s larger picture, his focus remains first and foremost on his ward—and on the failures of its current councillor. “Giorgio Mammoliti has gotten in the way of improvements coming into this neighborhood. It’s not about stop signs. Residents need to ask about transit, they need to ask about senior services, why seniors have to hang out at North Sheridan Mall rather than have a seniors’ centre, why youth service providers are fearful because a call from Giorgio Mammoliti’s office means their lease gets pulled—he gets a call from a resident who lives near a community centre or a community program operating out of an apartment building complaining, and they get their lease pulled. It’s not good enough, and people need better.”

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