Enza Anderson waits at a bus stop on the west side of Bay Street by City Hall with a tall shovel in her hand. The bus to Queen’s Quay pulls up and all eyes fixate on her as she boards. Walking towards the back, an elderly passenger comments, “A bit early for shovelling the snow off your driveway, isn’t it?”
She replies, “Yes, but I’m going to be shovelling something a lot better.”
In the same way the broom symbolized David Miller’s promise to sweep out corruption at City Hall during his run for mayor (insert your salty quip here), the normally winter-worn outdoor tool will be the calling card of another foray into municipal politics for Anderson. The social activist, media personality, and grand marshall of the city’s 2008 Pride Parade is putting the finishing touches on announcing her candidacy for councillor of Ward 27 (Toronto Centre-Rosedale). If her campaign—which she will publicly launch this month—is successful, she will be the first-ever transgendered councillor in the city’s history.
“People are just fed up with incumbents who continually waste resources. These people don’t understand that it’s the taxpayer who picks up the tab and not them,” says Anderson while, ahem, on the move to a photo shoot. “And at the same time I want to make history as the first transsexual on City Council.”
No stranger to the bear pit of municipal campaigns, Anderson has twice run for office and lost, though has marked impressive showings. In 2000, she placed third in the mayoral race behind Mel Lastman and Tooker Gomberg, with more than 13,000 votes. In 2003 (a year after she tried to run for leader of what was then the right-wing Canadian Alliance), Anderson took on incumbent Kyle Rae for the Ward 27 seat. Soundly beaten, but not defeated, Anderson wants a rematch, and will brook no arguments that her efforts are solely about garnering press attention.
“I’ve never done anything as a publicity stunt. What I say to anyone who says that is that I’m raising issues that you failed to do, one,” she says. “Two: When I do something, it’s because it affects me and other people. When something upsets you, you have to make a stand. And these people, what was the difference when they ran? Why are they so special that it wouldn’t be a publicity stunt for them? But I don’t sweat it. The voters can decide.”
And what’s on Anderson’s agenda? She’s the first to admit her total platform is embryonic, but she’s adamant about building a bridge to the island airport, fiscal responsibility and transparency, and making public transit and garbage collection essential services. Privatization is a no-go, she says, adding that Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s idea to have a corporate-sponsored TTC is “crazy” and that Mammoliti “has been in politics for years and still hasn’t got the grasp of how serious the transportation issue is. To him it’s just a big joke.”
“This city is so under-managed when it comes to moving people,” she says. “And we need to open the books so people can see where their money is going. We also need to take a look at our communities that are being lost. Church Street is dying, for example. We’ve [Toronto’s LGBT community] fought an uphill battle for what we have, for this, and if we lose this area, we lose who we are.”
Not long after Anderson says this does a group of high school students walk by; one yells “Go home, you fucking faggot!” It doesn’t take a person of LGBT orientation to see how deeply those remarks cut, and it’s an ugly reminder of the unique battle she’ll fight to be taken seriously during her bid. Anderson steels herself and continues, but not before saying, “I hate that.”
“People should be looking past my gender and look at my ideas,” she says. “I can work like everybody else, not just in the gay community. It’s about what you can do, not what you are. And I can do the job of city councillor.”
All photos by Brian Towie/Torontoist