Over the course of the municipal election campaign, Torontoist is sitting down with as many candidates as we can to discuss their platforms and priorities for Toronto. Our hope is to give a real glimpse of how each candidate thinks and what each candidate cares about—beyond the soundbites to which they’re often reduced.
Photo by Hamutal Dotan/Torontoist.
Kevin Beaulieu, who has for many years been serving as the executive assistant in Adam Giambrone’s office, has decided to now run for that office himself. Following on the heels of Giambrone’s announcement last night that he would not be seeking reelection, Beaulieu has confirmed that he will soon be filing his own nomination papers for the seat. (He will stop working for Giambrone, and go off the City payroll, before registering to run.)
Beaulieu doesn’t fit the stereotype of a glad-handing politician. Soft-spoken, unassuming, and not prone to grand rhetorical flourishes, he isn’t someone you can necessarily imagine on the campaign trail. Those traits may end up, however, serving Beaulieu in good stead, for those are qualities many find lamentably absent from our sometimes fractious Council floor. Beaulieu joined Adam Giambrone’s campaign in 2003, and joined his staff when that campaign proved successful. In the years since he has acquired a reputation for diligence, and several community leaders we spoke to praised his attention to constituency issues.
We sat down for a chat with Beaulieu early this morning, to get a sense of the issues and policies that will be informing his campaign.
Torontoist: For people who don’t know you, can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
Kevin Beaulieu: I moved to Toronto many many years ago. I moved here because I visited many times as I grew up in southern Ontario, and really loved the city: I loved the pulse of the city, the variety of ways to participate in city life. I became involved through my time at the University of Toronto and through community groups, and gradually, bit by bit, a little more politics [crept in]. About ten years ago I found an interest in city politics in particular. I always had an interest in politics to a degree, but I had moved into a community and really found myself wanting to participate there in some way. I got involved in municipal politics and eventually found myself working at City Hall for the new city councillor, Adam Giambrone.
You are being described as the man to whom the torch is being passed by Adam Giambrone. Is that a fair assessment?
No, I wouldn’t say so. I know that I’ve had a real opportunity working with Adam, to be in the community, to work with people in the community, and as well be at City Hall and get some experience there, so certainly there’s a connection. But, I also know that it’s very important over the campaign period for me to demonstrate that I am my own person, with my own ideas and my own energy. Should I be successful and should the residents of Ward 18 trust me as their councillor that’s what will carry me through.
Did Giambrone ask you to run?
No. We’ve talked about it, of course, but no.
Can you tell us about what some of those ideas are?
Every councillor is a city councillor, and every councillor is a ward councillor. You’re certainly a ward councillor first and that’s where your priority lies, [but] everyone lives in the city and wants the city to succeed as well. What’s good for the neighbourhood is generally what’s good for the city; sometimes it needs a little bit of work to find the right sweet spot there where everyone is for [a proposal], and I think that’s where the skills of the councillor are needed. I think that’s a strength of mine, to work with people to arrive at not just a satisfactory conclusion but a good one.
In the ward specifically, because that will be my first and highest commitment…It’s a hard-working community, it’s filled with people who like their community a lot, who really want to participate in it as well as in their city, but there have been some changes in the past seven to ten years. The arts community which has long been there has grown, and has really become a central of what’s happening in a number of the neighbourhoods that make up the ward…There are a number of things that I am particularly proud to have worked on and I want to make sure that those are seen through to completion and match the community’s vision. There’s a new park to develop and build out, with integrated public art. There is a former Carnegie library, which currently houses offices that will be moved, and I want to make sure that the commitment to [convert it to] an arts hub and a performing arts centre is realized and is fulfilled. As we move up the ward we can talk about the Railpath…I’d like to see that Railpath completed, which I believe is in the works but will take some time to complete.
Amongst the people in the ward, I think there is a real need for strengthening relationships, which I think can be built with some neighbourhood help and with some—I don’t want to say committees, but with some groups in the various communities throughout the ward that will meet regularly with the councillor, advise the councillor…and then probably meet as a whole from time to time to look at the ward as a whole and to develop ideas together. I think that the next councillor, no matter who it is, is going to have the responsibility to listen and to learn and to work with the community and really build relationships.
And from a city-wide perspective, what sorts of broader policy agendas are you interested in championing?
Well, it applies to the city, but something that I didn’t mention in the neighbourhood is that Ward 18 has communities that have actually advocated, during development processes, for affordable housing. That’s a terrific thing: as you know, sometimes these things can be controversial, but this is a community that actually takes [affordable housing] to heart. That is something that’s not a new idea, it’s obviously something the City’s been working towards for a long time—a decent base of affordable housing.
I also think that our parks need a new approach. One of the things about Ward 18 is that people are familiar with Dufferin Grove Park, and the way that it works very well with community involvement. People there are anxious to share that kind of approach to park development, park building, park programming, and I think that I would like take those ideas and apply them somewhat—build a toolkit to allow neighbourhoods to better engage with their parks.
I’ve had some involvement with transit in the city. Good transit is crucial to the success of the city, particularly as it grows. As there are more people travelling on our streets and our roads and our sidewalks every day, it’s going to be very important that they have excellent options for biking, for taking transit, for walking, and we’ve got to get started. We’ve already got some of this approach to transportation, but I’d really like to see that continued and multiplied many times over, because that’s the way the city’s going to succeed.
So would you be in favour of something like a complete streets approach?
Yes, I would say that it makes sense. I don’t think that it has to be a controversial idea. I think that when you consider all of our public spaces and our streets that a new approach is welcome. The whole point is to make sure that people are given an opportunity to use that space. Transportation is central to what our streets are, of course, but they are also public spaces and they can be better used both for transportation as well as street life.
Where do you locate yourself on the ideological spectrum?
Definitely I identify as a progressive. [Beaulieu is an NDP member, though of course there are no official parties operating at the municipal level.—Ed.] I believe that we all benefit from structures that serve people in good times and in bad. I believe that collectively we can build a city that allows people, as individuals or collectively, to succeed and prosper.
What do you make of the current crop of mayoral contenders?
Well, I’m waiting to see how this plays out. Certainly I think there’s room—in fact I think there’s a call—for candidates to look not just at what we can’t or shouldn’t or won’t do but at what we can do. There’s room there for a bit of optimism, a bit of a city-building voice.
Coming later this week: our conversation with another leading candidate in Ward 18, Ana Bailão.