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.
When we walk into the sunny little café Ana Bailão suggested for our interview, she’s chatting with another regular, a business owner from down the street. A long-time resident of Ward 18, Bailão is running to replace current councillor Adam Giambrone, who recently confirmed that he would not be seeking re-election. Down-to-earth, tempered, and with deep roots in the community, Bailão has been pegged as one of the two leading contenders for the seat (the other is Kevin Beaulieu, with whom we chatted on Tuesday.)
Bailão was born in Portugal and spent much of her childhood there, moving with her family to Toronto at the age of fifteen. After university she wound up at City Hall, working as a special assistant to Giambrone’s predecessor in the ward, Mario Silva. (Silva is now MP for the riding of Davenport.) Bailão made her first bid for Ward 18 in 2003, running against Giambrone and coming in second, with 40% of the vote to Giambrone’s 52%. She’s been in the private sector ever since, working first at BCP Bank Canada and then at GlobeStar Systems, a health IT company.
We talked with Bailão yesterday, over the aforementioned coffee, to learn more about the issues that would be informing her campaign.
Could you talk a bit about your first experience at City Hall and what you learned about what makes for an effective councillor?
I think an effective councillor has to work with the community. The best things that I’ve seen done in communities is when you bring the community together, when you galvanize the community, when you take their suggestions, their work, their energy to put forward projects and ideas… You have to work with other councillors, you have to work with the community, and you have to be a strong voice for your community. That’s what this community is really looking for, is to have someone who listens to them, who works in partnership with them, and advocates for what’s right for Davenport at City Hall with other councillors and the mayor.
How do you think City Hall could function more effectively?
Everyone talks about the budget. I think we need to have people understand the budget process better, and have people understanding how we’re spending our money. We’re given big numbers, and that’s all we’re given… The community needs to understand how that money is being spent on a line-by-line basis.
So would you say there’s more a problem of perception than an issue of rampant waste?
It’s both. It’s like a private company: you get some departments that work really well, some departments that could do a little bit better, and I think that transparency will help with that as well, and it will be even fairer for people who work at the City. There are a lot of good workers at the City of Toronto and sometimes the perception [of waste or mismanagement] is not the correct one, but there are also the ones that could do a little bit better and I think we need to motivate those ones.
What did you learn from working in the business world?
The persistence, the project management, the value of project management. It surprises me, and at the same time as a taxpayer infuriates me, for example, to read in the newspapers that the St. Clair line didn’t have an overall project manager. Obviously you end up going from a project that was supposed to cost $48 million and ends up at over $100 million and timings are not even close to what they were supposed to be. I think that it’s very important, the management of things, the commitment, and the accountability—it’s very important.
Tell us a bit about your campaign. What are the issues that are dear to your heart and what are you going to be talking about when you knock on people’s doors?
The main reason I decided to run is that I’m a resident in this area and I’ve been involved for many years and I hear from a lot of my neighbours and the people at the doors that they want more community consultation, they feel like the community’s been divided over the issues. They want someone that is working with them and listening to them, so that is very important for me.
Making sure that the services are delivered in the most efficient way: we’ve been having tax increases year over year the last seven years, some services even being cut, and people are saying “okay, let’s go back to basics and at least have the services—our daycares, our parks and recreation, our garbage collection, our streets cleaned.”
Also, attracting jobs—in terms of the city, but I also want to do that in our area. I think we lost a lot of jobs to the 905. I think we need to make sure that we attract that to the city of Toronto. In my area we have a subway line, we have the Dundas and Bloor GO train station very close, there’s a lot of development happening—and it’s good development, the community’s involved in the development, [it has] good architecture—but I also want to make sure that we can build some work/live units, for example. Our area has a lot of artists, has a lot of potential, so I want to make sure that those people are still able to live here, and even attract other businesses. Advertising companies, marketing companies, software companies: this is still affordable enough for them, close to downtown, close to public transportation. The more people I have living and working in the neighbourhood the better, because it also addresses some of our safety issues that we still have in the ward, and even traffic issues.
Public transportation and infrastructure in the city of Toronto is something that we have to take a close look at. We have to continue to invest; we have to continue pressuring our partners at the federal and provincial level to invest in our infrastructure and public service. We’re asking people to pay three dollars to use the TTC; we have to make sure that the TTC is operating at the best—that it’s the fastest and the easiest way.
How do you actually go about spurring community engagement?
First of all, when there are certain issues, you have to inform the community—in newsletters and so on—give them proper notice… Also we have a very diverse community; you need to address the different languages issue, you need to make sure that things are done in different languages.
Also, you need to make yourself available to the community. We are in a difficult situation in terms of funding, so maybe using some of the community centres to meet constituents regularly—for example, every week I could be in a different community centre. People would be able to have it scheduled to come and meet with me… Get the groups working together in the area: from the business improvement areas to the residents’ associations to people related to the arts—those are very valuable.
How do you attract jobs to a neighbourhood?
You have to promote the neighbourhood, but you have to work with the private sector as well. There’s a lot of development happening in the area, so let’s make sure that we have some residential units, but let’s make sure that we also have some live-and-work units. Let’s make sure some of those units are affordable enough for our artists. Let’s create hubs for our artists, and let’s make the most of the services we have available. For example, I think one thing the City really needs to look at is the schools as community hubs; it’s something I want to push in this area. The school is closed at five o’clock, it’s a huge building, it’s being maintained, heated and cooled and everything else, so why not use that for programs as well?
All that creates a dynamic community. We have the base already: we have the land, we have developers that are looking into our ward, we have rents that are still affordable, and we have the will to do this.
Who, among the current councillors, do you most identify with—with the way they run their office, the way they engage their community?
I think Joe Mihevc is a good councillor. Adam Vaughan is a good councillor. They think outside of the box and they believe in community engagement. Mihevc also had his challenges as well with some of the projects in his ward, but he listened—it’s about the process as well.
You’re running to replace Adam Giambrone, you ran against him in 2003. How do you think he’s served this ward?
I’m not here to talk about his record, but I feel like the community’s ready for a change. They want somebody that is committed to this community. We have great opportunities coming our way. This is a community in transition, and they want to make sure that somebody’s here that understands the community and is committed to working with the community.
You described yourself in a National Post article recently as “centre-left, maybe centre.” Can you say a bit about what that means to you?
I believe that we need to be accountable and fiscally responsible: people need to know that we’re spending their money in the right ways, and that there’s accountability there. We’re facing tough economic times and it’s very hard for a lot of people in our city to pay their property taxes and we have to be conscious of that. But at the same time I am very socially responsible. I think we need to invest in our social services, invest in our public transportation.
At press time, the candidates registered to run in Ward 18 are: Ana Bailão, Nha Le, Jack Triolo, Hema Vyas, and Ken Wood. Kevin Beaulieu has also announced his intention to run. (We have included links to candidate websites when we could find them.)