Meet Your Candidates: Ward 32, Beaches-East York
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Meet Your Candidates: Ward 32, Beaches-East York

During this year’s municipal election, far more is at stake than just the mayoralty. Toronto has forty-four wards, each with its own council seat up for grabs. To demystify the most contested of those races, Torontoist is presenting a series of profiles of the key candidates.

Images courtesy of the candidates.

Ward 32 is one of Toronto’s lakefront wards. With Lake Ontario as its southern boundary, the area is home to Toronto’s popular Beach neighbourhood. Development is one of the biggest issues for this ward, as the neighbourhood strives to retain its historical infrastructure and tight community while accommodating new growth. Incumbent councillor Sandra Bussin has found herself in the middle of several controversies during her most recent term, and is facing what appears to be a very strong contest against challenger Mary-Margaret McMahon, who is promoting herself as the steward of change. We sat down with both candidates to learn more about their priorities and campaigns.

Do you live in Ward 32? See our Ward 32 page for an interactive ward map, photos, and more.


Sandra Bussin

About the candidate:
Sandra Bussin first took the political stage when she was elected as a councillor when the City of Toronto amalgamated in 1997. She’s been in politics since then, serving as David Miller’s deputy mayor (from 2003 until 2006) and is currently the Speaker of City Council. In addition to time serving as a city councillor, Bussin also spent fifteen years working as a senior political advisor at the provincial legislature.
On development in the Beach and surrounding areas of the ward:
Bussin maintains the councillor’s role is to find a way to introduce sensitive and appropriate development into the Beach. She says she’s reached an agreement with leading architects in the city to offer their expertise by sitting on a panel to address design and development issues in the ward.
Bussin adds that the Planning Act does not allow for community panels, like the ones proposed by her opponent, to screen development projects before they go to City Hall. “You can’t impose this on anyone, whether it is a small addition to one’s home, or a larger undertaking in the ward,” Bussin tells us.
On the Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance and Storage Facility scheduled to be built at Lake Shore Boulevard and Leslie Street:
Busssin says last year’s community consultations didn’t turn up any major complaints about establishing the storage facility. She defends the facility’s benefits, which she says will allow for the beautification of Leslie Street from Lake Shore up to Queen Street.
Not to mention, they are part of a bigger and important picture: “We needed the twenty-two acres for these brand new vehicles. We’re spending over three billion dollars on over 205 new light rail vehciles…This is a positive change, and that comes with a place to put them.”
On some of the controversies she’s faced over the past year:
Bussin says she fell victim to “unscrupulous” developers who fund the newspaper that published the article which became the subject of a libel suit. “It’s heavily, heavily financed by people who would like to have someone who doesn’t really know their way around town, so they can steamroll through and take over this community for other development,” she tells us. Bussin argues that a divisional court has indicated that her claim of libel claim is plausible, and thus maintains that she is justified in filing the lawsuit.
On the bunny suit:
Bussin characterizes the 2007 controversy as “orchestrated,” noting that city policy does allow for councilors to host small events, like community picnics. She did, however, borrow bunny suits from a film shoot for a subsequent Easter parade.
On the heritage vs. accessibility controversy regarding 204 Beech Avenue:
Bussin says she was hoping to work with the homeowner to find a way to preserve some of the significant, historical features of the building. “[The homeowner] could certainly build, and there was no attempt to stop him building, but there was a desire to retain our history as well,” Bussin says. “And it’s unfortunate that heritage property has been lost forever—not only to the Beach community, but to the city as a whole.”
On Transit City:
Bussin fully supports Transit City. She says a light rail system will be built much quicker and will cost less money than attempting to implement an expanded subway system. “Otherwise, you will wait, and you will wait, and you will wait—we probably will all come and go before there was a comprehensive subway system,” Bussin tells us. She also believes that transit should come off the city’s ledger, with funding being provided from the higher levels of government.
On the City’s finances:
Given the range of services the city provides—she cites police, firefighters, and housing specifically—Bussin thinks there is very little flexibility in the budget: “This is a fallacy that our books are not in order.” She’s in favour of reviewing budgets line-by-line, but has not spoken outwardly about making cuts to the city budget. While there has been much talk of belt-tightening, Bussin says she doesn’t know where cuts can reasonably be made.
What sets her apart:
Bussin says her experience as councillor will help her wade through issues coming up at this “critical” time at city council. “This is a very serious time: this reminds me very much of the common sense revolution, which brought significant cuts and hurt the city of Toronto, and we’re back there again,” Bussin says. She maintains that her experience in navigating City Hall politics to protect the interests of her community will ensure that the voice of the Beach will continue to be heard at Council.

Preserving the feeling of the Beach neighbourhood is one of residents’ key concerns. Photo by rfmcdpei from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.


Mary-Margaret McMahon

About the candidate:
Mary-Margaret McMahon is known as an active presence in the ward, and says says she doesn’t notice how much time she spends volunteering in her community because she had so much fun doing it. She calls the East Lynn Farmers’ Market the “crowning jewel” of her community initiatives in the ward; she established it with three other woman in the neighbourhood. McMahon worked as a community animator with Live Green Toronto before taking a leave of absence in May to focus full time on her campaign.
On development in the Beach and the surrounding area of the ward:
McMahon is for what she calls “smart development”: development that keeps the character of the neighbourhood, and is carried out by “ethical” developers—ones who take the community’s vision into account and consider the environmental impact of their projects. She says she’s looking to create a community preservation panel, which will include a local urban planner, architects, tenants, and residents. The idea is that the panel would create a vision for the neighbourhood, and then developers would have come to the panel with their proposals first, before taking them to City Hall. “I’ve spoken to some developers, and they’re interested in the idea because it cuts through the red tape for them,” McMahon tells us. “It saves them time, money, and energy if they already have the community buy-in.”
On the Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance and Storage Facility scheduled to be built at Lake Shore Boulevard and Leslie Street:
McMahon takes a rather different view than Bussin, maintaining that the community has voiced concerns about the project to City Hall and did not feel properly engaged in the planning process. Key among resident concerns: congestion and safety in the area. McMahon would like to explore the option of reopening the debate, as she too has concerns about potential safety issues and congestion problems in the area; she is also worried about the environmental impact of having such a facility situated close to the water.
On the controversies surrounding Bussin:
McMahon says she’s not looking to sling mud in this election against the incumbent councillor. She is a firm believer in term limits, and has been speaking to residents about it being a time for change. McMahon also tells us she believes term limits “could have helped prevent some of these cases of poor judgment shown this year,” and goes on to say: “there’s a groundswell for change in the community, including an ‘Anybody but Bussin’ movement in the community. It’s not flattering to me, but I’ll take those votes.”
On the heritage vs. accessibility controversy regarding 204 Beech Avenue:
“I’m all for heritage homes, but I think in a case like that, empathy has to be shown when you’re talking about someone’s quality of life,” says McMahon. She maintains that since the house and the street are not designated heritage areas, the homeowner was within his right to make modifications to the house. McMahon says she would encourage neighbours to discuss such issues before taking it to the city level, and was not sure why Bussin became involved in the dispute.
On Transit City:
“We have an antiquated transit system. It’s appalling. So I fully support Transit City,” McMahon says. She’s in favour of subways where population density warrants it, and that LRTs are necessary to maintain walkability and livability.
On the City’s finances:
McMahon says she’s not in favour of cutting services, but does define herself as a “fiscally responsible environmentalist.” She says her past community initiatives were cost-free, such as connecting a business with local artists to paint a mural to cover up unsightly graffiti. McMahon thinks council office budgets can be reduced, and should not be used for any kind of self-promotion. While door-knocking, McMahon says she’s discovered eight empty city-owned homes, and unused buildings locked into a twenty-year lease with the city. “That’s just insanity,” she tells us, adding City Hall must do something to deal with such buildings.
On what sets her apart:
“I’m a big believer in community engagement. As a resident, and as someone who has lived here for nineteen years, I don’t feel like we’ve had that sense of community engagement,” McMahon tells us. McMahon is advocating for financial accountability, transparency, and term limits, and says she’ll bring in a fresh energy to the position. “After thirteen years of being in, it’s got to be a little tiring on Sandra.”
Get more municipal election coverage from Torontoist here.