After losing by just 109 votes in 2010, the candidate gives Ward 5 a second try.
This year’s municipal election will give Justin Di Ciano his second chance at winning the Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore council seat. In 2010, the businessman and non-profit organizer lost to Peter Milczyn by just 109 votes, a difference of less than half of one per cent of the electorate. This year, Milczyn ran as Liberal candidate for MPP of Etobicoke-Lakeshore and won, leaving Ward 5 without an incumbent in the upcoming municipal election.
Di Ciano is director and chief compliance officer of financial investment firm Gross Securities Corp. Earlier this year, he co-founded the Jean Augustine Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment, a facility that will provide education, nutrition, and job training to Etobicoke-Lakeshore’s disadvantaged young women. Di Ciano also serves as an advisor to the youth empowerment charity PACT Urban Peace Program, and is a chairman of Toronto Ribfest Food and Music Festival.
Di Ciano’s approach to finance policy generally locates him on the conservative side of the spectrum, though during our interview in Ward 5’s north end, he did say that raising taxes is a necessary part of running a large and vibrant city. Although he indicated he will not be endorsing a mayoral candidate, Di Ciano stated that John Tory’s campaign is the one that most appeals to him at this point. He voted for Rob Ford in the last election, he said, after having bought into Ford’s gravy-train talk—but now feels the mayor is merely a “retail politician” whose policies have been too simplistic to result in savings.
The candidate returned frequently, though, to the rhetoric of the gravy train. “I certainly [believe] the City has a lot of revenue coming in. It certainly isn’t being spent well,” he said.
The greatest source of waste, Di Ciano believes, is to found in Toronto’s civil service: he says there are too many managers in relation to the number of staff employed by the City. Asked if he would like to see cuts to the number of City workers, Di Ciano replied, “You could put them in other areas. But yeah. Do we need the amount of managers that we have?”
Di Ciano also said staff have too much say in decisions made by the City, but that councillors are “too lazy” to address the problem. Civil servants, he holds, should follow the directive of elected officials, and not the other way around.
“[City staff] have an agenda, and that’s fine. But that agenda should come from the mayor’s office.”
As councillor, he would fight to alter the plans for the Six Points Interchange Reconfiguration and Westwood Theatre Lands development—a City initiative that would see part of Ward 5 become the “urban focal point” of West Toronto, with an increased concentration of commercial and residential spaces. Of primary importance to Di Ciano is that the project include a sports and recreational centre, parklands, and a grocery store to accommodate the area’s growing population.
But Di Ciano doesn’t think the City should have to pay for these additions—he believes that the rec centre could be created, managed, and funded by the YMCA, and that new parklands should be paid for by the developers building condominiums in the area.
While his platform has not changed considerably since his 2010 campaign, he intends to put greater emphasis on the role of building developers this time around. Developers have a responsibility to re-invest in the community, he suggested, adding that city councillors have been letting developers off the hook on the issue. (He offered the full disclosure that his twin brother works for a small local housing developer and indicated that he will not vote on any City proposal that would include working with his brother’s employer.)
Private interests should also be financing moves to deal with Toronto’s infrastructure and social service needs, Di Ciano contends. “The social costs of what’s going on [in underprivileged neighbourhoods]? We’re all paying for them, so somebody’s got to fix it. And I don’t know that it’s government’s role to get involved.” He suggested that city council wouldn’t be competent enough to take on such issues itself, asking, “They can’t extract their fair share from developers, and they’re going to go in there and figure out how deal with the underprivileged?”
Another of Di Ciano’s Ward 5 priorities is to push the sex trade out of the Queensway area to make way for retail and restaurants. He would work with owners of these establishments—primarily massage parlours and strip clubs—to help them get permits to move to more industrial neighbourhoods in the ward.
Di Ciano believes that name recognition from the 2010 election will help him in this year’s contest. His close second-place finish was, he said, an indication that he’d been running on issues voters cared about. “We plan on using the same strategy [in this campaign]—only last time, we started with me and my brother who was helping me out … and this time there’s 80 of us,” he commented. “So you’re certainly stronger the second time around than the first.”