Snapshots of candidates running for city council in 2014.
Candidate: Robert (Bob) Spencer (age 65)
Ward: 36 (Scarborough Southwest), currently represented by Councillor Gary Crawford, who is running again. Spencer came in a close second to Crawford in 2010, finishing 422 votes (2.4 per cent) behind him.
Background: Spencer, who does home repairs and fence building, refers to himself as “Bob the Builder.” He has a Masters degree in education and is pursuing a PhD in Chinese-language history on a part-time basis. Spencer served as a school trustee for 11 years, and is a past chair of the Toronto Board of Education. He also formerly worked as executive director of the Ontario Association of Food Banks. He is married and has two children; his Basset Hound Stanley is featured in his campaign material.
Why are you running for council? “I’ve been in public life before. I know how much work it is, so I know I can do the job if I get past the hurdle of being elected. On doing the policy work, and working with staff, and providing the bridge points between left and right, I know I can deliver. Also, I’m pretty comfortable in saying that this area is not well served at all. I’ve done my work in Scarborough now for 20 years, and I know there’s a lot of needs, like the needs around Kingston-Galloway. That’s what I’ve built my life around: special needs kids and families.”
What’s an overlooked issue in this election? “It’s obvious to me: poverty. The reality is the city is only great because its people are great. The city only works well because we all get together and work together. I think there’s a whole slew of issues that are missed—if you only look at the hard services in a city, you miss what makes a city useful: art, culture, community education, good health programs, and good nutrition programs for kids. Those are all within the mandate of the City. They’re all much more interesting than arguing about whether eight years from now an environmental assessment is going to be put on this alignment or that alignment, this number of stations or that number of stations.”
His stance on the Scarborough subway proposal: “It doesn’t help us at all. We don’t get any subway stops in Ward 36: we need an express bus—we probably need two express buses—and we need electrified GO lines, we need more services, faster services … I supported Transit City in the last election. The light-rail plan has more stops—three stops in our area—and has more potential for us in the northeast part of Ward 36.
The subway is so expensive. The same councillors who say they want to control property taxes want to throw a billion dollars at building a tunnel that may or may not be approved on the environmental assessment side. I don’t understand. That seems penny-wise, pound-foolish to me.”
On the difference between last election and this election: “People are a lot friendlier. They’re a lot more interested in change. There’s none of the aggression that was in the 2010 campaign. That’s pleasant. Because I do want to talk about social issues, and we talk about their kids and their dog, and community policing and all the issues.”