Snapshots of candidates running for city council in 2014.
Candidate: Tony Vella (age 42)
Ward: 6 (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), currently represented by Mark Grimes, who is seeking his fourth term as councillor.
Background: A police spokesperson, Vella is on an unpaid leave of absence to run for council. He previously sought the appointment for Ward 3 (Etobicoke Centre) to replace Doug Holyday—a position that ultimately went to Peter Leon. Vella says that in his spare time, he enjoys going to his cottage and the waterfront.
Why are you running for council? “For the last several years, I’ve gotten more involved in politics—local and provincial as well. You can make a difference on a larger scale. The biggest thing for me is knowing that you’ve made a positive decision that affects people in a positive way. You know, I’ve always been in the public service industry, and I enjoy listening to people’s responses or questions and concerns and trying to come up with solutions for them.”
On the principles he would want to emphasize as councillor: “One thing I have is vision, community engagement, as well as hard work. Those are my guiding principles. You know, it’s a difficult position. People have concerns—it could be transit, it could be safety, it could be garbage pickup, it could be anything. So the position is going, listening, finding out what the concerns are and getting community engagement and trying to come up with the best solution.”
Priority issues for the ward: “I think the one is transit. We have good transit, but we could even make it better as well. And I think the other one, too, is development and infrastructure. They go side by side, right? And also revitalizing the areas of the ward as well. I think the key thing is building one community.”
On how to go about funding the City’s infrastructure gap: “We have to look at our capital budget. You know, when it comes to tax increases, I believe it has to be reasonable, and it has to make sense. Number two, when it comes to infrastructure, it’s an issue. We have development—buildings are being built—but the road sizes are the same. And we have to look at sewers—the basics. That’s obviously going to cost money, and we have to plan things out properly.”
On how he would evaluate the past four years at City Hall: “Well, obviously you’ve heard the various things on the news. You know, one thing I learned is snow removal or garbage removal is not a left or right issue. It just needs to get done. And you debate things back and forth, but the idea is coming up with the best solution. The best way to do that is through teamwork.”
On how to fund transit improvements: “What we need to do is continue to lobby the provincial and federal governments to get additional funding from them. We need to do that, and building partnerships with the provincial and federal governments is very important as well. You want sustainable transit? Great—but the first thing we need to do is come up with the money.”
If transit funding from other orders of government isn’t forthcoming, what should Toronto do? “Well, I think we have to do it step-by-step, and spend what we have. We have to have the money first. So I think the big thing is building up those partnerships, lobbying the provincial government. But the key thing is building a contingency fund for transit…
We could use a bit of the land transfer tax money [for transit] as well, and allocate the operating costs towards transit. I don’t want to spend if we don’t have the money, right? I don’t believe in getting into debt. I don’t want to speculate, but the thing is going out there and lobbying the two levels of government, and having what we get as revenue throughout the year, using that as much as we can—but also being reasonable about tax increases as well. There are people on fixed incomes. You want to make sure it makes sense any time you increase taxes.”
On the TCHC repair backlog: “Yes, I heard about that. That’s obviously a concern and something we need to tackle. What I would do is—you look at Toronto Housing, the state of repairs, you know, some buildings do need repairs, you have to tackle that, and people have to live in a reasonable environment. And so lobbying towards the federal government and ensuring taxes [are reasonable] again, I would keep it at the rate of inflation. The increase has to make sense. I need to know a little bit more about what the proposal would be. But I would definitely be advocating for Toronto Housing to make sure repairs are done. And my ward, I would ensure that I’m there, I’m listening, actually physically going to the locations, and finding out what the repairs are, what the repairs require. I would do my best to ensure the repairs are done in a timely fashion. I will be there for my residents.”