LAMP Community Health Centre is not a typical rec centre, or drop-in centre, or clinic, or…anything. It is all of these things at once, and it is in many ways the heart of a broad south Etobicoke community. The charity provides everything from child nutrition programs to adult reading programs to dental care to a teenage youth centre. For the past 14 years, Russ Ford has served as LAMP’s executive director. Now he’s running for city council, and he has earned your vote.
The incumbent, Mark Grimes, has been in office for 11 years, and has shown little regard for the kind of thoughtful city-building Toronto—and especially a very rapidly changing part of Toronto—needs. He supported the Ford administration about 80 per cent of the time; was one of the strongest proponents of a waterfront casino in Toronto, a form of development that prioritizes quick fixes and tourist attractions over methodical, integrated, resident-first development; and, for those of us who live elsewhere in the city, disturbingly led the council motion “to commend the outstanding work of Chief Bill Blair, the Toronto Police Service and the Police Officers working during the G20 Summit in Toronto.”
In the early stages of this past council term, the kind of programs that LAMP makes possible were dismissed by mayoral allies like Grimes as “nice-to-haves.” Russ Ford passionately disagrees with that assessment, and from his experience speaks to how those programs represent the best values of Toronto, including prioritizing the needs of Toronto’s most vulnerable and marginalized residents.
Ford—and, before we go any further, let us emphasize (as he does, constantly) that Russ is in no way related to Rob and Doug—has a decades-long track record of developing collaborative, integrated programs within his community, and has seen the real-world impact they can have. To him they are not just theoretical do-good activities.
His single biggest priority at council would be to work on growing inequities within the city, an attitude something that both the ward and council as a whole would benefit from. He cites, for instance, the fact that Ward 6 has only a small City-run rec centre, which is more or less a gym affixed to the side of a school. Or the fact he keeps hearing, as he knocks on doors, that many of the new condos that have gone up by the waterfront in Etobicoke routinely experience brownouts, because the electrical grid can’t support all the new construction. These basics don’t make his eyes glaze over—they energize him, and he wants to energize council to take them more seriously. We hope he has the chance to do just that.