OCTOBER 12, 1978
Toronto Mayoralty Candidates
ADDRESSES BY Alderman Tony O'Donohue, Alderman David Smith, Alderman John Sewell
CHAIRMAN The President, Reginald W. Lewis
BRIG. GEN. LEWIS:
Members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: Avid readers of our yearbooks will know that on November 23, 1972, a precedent was established for this club when the three city mayoralty candidates of the day addressed us.
The interest shown by our membership--and the success of that occasion--suggested that precedent should become a tradition, and we are delighted that the leading candidates for the office of chief magistrate of the City of Toronto have taken time from their extremely busy schedules to be here today: Alderman Tony O'Donohue, Executive Alderman John Sewell and Executive Alderman David Smith.
Like Joe Potts in 1972, I will refrain from giving you detailed biographical sketches of our guests, for as politicians our speakers are, of course, better able to present themselves without any assistance from me. Furthermore, no three biographical introductions would ever sound the same and I would not want to be accused of bias. And I suppose whether one is aware of it or not everybody is biased--this was evidenced by Dr. Cameron, a church minister who claimed he had no political bias whatsoever. However, on the Sunday following the election, if the Conservative candidate were successful, the opening hymn would be "Now Thank We All Our God." If the campaign resulted in the N.D.P. candidate being elected, the opening hymn would be "Oh God Our Help in Ages Past." And when the Liberal candidate won, the opening hymn became "God Moves in Mysterious Ways His Wonders to Perform."
When you consider that the 1978 City of Toronto budget is in the order of $574 million dollars; when you consider how profoundly the deliberations and decisions of our municipal leaders affect us all, whether regulating the height of downtown buildings, the height of backyard fences or all matters in between; when you consider that the only elected politician the average citizen will ever turn to personally is the municipal politician; and when you consider that it is the municipal politician who lives in, works in and governs in the same locality as his electorate, we then begin to develop some insight into the awesome responsibilities that are shouldered by today's municipal politicians. Those who aspire to the highest of municipal office require dedication, tenacity, intelligence, and courage. We in Toronto are fortunate that these qualities are found in the three aspirants to the mayor's chair who address us today.
The tragedy of municipal politics is the poor voter turn-out--less than one third of the eligible voters in 1976, yet the actions and decisions of our municipal politicians have such an immediate and acute effect upon our lives. It is my hope, as I am sure it is yours, that this meeting will help stimulate a larger voter turn-out at the municipal elections to be held in November.
The order of our guests' speaking was determined by draw before lunch, and I have asked each to keep within his allotted ten minutes. It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce our guests in their order of speaking--the City of Toronto mayoralty candidates in the November 13th election, the first speaker being Alderman Tony O'Donohue.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. Distinguished head table guests, my worthy opponents, ladies and gentlemen: I am honoured to be here today to address this distinguished gathering of business, professional, academic and cultural leaders. To fully feel in your heart that the campaign you are waging for public office is not a wild dream, it is necessary to visit and speak to all spectrums of society, rich and poor, privileged and unprivileged. To appeal to only one segment of the Toronto population is denying the electorate as a whole the right to participate in the democratic process. Therefore, my campaign has and will be touching all the households of Toronto.
I have been preparing for this mayoralty campaign for a long time. During that time I have visited areas of the city outside my own ward and spoken to countless people. Through these visits I have formed a firm impression of the needs and aspirations, and also the concerns, of the people of Toronto. These concerns and the encouragement of the public before I publicly announced prompted me to run for the office of mayor, and most important, the input from the citizens helped me to form my platform. I will discuss that platform with you later.
Toronto has been described as a mosaic, a melting pot, WASPish, racially biased, racially tolerant, and many other things that newspaper people dream up to sell papers. I prefer to call it the same as the song: "People City."
What is Toronto? It is still many communities with names that have been held over from an earlier era, names such as Parkdale, the Beaches, Forest Hill, Rosedale, the Annex, and so on. People settle and leave these communities, yet the spirit of the community lingers on. When we pass by-laws at City Council, special care has to be taken to meet the particular needs of these areas of the city, provided of course that they are not damaging other communities.
Toronto is also made up of many cultural and social backgrounds. The composition of City Council has steadily reflected this mix. City Council and the many cultural and social agencies in Toronto have helped this dialogue and I am proud to say that I have been in the forefront of such participation. People make a city. What kind of people? It is all the people that I have mentioned and have met. What do they have in common? A desire for a small place in the sun. Whether born here in Toronto, in some other place in Canada, or in far distant lands, they want a home, schooling for their children, work and recreation.
What else do these people want? What do they have in common? A concern for rising taxes, and what they are getting for their tax dollar--or, to be more accurate, what they are not getting for their tax dollar. In my travels throughout the city, citizens have asked me as they ask all politicians, "What are you going to do about my taxes? They are too high." "What are you going to do to help us?" These have become familiar questions to me in the past months.
In analyzing the operating expenses for the City of Toronto for the past eight years, I note that expenditures for 1971 totalled $93 million, and expenditures for 1978 will total over $196 million: more than double. My objective is that there be no increase in city operating expenditures in 1979 over that earmarked for 1978. "Not a dime in '79." A slogan or a catch phrase, you may say. But I intend to use that slogan as a bench mark, a constant reminder during my term as mayor that I must be ever vigilant of the taxpayer's dollars.
City Council, led by its mayor, must restore the confidence of the business community. Without them, we can have no people, no houses, no jobs. We must encourage investment to return to the city. We must be pro employment, not pro
unemployment. The construction industry must return to Toronto and build much needed housing and other buildings that are necessary for the commerce of this city. At City Hall we can help by cutting out the red tape that strangles the builder, by speeding up the process of obtaining permits. The private sector must be encouraged to participate in the building of Toronto. Let me state very, very clearly. I am a free enterpriser. The private sector can build more efficiently than the public sector. I think we all know that.
This year in California, we witnessed Proposition 13, a grassroots citizens' action, primarily rising out of the devastating effect the property taxes have had on the people of that state. The mood has spread across the United States, and we feel the impact here in Canada. It's not so bad in Canada in comparison to California, but it's getting that way, with the homeowner bearing the brunt of all expenses.
Mr. Clark, federal Leader of the Opposition, proposed a policy whereby homeowners can deduct up to $1000 of property taxes from their income for their principal residence. I don't know where you stand on that, but I know where I stand. I am 100% behind that. At the present time, as an example, the apartment owner, whether it's a high rise or a duplex, can write off for income tax purposes not only property tax but mortgage interest payments as well. The guy with the little house next door is treated differently. He has to pay the full shot, with no writeoffs; not a dime. I say it's time to give the homeowner a break.
At the present, tenants have some type of protection with the ceilings on rents, but the homeowner has no ceiling whatsoever on what a municipality can charge for property taxes. Some detractors say that this program does not make any provision for those who are not homeowners. Not so. Such a program would encourage those who now rent to buy their own homes, freeing many apartment units. This would make more accommodation available, and therefore reduce rents. This incentive would, as well, stimulate the housing industry, and all--buyer, renter, worker--would benefit. That makes sense.
If elected mayor, my first task will be to convene a meeting in Toronto with the mayors of Canada's largest cities to draft a common position to pursue this matter.
Now, let us look at City Hall. Employees are leaving the civil service at an average annual rate of about 9%. These vacancies have to be closely looked at to tighten up some operations. I feel that after, and only after, a very close study of a job should a decision be made to merge the duties or re-evaluate the post. I have spoken to department heads about their 1979 budget and they have told me that they can hold the 1979 budget to the 1978 level. They in turn ask me if I can hold Council in line, and this I have pledged to them as I now pledge to you.
I have spoken about my desire for the return of capital to Toronto, capital that fled to other cities in Canada and the United States. I am anxious that industries will not also move out of the city for three reasons. One--it is industrial development that provides the jobs for the many working class residents and new immigrants in the city. Two--industries provide the city with much needed assessment which benefits every citizen. And three--a healthy and lively city is one that is made up of all kinds of activities which cater to all types of people.
Toronto is a great city because it is a centre of industry, commerce, education, culture, entertainment, sports and recreation. We must not lose any of these activities, which are the reasons why we live in the city and which attract so many people. I have actively supported the city's industrial policy by initiating the establishment and acting as chairman of the West Toronto Industrial Co-ordinating Committee for the assistance of industry in the west end. This has been instrumental in the retention of such major firms as Rowntree-Macintosh and Neilson's, which combined provide almost two thousand jobs. I intend to set my sights on improving the decaying industrial areas in other parts of the city, if elected mayor.
Because of the way the city has grown, however, there are many areas where industrial and residential uses are mixed together, which does create problems. I am very concerned that in these areas we achieve compatibility without undue
hardship for either one. The currently proposed official plan and zoning designations for industry, together with the cooperation of the industrial co-ordinating committees and the residential organizations, hopefully should resolve these conflicts. A strong industrial policy will contribute to the continuation of the City of Toronto as a better place to live and work in than any other city in North America. I sincerely believe that.
Throughout this campaign I have been honoured by the many businessmen and women who have come forward to talk to me and to offer advice on the economic future, the budgeting, planning and management of the city, and I am not too proud to accept their advice. Many are here today and I would like to say how grateful I am that we have in Toronto such men and women with concern for the future of their city and the trust they want to place in me.
Many years ago, the late Nathan Phillips persuaded a group of business people to meet together and advise him on matters that affected this city. That group was called the Redevelopment Advisory Council. One of the first actions of the reform council in 1973 was to dismiss them out of hand. I, if elected mayor, am going to ask them back, to regroup and help me with city problems. Where else could be assembled such talent at no cost to the taxpayer?
In 1972, both David Crombie and I mentioned our concerns for the neighbourhoods, and I have talked about this in my opening remarks. But the business, cultural, academic and scientific membership of this club is also a community, and I intend to co-operate and consult with this community also.
As a member of both Metro and City Councils for the past ten years, I have been successful in bringing many progressive changes to policies and programs in these administrations. I have won the respect of city and suburban politicians, and have been the only city politician to be elected by Metro Council to serve on a major body, namely the Toronto Transportation Commission. That is why I, as mayor, can have a good relationship with Metro and the boroughs.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen: I am a professional engineer. I have conducted a successful consulting practice. I intend to bring a businesslike atmosphere to the workings at City Hall. I can only hope that like-minded persons will be elected to the aldermanic seats and my message to you is go out into the community and encourage all to elect a businesslike Council for 1979 and 1980. Toronto really needs your help, and so do I. Thank you.
BRIG. GEN. LEWIS:
Our next speaker will be Executive Alderman, David Smith.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished head table guests, Tony and John. First of all I would like to thank you for the opportunity of addressing your club. This is a crucial election, and I appreciate the fact that the Empire Club has recognized that fact and that you have invited us here today. Our time is short, so I would like to get to some issues. In 1972, we had a very important election in this city. It signalled a new era at City Hall. A new mayor was elected, David Crombie, and nine aldermen were elected for the first time. A number of major accomplishments have been achieved in the last six years under a completely new direction. We have adopted a very comprehensive set of new planning rules, both in the core of the city and also throughout the neighbourhoods of the city. We have taken some strong initiatives with regard to housing to try to increase the city's stock of affordable housing, particularly in the core of the city. I think we have also established that we now accept openness and accessibility at City Hall. Sometimes I sit there and listen to deputations by the hour, and sometimes they are not the sanest deputants in the world--but we hear them all. That has become a well ingrained tradition in the last six years.
But we are limited in time today, so what I would like to do is talk about the first point that I mentioned--the new set of planning rules--because I would like to take this as an example of the choice that you are faced with in determining in what direction the city should be going. Because this election will determine a new era for the City of Toronto, just as much as 1972 did.
We passed what was called the Central Area Plan, a new plan for downtown. It is very complex. A lot of people don't understand it, but don't worry about that. A lot of members of City Council don't understand it either! But let me tell you, in a nutshell, what it was about.
First of all, we decided to reduce the densities. That means that buildings cannot be quite as big. Secondly, we put in some height limits. The forty-five foot limit is long gone, in case you are worrying about that, but there are reasonable limits. We brought in policies to try to preserve historic buildings, and policies designed to have more people living in the core of the city. An example I like to use is that a street is a safer street if somebody lives on it. The same is true of an area. It is more interesting and varied, with more action. A city with people living in the core is a better city.
The fifth point about that Central Area Plan is that we have set realistic and attainable targets for acquiring park sites in the core. What we need for the next mayor of Toronto is somebody who can make that plan work, somebody committed to making it work. And let me tell you why. This city needs investment and this city needs jobs. I may be out of a job on November 14. But for the last few years I haven't had to worry about money for meals and mortgage payments, and I suspect that most of you don't have to worry about it. But I have been talking to thousands of people in this campaign, a lot of bricklayers and plumbers and electricians and carpenters, who are worried. They have families to support and children to clothe and mortgages they have to pay. We need investment and we need jobs. Money that is earned in Toronto should stay in Toronto. I don't like to see it going to Calgary and Atlanta and Houston. Toronto will not stay Canada's economic and financial capital by standing still.
This can be a city in which we have the best of both worlds. We have now put in place the most comprehensive set of planning rules that exists in the world. Over one hundred and forty-three cities outside of Canada have asked for the legislation about the Central Area Plan. Over forty American universities now use it as course material.
Over the last six years, we have stabilized neighbourhoods. The era of blockbusting of the late sixties, where houses would come down and high rises go up, is over. We can have a city in which the neighbourhoods are preserved, but in the core we can have very exciting things happen. Changes do not have to be threatening. Changes can be exciting. We can preserve the old City Hall and build a new one. We can restore the old Massey Hall and allow the Board of Governors to build a new one. We can save the old Eaton's College Street building, but where there used to be a parking lot around it, we can allow some apartments and offices and still have a two-and-a-half acre park. That is what this new plan is all about.
Go and have a look at the Village by the Grange. That's a complex just beside the Art Gallery that runs from Queen Street up to Dundas. Have a look, because if I become mayor of this city, you're going to see more of those. A community is moving in there, with local shops, and some apartments that are not overwhelming, that blend in with the existing fabric of the community. And I think we need leadership that is positive for things like this to happen. I believe that I can give that to you. I believe in the private sector. I believe in free enterprise and I will encourage it.
I also think we need a style of leadership that emphasizes co-operation and not confrontation. I think the confrontation era of politics that we saw in the late sixties and early seventies (maybe a lot of it had to do with Viet Nam) is really out. It is old hat. What we need are people who will try to bring governments and people together to solve problems. I believe I can give that leadership. That's been my record at City Hall. I have demonstrated an ability to steer complex legislation through. I May not have gotten too many headlines for it, but I've done it.
I was elected Deputy Mayor by my colleagues. That should tell you something. Both Tony and John actually voted for me, believe it or not!
I think that there is a very clear choice in this election. I have honest differences of opinion with my friend John Sewell and I like to be candid about them. I'd like to tell you about four of them, so that you will know what the choice is. We have to choose a direction. I represent one direction and Mr. Sewell represents another. So I'll give you the facts, and then you can choose.
Firstly, I do not believe that we need bigger government. I think Mr. Sewell does. In March of this year we had a very interesting vote. It was a simple one, but it speaks volumes. The motion was whether we would freeze the size of the civil service at Metro, so that at the end of 1978 it would be no larger than at the end of 1977. Ivoted to freeze it. Mr. Sewell voted against freezing it. I think it reasonable to assume that he thinks there should be more civil servants.
Secondly, I do not believe that we need a lot more interference and a lot more regulation. To be specific, the Central Area Plan that I have been talking about, that I think will be a watershed, a model for cities throughout North America. Ninety-six out of ninety-seven times, in recorded votes, Mr. Sewell voted against it. I voted for it. He felt it wasn't tight enough. So if you think we've had controls, you haven't seen anything yet--if I don't win this election.
Thirdly, I believe in a spirit of co-operation and not confrontation. For example, in the recent T.T.C. strike, there was a clear choice, a difference of opinion. I supported Premier Davis in calling the Legislature back and ending the strike. Mr. Sewell voted against that. He said the strike should go on with no interference in collective bargaining. You choose.
Fourthly, I believe I show a respect for the private sector and private property. For the last few years, Mr. Sewell has been advocating that the province give us the power to expropriate private property and pay book value and no more. Think about that.
I have given you these examples because I want to indicate some specifics to you about the direction in which I think Mr. Sewell will go, and the direction that I will take. There is a clear and obvious choice. I think we can have a city that has the best of both worlds. The best symbol is saving old Massey Hall, preserving it, restoring it to its original grandeur, and letting a new one be built. That's what I stand for. We have the best set of rules for planning that exist anywhere, but within those rules things can happen, initiative can be rewarded. It's not wrong if someone makes a dollar. You don't have to tighten everything up until the city turns into a mausoleum.
We need jobs and we need investment. I am committed to those principles, and I will be committed to them if I am elected mayor. I think this is the greatest city in the world. I love living here. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I want to make it a better city, and that's why I'm running for mayor.
BRIG. GEN. LEWIS:
The third speaker of our trinity, Executive Alderman John Sewell.
Thank you, Mr. President. Head table guests, ladies and gentlemen: I am one of those very fortunate politicians who has had a chance to see some of the ideas that I've been talking about for ten years actually be implemented at City Hall. It is, fortunate because that doesn't always happen in the political world. I got into politics somewhat by chance, as I watched a neighbourhood being demolished by the city. I thought that was too much. I wanted to stop it and make sure that City Hall did not take steps to demolish neighbourhoods.
That was Trefann Court. Nowadays you take it for granted that you don't demolish neighbourhoods, you save them. "Preserve neighbourhoods": that's a rubric we all use nowadays. Back in 1969 it was a difficult fight and it's interesting that we have come that distance in less than ten years. We have changed our thinking about what should happen with neighbourhoods.
It's the same with local planning. I remember in 1971, when we had a group of people in the south of Carlton area who wanted to have a planner working in their community to develop a plan that would suit their needs. They said, "It's our neighbourhood. We want to have a say in its future." But getting a local planning office in 1971 was really difficult. We had to have a big fight, with a lot of people down at City Hall, but we got it. Today we assume that everybody has a right to have a local planning office and a local planner to work with. We have come a long way and I am glad of it.
One looks at the Central Area Plan. I remember talking in 1972, before Mr. Crombie was elected mayor, about the need to control the growth of office space downtown. I thought it was a big issue. We have come a long way. We now have a plan. It is not to everyone's liking, but it is a plan that goes a good distance towards solving the problem.
I remember fighting very hard in 1972 when, believe it or not, the city was going to tear down the South St. Lawrence Market to make a parking garage. That idea is unthinkable now, in 1978.
We saved the South St. Lawrence Market. We organized a large group of people who protested, we got City Hall to agree. We then moved on to the next building which was threatened, the old Massey Hall. Nowadays, it is unthinkable to tear down those buildings, but that wasn't so six years ago. We had a hard fight to keep individual buildings alive. I'm glad that we now believe that old buildings should be preserved.
Then, there is housing. When we were dealing with the Trefann Court area they wanted to build more public housing, almost an extension of Regent Park. In working with people in that area, I learned that they didn't want that. They wanted something different. They wanted the city to get involved in the housing business to ensure that adequate housing was available that people could afford. Now we've got it. The city is in the housing business. It started with the Dundas-Sherbourne project, where we attempted to save about twenty old buildings, nineteenth-century houses, from demolition. We were trying to stop the construction of a twenty-eight storey apartment building. We did both those things, and we got the city into the housing business. It was not a pleasant fight. We had to tear down some hoardings. But looking back on it, it was a fight that was really worth it. I'm glad I was part of it, because I am proud that the city is in the housing business. We're building good things, as anyone who goes to the South St. Lawrence Market can easily see.
Lastly, I am really glad about the process at City Hall. I remember the first three years that I spent on Council, how difficult it was for people to get information, to in fact be able to present their views to Council, or to set up bodies that would deal properly with the problems that people have. Look at the situation now. It has changed. We do have a process that people can respect. It is not a process that everyone always gets what he wants out of, but it is a process which is respected, and that's good. We cannot slip back from having open government at City Hall.
So I am fortunate, as a politician. I have seen those ideas implemented. I didn't do it on my own. Of course not. I did it with other people. That's the way you make change. It has been helped by some of the principles that I have had as a politician. First, you always do your homework. You make sure you know what you are speaking about. Second, you are clear where you stand, and you tell people where you stand. There's a cost to that. You can't be liked by everyone. But in the long run it pays off if politicians say, "Here's where I stand, and here's why." Third, I've tried to be fair. That's important, and it's not always easy. There are competing interests. It's always difficult to weigh them. But if one is fair, people respect the decision that you make.
Those are the three principles that I have lived with as a politician. I'm proud of them. I think they have served me well.
What's coming at us? I want to talk about three issues that are coming at the City of Toronto, no matter who is mayor. I'll be brief about them. They are not the only issues, but I think they are important. They are not simple issues. In fact you find, when you get down to it, that they are clusters of issues and they raise many questions. But let me talk about them very briefly.
First, the T.T.C. We have one of the best transit systems in North America, and it is going downhill very quickly. The deficit is rising at a staggering rate, fares are increasing, service is decreasing. We must turn the T.T.C. around. We have no choice. It is not going to be easy. I know. I have been fighting for two or three years to try to get some new principles adopted at the T.T.C. so that we can stabilize fares, stabilize service and start to plot some new directions. We cannot be like every other American city which has lost its transit system and has to spend a lot of money to get it going again. We can't afford that. It shouldn't be in the game plan. We must turn the T.T.C. around.
In my opinion, the mayor of Toronto is going to play a leading role in this, since the T.T.C. is so crucial to the city. The second issue is a big one: property tax reform. The province and most of us recognize that the present property tax system is inequitable. Some people are paying more than their fair share; others are paying less. We have to reform the system. The problem is that the propositions advanced by the provincial government do not meet the needs of the people in Toronto. We find, for instance, in the latest proposals of the provincial government, that taxes on houses will go up an average of $150, that taxes on apartments will go down but the tenants will not benefit, taxes for large retailers will go down but they will go up for small businessmen. That's no reform! We have to work out a new system of property tax that serves our needs.
The mayor is going to play a leading role in that. He is going to have to define the exact problems and start defining the options that are available, and lead a major public debate to ensure that we come to some resolution that we can all live with in reforming the property tax system. I would like to be a part of that because I have done a fair amount of work on the system and have advanced a number of propositions as to what that reform should look like.
The third question is housing. Not too many of us think about it very much. The city is providing some housing, but we have some problems coming at us. The first one is that the federal government appears to be pulling the rug out from the city's housing program. We have to re-establish that rug. That will be a big fight. It is not easy to deal with Ottawa, as most of us know.
But there are other areas that we also have to deal with. My figures tell me that less than ten per cent of the households in Metro have incomes that allow them to buy a home. It is a very strange market when ninety per cent of the people can't play the game. I'd like to change that. I'd like to figure out how we can reduce the cost of housing.
There are a number of suggestions and we could probably debate them. Some of them look good on paper, but don't work in reality. Some of them work well in reality but look pretty horrendous on paper. But we must deal with the problem, for we simply haven't done well enough, as a large metropolitan area, when we find that only ten per cent of the population can afford to buy a house. That is a serious debate. It is not an easy one. But it is one that we have to get into if we want to keep this city a city that we can be proud of.
There are three issues. They are big ones and they are coming at us: the T.T.C., property tax reform and housing. They are not all of the issues, but they are a start.
The mayor cannot solve those issues on his own. We can only solve them as a city. The mayor can provide some leadership in helping to define how we might find solutions and in helping to ensure that there is a wide-ranging public debate.
As mayor, I think I could help in that debate. Thank you very much.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Charles C. Hoffman, Second Vice-President of The Empire Club of Canada.