Beaches-East York candidates off and running

Why vote?

Candidates for Ontario’s June election only get four weeks to give you a reason, not only to vote for them, but to vote at all.

Turnout dipped to 49 per cent in the last Ontario election – a record low.

Image courtesy FutUndBeidl (via Flickr)
Image courtesy FutUndBeidl (via Flickr)

That figure was a couple points higher here in Beaches-East York, but still, the three candidates who are registered so far will need compelling ideas if they want to draw voters off the beach or out of the garden on June 12.

Nicolas Johnson, candidate for the Ontario PC Party, says he expected commute times and urban development to be top priorities, but he got a surprise when he started canvassing a few weeks ago.

“The single biggest issue I’m hearing about is jobs, and the cost of living,” said Johnson, adding that rising electricity rates are a standout concern, especially for older people on a fixed income.

Johnson, 43, is a journalist who covers business and finance, most recently for the Globe and Mail. He returned to Toronto in 2011 after a dozen years in Paris and Tokyo, where he worked for Bloomberg News.

Nicolas Johnson
Nicolas Johnson

Before this election campaign, the Beach’s most common lawn sign was one that shows a monster condo roaring over a stretch of older buildings on Queen Street.

Johnson agrees housing development is an issue here – he went to a recent Queen’s Park hearing for an NDP bill that would have removed Toronto from the oversight of the Ontario Municipal Board, a real-estate tribunal.

“Community groups feel they’re not being heard,” he said.

But Johnson said reformers should focus not on the OMB, but the city plan that guides it.

“The OMB is like a court, like a referee,” he said. “If the rules are within the Official Plan, and there are no grounds to reject them, then the OMB basically has to approve them.”

Arthur Potts, candidate for the Ontario Liberal Party, has a different take.

“Gridlock is the number-one issue,” he said, noting that the Liberals’ recently defeated budget would have invested heavily in Toronto transit.

As for the OMB, Potts said it needs to be restructured, but not abolished, which would open the door to NIMBY-ism.

“You need sober second thought on planning decisions, because it’s too fraught with political interference,” he said.

Potts, 57, co-founded a company that recycled discarded pallets and other waste-wood into products like mulch and particle board.

Arthur Potts
Arthur Potts

Since 1994, he has worked as a consultant for businesses dealing mainly with waste management and recycling.

Potts has campaigned before, finishing second to Peter Tabuns in Toronto’s 1994 city council election. He also worked for two years as an executive assistant to Metro councillor Anne Johnston.

Surrounded by fellow Liberals at his May 8 nomination, Potts said he sees Beaches-East York as a key swing riding for his party, though he admits it will not be easy to unseat the NDP’s Michael Prue, who Beach and East York voters have elected to Queen’s Park four times since 2001.

That didn’t stop Phillipe Murphy Rheaume, vice-president of the Liberal riding association, from sending some brave words his way:

“On June 12, we’ll finally send Michael Prue and his sweater packing.”

Prue’s trademark sweater was nowhere to be seen when Beach Metro News visited his campaign office last week.

The former East York mayor and incumbent NDP MPP was in shirtsleeves, still getting his office ready to go on day one of the 36-day campaign.

Michael Prue
Michael Prue

Asked for the standout issue in Beaches-East York, Prue said it all depends what part of the riding you’re standing in.

“All politics is local,” he said.

In the Beach, the big issues are how to preserve Queen Street’s small-town feel and reform the Ontario Municipal Board.

In the last session, Prue put forward a bill that would give Toronto planners a full year before developers could launch an OMB appeal, rather than four months.

Prue also supported a bill by fellow NDP MPP Rosario Marchese that would remove Toronto from OMB jurisdiction.

“It was sad because the City of Toronto asked, with a near-unanimous vote, for the authority to set up their own appeal mechanism,” he said, adding that the OMB is “an anachronistic, horrible body.”

“I favour abolishing it for all large municipalities,” he said.

In the Upper Beach north of Kingston Road, Prue said seniors’ care, poverty, and immigration services become larger issues. Along the Danforth, he said many waiters, hairdressers, and other service workers would benefit from his bill to prevent owners from collecting part of their tips – a bill that had all-party support, but died on the order paper when the election was called.

In the former East York, where Prue was first elected as a councillor in 1988, and then mayor, he said the key issues are overcrowding in schools, the lack of a French high school, and the roll-out of all-day kindergarten.

Prue, 65, notes that he is the only candidate of the three major parties who actually lives in the Beaches-East York riding.

“I think it’s important that you understand your community,” he said. “I can tell you where every street is. I know faces from everywhere, not always names.”

Prue said in his five years as mayor of East York, he had no tax increases, paid off the city’s debt, and built new infrastructure.

As an MPP, he has served as the NDP’s finance critic, and said it’s unconscionable that Ontario is running such large deficits that debt servicing is now the third-highest expense.

“I live the dream,” he said. “I would like us to be government, and I would like to be finance minister.”

“I think I could turn this place around.”

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Pssst. East York before amalgamation was not a city but was officially “Canada’s only borough”. Whatever that distinction actually meant. Just an FYI.

Nicholas Johnson is wrong about the OMB – it is not a “referee” but essentially substitutes the views of one un-elected appointee for what Council has decided – though of course many developers head straight for the OMB even before Council decides because the developers know the playing field at the OMB is tilted in their favour…

The OMB will take the views of one planner working for the developer, and who is obviously biased in favour of their client who would fire them if they weren’t pro-developer, over the views of everyone else – city planners neighbours, and others who do not stand to profit.

No other province has anything like the OMB – time to abolish it or replace it.

The Conservatives killed Bill 20, though oddly many of the people opposing condos have been local conservatives – even some past conservative candidates!

Michael Prue is one who supported every budget of the corrupt Lieberals. It is time for a Conservative in our former East York.

Gary, absolutely correct, although I wouldn’t count on it in this riding.

As for the comments above re the OMB, we should take the word of a crazed NIMBY? He can’t even get along with the rest of the anti-development crowd. He must be having a stroke with the plans for a 12 story building at KR and VP! LOL.

Nimby? Joe, stop badmouthing me, or any other people, and respect the fact that there are legitimate differences of opinion.

Liberals and the NDP are the same in my books, just looking to grab and spend every dollar they can from us and extending their advantage in power.

With Michael Prue, it’s like we don’t even have an MPP – the only time he shows up is when it is time for re-election or a parade, what has he done in the neighbourhood other than grab a big paycheck?

Kathleen Wynne will show up in towns like Walkerton is when there is political hay to be made, and sign orders to move gas plants when there are Liberal seats to be saved, but just seems interested in running up debt and smiling for the cameras.

Let’s bring in the conservatives and see if they can clean up this mess.

Just where do Mr. Potts and Mr. Johnson come from then?

Is it really necessary to bring in party hacks from other areas? I’d be happy to see the back of the incumbent, but I’m not pleased that there aren’t other locals running.

Hey Peter.

Arthur is actually a friend of mine and lives just at Pape and Danforth – only a few blocks outside the riding. I think it is hardly fair to say that he has been parachuted in. His partner owns a business on Coxwell; his mother, Brother and Sisters live in Beaches – East York and he grew up in the community – in fact he’s been in the community nearly 20+ years. I can attest to that myself. What I can also attest to is that people in this riding, where I have lived for 30+ years do not respond well to a discourse involving negative politics.

I really hope you have the chance to meet Arthur, he is an energetic dynamic guy who wants to get involved in politics to make a difference, not for his own political or personal gain.

Maybe because they know his record as a lobbyist in his own neighbourhood. Google it – it’s not pretty.

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