More Ward 19 city councillor candidate interviews

We are less than a week away from municipal election day in Toronto, happening October 22.

The Beach Metro News staff, including our student reporters from the Centennial College Journalism program, have been busy covering news and events in several of our newspaper’s catchment areas. The following series is our second crop of stories from our students based on their interviews with city councillor candidates for new Ward 19, Beaches–East York. Read the first installment here.

Diane Dyson
By Chelsie Ortiz Luis

A huge believer in affordable housing and excellent childcare, Diane Dyson is currently running for Toronto City Councilor for Beaches–East York in the upcoming municipal election.

When the reduced number of wards became official by Premier Doug Ford, Dyson says it made things difficult. She says because the reduction was in the middle of an election, it mostly caused confusion for the voters.

“It was head-spinning,” Dyson said. “It got to the point where I had to check the news hourly for an update. It was so confusing. I feel like it left voters to question who or what their options are. It was a loss for Torontonians. It means less diversity.”

Having a successful career that includes advocating for poverty reduction, tenant rights, decent work provisions, and more, Dyson, a single mother raising a family in Toronto, believes her most dominant focus is the high cost of living in Toronto.

“There’s childcare, community housing, and many more [issues], and it’s become so expensive to just live and get by,” she said. “You might afford a place to live, but it’s probably in a different city. People can’t afford to live in the place where they grew up anymore. Affordability in the city is very important.”

Having fallen in love with Toronto, Dyson says she truly wants to help every single Torontonian live a better life. She says a city is nothing without its residents and Toronto’s diversity is key.

“Toronto’s motto is diversity,” said Dyson. “My kids are mixed raced; their dad is Chinese. What I love is that my kids are not exotic. Because there’s so much variety, they belong in their neighbourhood. Other people look like them.”

Dyson said she’s running for election for the purpose of finding those people and neighbours who need help.

David Del Grande
By Dena Shah

David Del Grande became interested in city issues at an early age. His father is a former city councillor, so his family is no stranger to politics. Del Grande ran as a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for the Southwest Scarborough riding representing the Green Party back in the spring. Even though the party didn’t win, he is hoping to represent the Beaches–East York area at city council. Right now his interest in politics is burning brighter than ever.

Del Grande knows it’s a tough race because of the recent reduction of wards, yet he firmly believes that he has a chance to win.

“I do think that I have a chance. But it has become a lot more competitive in the wards especially since the merger,” said Del Grande.

In terms of the new ward’s issues, Del Grande wants to tackle transit, affordability and safety first and foremost. He wants to advocate for the construction of a relief subway line, increase the housing supply, and work closely with police to identify criminal activity in the area. Del Grande describes these issues as equally important. However, he believes affordability is becoming a growing issue for the city.

“In order to have a successful city for the future, we have to be able to afford to live in it,” he said.

He believes that an unaffordable city is a city that pushes its most vulnerable people away and discourages young people from moving into the area.

When it comes to the other candidates, Del Grande says that he is relieved that all the others seem to agree on the area’s issues.

“I am really glad that all the candidates in the Beaches–East York area are kind of on the same page on the main issues that we have right now,” he said.

Del Grande has lived in East York for the past nine years with his wife and children. He has been a board member of his local community association (DECA) and is also a community advisor at Michael Garron Hospital.

On municipal election day, Del Grande is hoping to win and to take his childhood interest in politics to the next level representing Ward 19.

Morley Rosenberg
By Doha Hanno

With a long history in municipal politics, city councillor candidate for Ward 19, Morley Rosenberg, is continuing his work in community service.

“I’ve got about 35 years of public experience. I’ve dealt with a lot of these issues at the local level in Kitchener when I was a mayor and on council for 15 years and on the Ontario Municipal Board for 20 years,” Rosenberg said. “I think I can help council deal with a lot of the problems that arise because of my experience.”

Rosenberg doesn’t agree with Ford’s decision to change the size of city council. He says there are going to be communication problems between the number of people sitting in council and the constituents in the ward.“They’re going to have to probably set up four or five sub-committees in that ward,” he said.

“Each sub-committee will deal with local problems and the councillors will need to check in on a weekly basis with those four or five committees and see what the problems are in each area and come up with solutions.”

One of Rosenberg’s main concerns is the accommodation of senior citizens.

“I think there needs to be accommodations for seniors such as more housing in basement apartments, granny suites, things of that nature. The seniors can help by dealing with neighbourhood watch programs to see what’s going on in the area. They can be involved with the schools, troubled kids, the police, etcetera.”

Rosenberg’s platform focuses on transportation, affordable housing, crime, community and the environment. One of the key issues facing Ward 19 is financing.

“What I’m saying is that the key issue, before you address housing and transportation and all, is to get the federal and provincial government in one room with the city in order to come up with some more money to deal with the problems the city faces only partially with the provincial and federal governments or not at all,” said Rosenberg. “I say get more money so they can start doing things without going to the feds or the province every other day and asking for more funds. That’s number one.”

Rosenberg hopes that candidates will keep up their community efforts long after the election. He says there needs to be a coordinated effort in order to see change.

Frank Marra
By Kasy Pertab

Although Frank Marra’s career aspiration to become a city planner changed, his goals didn’t, as he is now running for the city councillor for Ward 19.

Marra dedicated over 30 years of his life to the accounting and finance fields, and now works at an architectural firm. His experience at Climans Green Liang Architects has given him an advantage in understanding the city’s development and infrastructure.

“Let’s just say I’ve solidified my reputation as someone who knows about development because I work with people who are basically on the ground floor of development,” said Marra.

After realizing there is more to be done for the city, he found his way into politics. [Editor’s note: Frank Marra lives in Ward 19, and has for the last 9 years. This information appeared incorrectly in the October 16 issue of Beach Metro News].
If elected, Marra wants to focus on transportation matters concerning bike lanes, intersections, and more.

“Through city policy, we’ve forced an artificial divide between the users of the road, mostly cars, pedestrians and cyclists. We’ve moved away from the collaborative use of the roads —it’s either us or them, and that just doesn’t work,” he said.

When it comes to connecting with people, Marra explains that he makes himself available to the public. He also added that the community has reached out to him through his Facebook page, and this is where he has expanded his electoral campaign.

When asked his opinion on the reduction of the number of wards, Marra admitted that he is of two minds.

“I see the argument that local representation is going to be degraded some, because you’re going to be asking a councillor to represent more people and at the same degree, if not greater,” he said. “But I think there’s bits and pieces all over the map that could play into defining our city in the 21st century.”

Marra added that politics is something very important to him. “I’ve always had a life-long interest,” he said. “I think it’s part of our responsibility as citizens to participate, be informed, and be engaged.”

Veronica Stephen
By Dena Shah

Veronica Stephen may be running for city councillor for the first time; however, she is no stranger to the environment of working for the city.

For over 10 years, Veronica has worked for the City of Toronto. Her educational background is labour relations and human resources. Her career has made it possible for her to work in three different branches of the City of Toronto. She has worked in court services, employment/social services, and parks, forestry and recreation.

Stephen believes that her work experience will help her stand out from other candidates.

“Having worked in three different divisions at the City of Toronto, I am equipped to foresee what the implications of short-sighted decisions made in council will be,” she said. “I’ve witnessed cuts to our much needed programs and services for youth and seniors, pool closures, wasteful spending and areas where we can spend more efficiently.”

In terms of the ward’s issues, Stephen sees the rise of crime as the most pressing. She wants to bring back community policing as a way to try to reduce crime, and build a better relationship between the community and the police.

“Statistics show that visible minorities and vulnerable groups are more likely to have a negative interaction with police than other groups.

We need to ensure that police are knowledgeable of the specific issues being faced by communities, thereby allowing them to make more informed policing decisions when interacting with residents,” she said.

The position of Toronto city councillor has historically lacked gender and racial diversity. Despite this fact, Stephen has never felt hesitant to run as councillor.

“The historic makeup of council hasn’t deterred me from running. In fact, with the reduction in the number of council members, I feel it’s important now more than ever to run so that the voices of women and visible minorities are heard,” she said.

Stephen currently resides in the Upper Beaches. For the upcoming Ward 19 election she is ready to make herself heard and bring new strategies to help fix relations within the city and her local ward.

Josh Makuch
By Chelsie Ortiz Luis

Election day for Toronto is arriving soon, and Josh Makuch, city councillor candidate for Beaches–East York, is ready for action.

When Premier Doug Ford unexpectedly cut down the number of wards to 25, Makuch says it was an incorrect decision. By making this reduction right in the middle of an election, Makuch believes Toronto had no fair say in the situation.

“I think the process by which the premier did that was very wrong,” said Makuch. “It doesn’t account for the fact that Toronto deserves a say in how many wards it has. As of right now, I don’t see how reducing a number is going to make the government more efficient.”

As a former platoon commander in Afghanistan, Makuch believes his experience in the Canadian Armed Forces has given him strong leadership abilities for the upcoming election. Being brought into a tough and difficult terrain such as Afghanistan, he says being a leader was life or death for everyone. “Being a young person who was commissioned as an officer in the military, it is a huge crash course in leadership,” said Makuch. “I was only 24 years old and I was in charge of 40 soldiers. I don’t think there’s any place in the world that teaches you leadership in that kind of way.”

After nine years of being in the army, it’s no shock that being a soldier has become Makuch’s identity. Using the leadership skills that he fostered in Afghanistan, he wants to build a better future for Toronto.

“Being in Afghanistan, 40 soldiers would look at me as their leader during a real fight, waiting for me to make a decision for them. That’s a unique kind of leadership that I experienced,” said Makuch. “Leadership is one of the things that’s missing in this city and with it, we can tackle hard challenges to make this city greater.”

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