Kevin Rupasinghe, a Toronto Council candidate in the Scarborough Southwest byelection on Nov. 30, answers four questions from Beach Metro Community News.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates were instructed to keep their answers to approximately 200 words, and some of the responses have been edited to keep them as close as possible to the agreed word count.)
QUESTION 1: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and why you decided to run in this byelection?
I live in Cliffside with my partner. She and I love it for the same reasons you do: the people, the food, the businesses, the culture, the nature. We’d like to raise our family here, but it’s sometimes hard to see a future in this city.
When my parents immigrated, they sought a better life for their children. Now, it’s hard to share their optimism for a brighter future. Many of us feel stuck. Whether you have a mortgage or rental lease, housing costs are too high.
Moving around the city is difficult, whether on public transit or on our dangerous roads. Too often, our communities feel unsafe. These challenges can only be addressed by a new generation of leaders.
My Cities Engineering education and professional background gives me expertise. I have a successful record at City Hall advocating for life-saving measures to make our streets safer and championing better transit. I am personally motivated to see our community thrive. We have a rare opportunity to leave behind the ineffective approaches of the past.
QUESTION 2: If elected councillor, how will you address concerns regarding increasing density along Kingston Road through the Birch Cliff and Cliffside areas that is seeing affordable, low-rise rental apartment buildings being replaced by condominiums of nine storeys and more?
As a tenant in Cliffside whose neighbours face demoviction, I am acutely aware of the precarity of housing along Kingston Road. Making sure everyone can find an affordable home will take a concerted, multi-prong effort over many years. It has taken us decades to get into this housing crisis, and everything must be on the table to get us out.
I will work to protect existing affordable housing by pushing back on demolitions and strengthening rental replacement laws. Beyond protecting existing housing stock, we must build a variety of housing options for people at all stages of life. The city must invest in shelters, incentivize more family-sized multi-residential units, allow more gentle density across the city instead of intense development at just a few sites, allow mid-rises along transit corridors, use city-owned land for nonprofit housing, and push the provincial and federal governments to support more co-op housing and rent-geared-to-income housing.
I will bring community members and experts together to guide these changes, and I will leverage my knowledge to ensure we get amenities and services we need.
QUESTION 3: How do you view potential measures, including but not limited to property tax increases, to address Toronto’s budget deficit, and what alternative strategies would you propose for the city to navigate its financial crisis?
Toronto is in a serious financial crisis. Underinvestment in our infrastructure and services has harmed families in our community. We’ve lost important programs in community centres, watched our roads literally fall apart, and prematurely derailed and shut down the Scarborough RT.
My background gives me expertise in investing in infrastructure to support our communities and experience balancing trade-offs when making difficult decisions.
The city over relies on its property tax base for revenue. I’ve long been a proponent for a diverse set of revenue tools that allows the city to be more resilient with its investment into infrastructure and services without exacerbating affordability concerns for residents.
In August 2023, I spoke at City Hall on behalf of our community advocating for a commercial parking levy which could provide nearly $500 million investment. Trying to get the same investment from property taxes would be about a $600 a year increase or doubling TTC fares to more than $6 per trip. I will push for different revenue tools and support Mayor Olivia Chow in her pursuit of a new deal with the provincial and federal governments.
QUESTION 4: What is the most important issue that you think you will be able to have an influence on if elected as the new councillor for Scarborough Southwest?
My number one priority is housing affordability. I will work tirelessly to ensure everyone can find a home they can afford, though it will take time to get out of the housing crisis.
In the nearer term, I am committed to making Scarborough’s streets safer. Nearly half pedestrian fatalities across Toronto happen in Scarborough. I will not stand by while more of our neighbours are killed in preventable collisions. This has been a longstanding priority for me. I am committed to addressing dangerous driving in our ward by expanding automated speed camera program with a goal of zero revenue and zero speeding.
We need to pair this with street lighting on both sides of the road, safer crossings near bus stops, and better intersection designs.
I will work with every school to implement a safe streets travel plan. I will also work with community members towards a comprehensive neighbourhood safe streets plans leveraging speed bumps, stop signs, chicanes, traffic diversion, and every tool in the toolkit.
For more candidate answers, please go to https://beachmetro.com/