Ward 42 residents crammed into Burrows Hall Community Centre Sept. 15 to challenge Ward 42 candidates about child and youth services in the area.
Hosted by Malvern Action for Neighbourhood Change, a community improvement organization, the seven council hopefuls shared plans to expand services in the ward, where residents say new subdivisions lack accommodations such as schools and community centres.
Thiva Paramsothi, a member of the organization, shared concerns of the Ward 42 residents he has worked with in the past.
“There needs to be more emphasis on priority neighbourhoods to provide services such as recreation, civic engagement, housing,” Paramsothi said.
When the council hopefuls were faced with the question of how they will preserve and expand childcare, incumbent Raymond Cho pledged to face Toronto’s new mayor head-on, regardless of their stance on the issue.
“I don’t really care who the mayor will be,” Cho said. “I’m going to fight to preserve this childcare space because, this is the area that we have to preserve for the future leaders.”
Cho, the area’s councillor for 19 years, called for more city spending to preserve existing day care facilities and build new ones.
“Especially the single moms, if they don’t have a good subsidized childcare, they cannot even get a job and they need a job or they lose their job. This is crucial,” Cho said.
Candidate Shamoon Poonawala, to cheers from the audience, criticized Cho’s approach. The life-long Malvern resident argued throwing more tax dollars is the wrong approach to successful childcare in Ward 42.
“I like how the incumbent mentioned there needs to be spending of more taxes,” Poonawala said. “Yes, we need to spend taxes. We need to have money to allocate towards daycare facilities. There are ways of doing things the right way and doing it efficiently and there are ways of overspending.”
The Malvern ANC moderators shifted the focus of the debate when Paramsothi expressed a growing concern for the drop out rates of students in the ward.
“The challenge is, in terms of drop out rates, some of our neighbourhoods have the highest. For example,” he said. “Pearson has 400 grade 9 students. What is the probability that these 400 grade 9 students succeed?”
Cho touted programs he spearheaded in the past as a remedy for youth violence and drop out rates. He said these programs have had a direct influence on how the rest of the city sees the Malvern area.
“Years ago in the news, almost every week you would see, Malvern, Malvern and gun violence and so on,” Cho said. “I opened up Hope Centre and I started all kinds of programs. It was good to see young people and high school students taking part in the programs of Hope Centre.”
The councillor said more programs are necessary to give youth in the ward knowledge they need to succeed.
Candidate Poonawala downplayed Cho’s response. He said helping youth goes beyond reinforcing or creating programs.
“In regards to youth programs and in relation to the criminal justice system,” the candidate said, “I understand that it’s not just a matter of finding programs, but encouraging youth to join those programs and that’s a bigger challenge.”
Poonawala said the youth in Ward 42 rarely see members of their community who have led successful lives. According to the former activist, programs can be strengthened by including the involvement and personal experiences of members of the Malvern community.
“There are a number of people who grew up here and have done a lot of great things and we forget about them,” Poonawala said. “We don’t encourage them to come back and talk to the youth that we currently have.”
Also running in the ward and present at the debate were: Namu Ponnambalan, Ruth Tecle, Leon Saul, George Singh and Venthan Ramanathavavuniyan.