Mayoral candidates challenged over youth issue

Diversity and strength may be part of Toronto’s motto, but a youth worker in Scarborough has questioned whether the city’s mayoral candidates recognize it,

Another debate wrapped up Monday night at the Scarborough Civic Centre with the top five mayoral candidates participating. While the focus was on inner city suburb issues and social planning in Scarborough, parent engagement and community worker Genevieve Joss felt the spotlight rarely lit at the issues that matter most.

“They’re talking about transit and but it’s not such a great issue here,” she said.

“I work in Scarborough Village, Kennedy Park, Dorset Park. And many of the parents that I work with in this community have four or six kids, and they live in apartment buildings and there’s poverty. Nothing’s there for them. How do you address these issues?”

With less than a month until the municipal election, Joss wants a candidate who can be the voice for the people with whom she’s worked with. A Youth Link employee, she felt Rob Ford didn’t address the questions raised during the debate.

“One of the questions with Rob Ford… He was talking about cars, what he would do in terms of the taxes; he would get rid of that,” Joss said. “But there are a lot of residents that don’t have cars in this area. So it doesn’t apply to Scarborough; it applies to people who can afford cars.”

Joss said that schools were another matter the candidates overlooked.

“None of the candidates spoke about schools. There are many of the Scarborough schools that have shut down,” Joss said. “So many kids have to commute to other places and the parents can’t afford it and the buses are not going to pick them up. Did they address those issues?”

Mayoral candidate George Smitherman fields questions at Scarborough debate. (JULIE_SMITHERMANSHOT(E))

While none of the candidates spoke of school funding, mayoral candidate George Smitherman proposed a plan to help troubled youth find jobs and get off the streets.

“Composting, the city right now, they put it in a green bin and soon it’s going to come to apartment buildings and they’re going to haul it of somewhere,” Smitherman said. “I think we should develop a micro composting that involves youth from local communities who can actually get jobs and help do composting on a local basis.”

Smitherman also promised to unveil a youth employment strategy to ensure at least 7,500 jobs for youth, if he were elected.

According to Statistics Canada, 22 per cent of those 18 and under living in Toronto have low incomes. For Joss, providing youth with the right resources and giving them the opportunity to have a positive future, is in the key to getting her vote.

“Youth, that’s the number one thing,” Joss said. “They are our future and we have to support them. They (candidates) touched on it yes, like George and Rocco, but they don’t cover the actual issues.”