Residents grill Ward 19 candidates about green spaces at debate

Living near Christie Pits hasn’t always been a walk in the park for Nathan Grundy.

Grundy, 32, remembers trash enveloping the park during the garbage strike of 2009 and wonders how a new city councillor would clean up Toronto’s public spaces.

“The places where people take their dogs and their kids… are now a biohazard,” he said. “I can’t believe that Pantalone and the council let that go through and I want to know what you guys would do.”

Grundy addressed the Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina city council candidates at the all-candidates debate on Monday night at St. Matthias Parish Hall. Candidates Mike Layton, Sean McCormick, Karen Sun, David Footman, Jim Likourezos, George Sawision, Jason Stevens, Rosario Bruto and Karlene Nation all turned up to battle for mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone’s vacant seat and discuss the ward’s need to maintain green spaces.

Sun noted that Pantalone referred to the ward as a garden. But she insisted that the ward’s next councillor must pull some weeds when it comes to maintaining public services that affect parks.

“The idea is to clear the way for what is already there to grow and flourish,” she said. “When those barriers are removed, the community can then grow and bloom.”

For Grundy, this means the next councillor must get his/her hands dirty in terms of managing park issues.

“I was upset that it wasn’t properly managed by the city,” he said. “It’s a large community and there are a lot of people to take care of.”

George Sawision said he took direct action to protest the use of pesticides in the parks during the garbage strike.

“I confronted Joe Pantalone to ensure that we wouldn’t get them out there,” he said. “Joe went to Italy. I stood there and tried to stop the spread of pesticides.”

Grundy said he also wants to see financial change on a municipal level.

“I think there’s something to be said for better bidding practices on city contracts,” he said. “People who live in the city don’t see what they’re paying for.”

McCormick wants residents to reap the benefits from tax dollars the city sows and promises smarter spending than past administrations.

“At city hall, we are wasting millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars every year on sole-sourced contracts,” he said. “We’ve seen taxes go up and services go down — services that should be provided for things like Trinity Bellwoods Park.”

But Layton said a closer relationship between government, city workers and residents is the path to greener pastures.

“We’ve got to continue the negotiation with all city services,” he said. “We need to keep investing in our parks, not cutting our services and not cutting our programs because these are the things that we rely on and what make our neighbourhood so great.”

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