First-time candidates motivated by urge to give back

Twelve years ago, Masihulla Mahebzada immigrated to Canada. He chose Cougar Court, just north of Eglinton on Markham Road, as his new home.

“My life moved forward in Scarborough,” Mahebzada said.

But Cougar Court has also witnessed shootings and murders, including those of 16-year-old Mahamed Adbi Warsame and 22-year-old Ricardo Erik, who were both killed in 2008 within 10 days of each other. Violent crimes, such as these, have given the Scarborough Southwest ward a tarnished reputation.

“(That’s why) I thought it was time to bring changes to the community I grew up in.”

For Mahebzada it’s about making a difference in his part of Toronto.

Downtown, in the Trinity-Spadina area of the city, Daryl Christoff has operated Promised Care Centre, a health-care clinic for 16 years. But on April 30 of this year Christoff locked the centre’s doors for the last time.

“It was time to move on,” he said.

He said he was fed up with a lack of proper representation in city hall. He decided to run for council in Ward 20.

“Small business is the fabric,” he said. “If the community didn’t support me the way they did, I wouldn’t be able to give back.”

Christoff and Mahebzada are first-time candidates. Allan Bonner, of Allan Bonner Communications Management, has advised many political figures, sometimes first-timers, in political campaigns. Bonner is sceptical about the rationale of candidates entering politics to make a difference.

“Most who say they are in it for the good of others aren’t being honest and are in it because they are (angry) at the current government,” he said.

However, when it comes to candidates such as Mahebzada or Christoff, with campaigns rooted in the idea of giving back, Bonner said these are candidates who are intellectually and spiritually motivated.

“(Christoff) has a leadership style of giving of himself so that others may benefit,” he said. “Let’s see how effective that is going to be if that is genuine.”

Mahebzada said he genuinely feels things in Cougar Court have to change.

“Why is the community not safe?” he asked rhetorically. “That’s one thing no one can figure out at city hall, and that’s why I’ve decided to run.”

Christoff said he would donate half his salary to help fix child poverty in the city.

“Twenty-six years I’ve lived here,” he said. “I need to give back. We have to start thinking like this.”