A candidate running in the Toronto ward vacated by Coun. Kyle Rae says development continues to present the greatest problem in the downtown neighbourhood.
Ward 27 has more than a dozen candidates vying for the seat that Rae represented for 19 years. Development in the Church and Wellesley area is a hot issue for the front-running candidates. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who moved to Regent Park as a new immigrant when she was a child, believes preserving historic properties within the community should be a priority.
“If we lose the historic importance of where we are and wipe out these heritage properties,” she said, “we really do lose our connection to the past that enables us to know we’re going in the future.”
She added that Toronto’s strength lies in its diversity and that community development begins in city parks not condominiums, which she calls “vertical communities.” Wong-Tam added that installing more traffic lights along Church Street will ensure greater pedestrian safety.
Candidate Ken Chan, a former staffer for mayoral candidate George Smitherman, believes it’s crucial for the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood to retain its identity as the gay and lesbian village. He says he hopes the health of local businesses will thrive in the community.
“I’d like to see the area south of the 519 (Community Centre) all the way down to the Church Street Public School enhance and become more vibrant,” Chan said. “ Businesses have been suffering.”
Both candidates have also raised the prevalence of street crime. Wong-Tam, who owns a Timothy’s World Coffee at Church and Maitland streets, says that aggressive panhandling hasn’t been properly addressed. She believes the issue needs to be met head on.
“When Yonge Street decided to do a massive clean up of their panhandlers, guess where they went? … Over to Church Street,” she said. “If Church Street decides to take the same approach … we move those guys over to Jarvis Street and the problem is never solved.”
Chan, who formerly worked as a homicide officer with Peel Regional Police, says the largest concern is drug trafficking from Yonge and Wellesley to Allan Gardens. He said the ward needs increased police visibility to ensure safety for its residents.
With Oct. 25 fast approaching, Chan added that he hopes voters will focus on city building.
“It’s not just about the bricks and mortar of our city,” he said. “It includes discussions about public spaces.”