Annamie Paul watched as hundreds of thousands of Canadians protested climate change across the country last month. She is aware that long-time downtown Toronto residents are moving to the suburbs to save on rent. The climate crisis and housing affordability remain two of the most pressing issues for the Green Party candidate in Toronto Centre.
“I am completely convinced we are in a climate emergency. It’s very important to me to know I’m supporting a party that is very committed to tackling it and that’s willing to work and cooperate in a collaborative way with other parties to do that,” said Paul, in an interview with the Toronto Observer on Wednesday.
A lawyer, social entrepreneur, and founder and executive director of the Canadian Centre for Political Leadership (CCPL) — a non-profit that empowers women, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, and racialised peoples to run for elected office — Paul was born, raised, and has lived most of her life in the riding. She chose the Green Party because it is the most aligned with her values.
Through their plan, Mission: Possible, the Greens vouch to cut 60 percent of carbon emissions by 2030, work with Indigenous leadership and other parties to solve the climate crisis, and cancel the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Another big issue in Toronto Centre remains housing affordability.
“We have a median income of $39,000. The average condo to purchase is over $700,000, and the average one-bedroom to rent is over $2,000 a month,” Paul said. “And we also have more than 25 percent of our residents who are paying over half of their income just on rent and utilities.”
The Greens have called for a National Housing strategy addressing the fact that over 70 percent of Toronto Centre residents are renters. Paul said there is a need for subsidies for low-income people who are renting, along with more investments in social housing.
“Our focus is more on supporting the development of rental housing as opposed to purchasing, because that’s no longer an option here in Toronto Centre,” Paul said.
Her determination and commitment have captivated voters’ attention well beyond the GTA area.
“I’ve mostly been following the election in Toronto. I’m very impressed with the candidates there,” said Steve Kisby, a Vancouver resident and Green Party voter.
Housing affordability seems to be the main concern for communities all across Canada.
“In Vancouver, affordability is a big issue,” he added.
Jade Maitland, who works at Community Centre 55 in Toronto, defined the issue as the community’s biggest concern.
“Housing, the rising cost in food, and everything else as well… It’s so expensive to live in Toronto in general. Salaries are not getting up, but everything else is,” she said.
While everyone seems to be affected by the issue, it especially concerns students and young adults, who are moving out of the city.
“I actually had to move out of Toronto Centre because of it. I was paying so much for a very dampy apartment and I still could not afford it. It also was not in a safe area,” said Brett Porter, a Ryerson student and Green Party volunteer.