The Star identified several “Wards to Watch” in a 47-ward election. Now that new legislation has made it a 25-ward election, we have determined all of the wards are worth watching. This is one in a series of articles. The election is Oct. 22. Advance voting begins Oct. 10.
When Maggie Chi’s parents were deciding what part of Canada to live in 15 years ago, they picked a place that was famed, even as far away as China, for its diversity: Scarborough.
“We thought, OK, well it would be very comfortable to settle in a place where it’s diverse,” said Chi.
“We get to experience different cultures and get to know people coming from different backgrounds and different perspectives.”
Chi is now running for city councillor in Ward 23 Scarborough North, one of the most diverse wards in the city, with 91 per cent visible minorities. It’s also one of only three races without an incumbent running, which guarantees a new voice on council, no matter who wins.
The 29-year-old is joined by 10 other candidates, including several immigrants who’ve made Scarborough North their home, such as Cynthia Lai, an entrepreneur from Hong Kong, Ashwani Bhardwaj, a businessman from India, and James Chow, a grandfather of two from Guyana.
Transit, and a lack of it, is a hot topic within the ward, they said.
Chow said residents feel “physically” and “mentally segregated” from the rest of the city, cut off from a direct express route to downtown, and he’d would like to see the controversial planned Scarborough subway extended through Scarborough Town Centre to Sheppard Ave. E. and McCowan Rd.
Lai thinks people are fed up with sitting in traffic, and a world class city like Toronto shouldn’t have such terrible commute times.
“I’m the subway girl,” she said.
“I want to be a champion for the subway to extend to Ward 23.”
Safer streets and supporting seniors form the other planks of her platform, Lai said, adding she’d work to make the TTC free for seniors in off peak hours.
Bhardwaj wants to see more youth after-school programs, and a better “integrated transit system.” The Scarborough RT is “always down,” and an “express connection to downtown” is needed, he said.
Chi, who spent five years working in the constituency office of former Scarborough-Rouge River councillor Chin Lee, wants to see better local bus networks. She said creating programming for young people and seniors in their own first languages, is also one of her goals if elected in October.
“So people in that area feel that they’re welcome and there’s increased accessibility for them because they can speak the language,” she said.
As the youngest candidate in her ward, she also wants to inspire young people to get engaged in politics.
“Sometimes it is the missing voice, but it is an important voice.”
Mahboob Mian, an environmental scientist from Pakistan who sees law and order and the environment as his two big issues to champion, Sandeep Srivastava, a computer science graduate from India who wants to keep property taxes low and make the Scarborough Town Centre an economic hub, and Anthony Internicola, a self described “independent” who wants to see more multicultural events in the ward and support for seniors, are also in the race.
So are Dameon Halstead, Sheraz Khan and Neethan Saba.
Felicia Samuel, a teacher who finished a close second as the NDP candidate in the spring provincial election for the riding of Scarborough-Rouge Park, also sees transit as the biggest issue.
She supports an LRT as opposed to the Scarborough subway, and a better bus network.
The ward has “so much talent” and great restaurants and shops, but “people don’t want to come down to Scarborough because we’re so disconnected,” she said.
Samuel also sees safe streets as a priority, but says the answer is not more police.
“We need to get to the root causes of violence, which comes down to poverty,” she said, adding she’d support more programs for youth and work for more affordable housing.
“Scarborough used to be somewhere you’d go when you couldn’t afford anywhere else, now Scarborough is just as expensive as anywhere else.”
Pledging to be a “hands on” councillor, Samuel said she also wants to “bring diverse communities” together in the ward, including the large Tamil, Mandarin and Cantonese, and Caribbean populations.
“Scarborough is not moving forward as we need to, and if we’re only focusing on one community at a time, we’re going to get nowhere fast,” she said.
Scarborough North candidates: Ashwani Bhardwaj; Maggie Chi; James Chow; Dameon Halstead; Anthony Internicola; Sheraz Khan; Cynthia Lai; Mahboob Mian; Neethan Saba, Felicia Samuel; Sandeep Srivastava.