I usually avoid discussing politics, but allow me this indulgence.
Toronto will be electing its new city council and mayor in just under three months; after the circus that has characterized municipal politics in this city for the past four years, this election is extremely important.
I grew up in North Etobicoke. More specifically, I grew up in a part of Etobicoke officially called Kingsview Village, but went by many names: Dixon, Little Mogadishu, Rexdale South, and a few others I can’t quite remember anymore. It was a diverse neighborhood, full of immigrants who had either recently arrived or were just starting to settle in Canada. On my walks to school, I would routinely hear at least ten languages being spoken around me; people from a spectrum of cultures and heritages would sit in the park and interact with each other, even when they couldn’t speak the same language.
Back then, Kingsview Village was designated as a priority neighborhood by the city of Toronto, recognizing that the demographic makeup of the area was marked by lower-than-average levels of employment and higher-than-average levels of poverty. I didn’t realize it as a child, but my neighborhood wasn’t like many of the other regions of the city, even though we always identified ourselves as part of Toronto. As a kid, I thought everyone in Toronto lived like I did, in neighborhoods like mine.
Kingsview Village falls in Ward 2 under the city’s electoral wards; it has been a ward that has long been mostly ignored until Rob Ford, our former city councillor, became the Mayor of the city. I won’t get into what Toronto under the mayorship of Rob Ford has been like, because it has been chronicled very well by writers I respect like Desmond Cole; I will say that Rob Ford and his brother Doug (the current councillor for Ward 2) are not good for my neighborhood, and it pains me to think that another member of the Ford family (who espouses a similar way of thinking as Rob and Doug) may be elected to represent the people in the place that I still call home.
The people who live in Ward 2, like my parents, are good people who work hard and support the people in their community. They invest time and effort into making their neighborhood a better place, and work hard — often, despite their lack of access to capital and wealth — to increase the prosperity of the people with whom they share their space. They are not bigoted, ignorant, or confrontational; they believe in debate, discussion, and coming up with decisions that are in the best interest of their community, and not just the individual.
As such, the Ford brothers are the complete opposite representations of neighborhood where I grew up, and are thus the absolutely wrong people to represent the people in that neighborhood on a municipal level.
I’m not going to chime in on the mayor’s race (though, I wouldn’t mind if you took a good look at what Soknacki could bring to the city) because what I want to do here is look instead at the makeup of city council — the decision-making body of our city.
If the role of a councillor is to represent the people of her/his ward on council, then the most important thing we can do is to ensure that our councillors are truly representative of the neighborhoods, in both their platforms and in their everyday actions. A city councillor needs to not only speak for the people she/he represents, but also understand their underlying ethic.
Which is why I’d like to tell you about Andray Domise.
I have never met Andray before, but I know people who have. They all echo the same sentiment: Andray is more than just his words (and what articulate, excellent words they are), but is a man of principle who cares for this city and especially cares about the people he hopes to represent.
From the research I’ve done, I believe Andray is the kind of person that would perfectly represent my neighborhood: he is interested in coming up with solutions that are of benefit to the community he serves, and believes in coming up with those solutions with the community itself. His words are consistent with his actions, and he owns his mistakes and learns from them.
That is exactly how I would describe the people of Ward 2: hard working, collaborative, community-focused, always willing to share and learn.
I will be speaking to my parents and their friends who live in the neighborhood about Andray, and about how they need to release themselves from the cycle of anger that has propelled the Ford family into their political success so far. I will tell them that because of people like Andray — and so many other council hopefuls across the city, like Idil Burale in Ward 1, Alex Mazer in Ward 18, and Keegan Henry-Mathieu in Ward 7, to name a few—Toronto can be in good hands.
I will tell them that they need to elect someone that is a representation of who they are; they need to choose someone who will make them feel proud to live in Kingsview Village, and show the rest of the city just how wonderful a place it truly is.
Toronto can be in good hands, if we just let ourselves.