Toronto – There are only five days left until Torontonians vote for a mayor, city councillor and a school trustee. Jon Burnside is running on a “positive message” for a seat at city council in the city’s ward 26 Don Valley West.
Toronto’s ward 26 is 11 km and stretches from Bayview to the Don Valley Parkway. According to the 2006 census, there are more than 60,000 people located in the ward and the population grew by 1.2 percent from 2001 to 2006.
The incumbent ward 26 Don Valley West city councillor is John Parker. Parker is facing tough competition in this year’s municipal election, including candidates Jon Burnside, Mohammed Dhanani, Yunus Pandor and Shaukat Malik.
On Wednesday, Digital Journal had the opportunity to speak with candidate Jon Burnside about the reason for entering politics after a successful career in the private sector, his campaign, city hall and his views on the race for mayor.
Burnside, a self-described “Red Tory,” or a “Blue Liberal,” was born and raised in ward 26. He had a job as a paper boy in Leaside at the age of 8, attended Leaside High School and held down 4 part-time jobs in order to fund his university education, where he studied political science at the University of Western Ontario.
For 10 years, Burnside served on the Toronto Police Service where he worked, first hand, in all neighbourhoods of ward 26. The advocate of animal rights then went onto become a successful entrepreneur for the past 10 years by starting a home meal delivery company that now has 15 employees
But why enter politics? Burnside explains that he is passionate about civic engagement and politics. Therefore, it was a logical choice that he wanted to work hard for the community that he grew up in and be able to fight for those who “want their voices heard in city hall.”
City council campaign
“People are gravitating towards a positive message and also someone that is approachable,” states Burnside. “My message is reconnecting the city to the people; the people are responding to that message because that’s what they’re looking for because they want their voices to be heard.”
He adds that voters are cynical because they feel like their voices are not heard even after they vote, so they tend to gravitate to those who will listen to what matters to them and what the real issues are: “This message itself is important.”
“People are talking to me about issues that concern them and to get action on these issues and for their agenda to be heard and to be addressed at city hall.” However, Burnside notes that they need to come out and vote and to choose the best candidate that best suits them.
When it comes to legislation he would support or oppose, Burnside explains that it’s important to be fiscally responsible and to support bills that do not hurt the standard of living for citizens in Toronto.
Burnside, who supported Rocco Rossi’s mayoral campaign, said that it’s simply speculation on what kind of city council it will be and legislation that would or would not be put forth. However, he would support assistance to small businesses, he would oppose an increase to the vehicle registration and land transfer taxes and introduce a bill to kill funding for the Four Rink Arena on the city’s waterfront.
“I would reject the freeze on property tax increases because the reality is that we must keep pace with inflation otherwise it’s going to get further and further behind. As much as I would like to see tax reduction and getting most of the taxes under control, it would be irresponsible to start reducing taxes when we have such a huge deficit.”
The municipal candidate also made a pledge that not a lot of the other hopefuls have made: “I would oppose any tax above the rate of inflation.”
Views on Mayor David Miller’s performance
It seems like a lot of the municipal candidates have some good things and bad things to say about the incumbent mayor’s performance.
Burnside, who has been endorsed by John Tory, believes the mayor did a great job in creating a program for the priority neighbourhoods, which started in 2005 in Scarborough Village and continued into 12 other neighbourhoods from 2006 to 2008: “The safety of our children is everyone’s concern.”
He also supports the mayor’s decision to focus on the city centres: “He has kept the centre of the city strong. That last point is crucial because when we see the decline of American cities, that’s when the centre of the city becomes weak because people move out.”
“Unfortunately,” says Burnside, “he took his eye off the ball on the city finances and that’s my big concern because whether we’re talking about helping those in need, or environmental initiatives, or the TTC, all these things require money.”
“When you’re not in a strong budgetary position you’re really tying your hands and impede your ability to carry out your positive agenda, so that’s where I see Mayor Miller being a disappointment.”
Burnside, despite having a cold, participated in the All Candidates Meeting on Tuesday at the Leaside Memorial Community Gardens, which was hosted by the Leaside Property Owners Association.
“It went very well. The key issues were raised and there was a real focus on community. There was a full house, standing room only, and it went very well.”
Burnside will continue to hit the pavement running and continue any momentum he has until Election Day on Monday. To find the closest polling station to you on Election Day, click here.