All good things…

If you have struggled to keep pace with the current melee over Toronto’s election, you are not alone. After last week’s ruling briefly revived hopes of pursuing the initial 47 ward election, today the court of appeal granted a “stay” on that decision, meaning that for the time being the council cuts remain in effect. The province’s appeal will still be heard, but the timing and impact of its outcome — particularly if it is not resolved until after the election is held — is unclear. So on and on we will go.

The fight against the council cuts will continue, as will my part in it: as I advocated for several weeks ago, I have spent time over the last couple weeks contacting the constituent offices for politically vulnerable MPPs where my family lives on their behalf. This is just one of many ways to exert pressure and no doubt there will be more petitions, rallies, or other forms of protest in the weeks and months ahead.

But when it comes to the City Council election race itself, given the ongoing uncertainty, shortened timelines, and changes to representation — which can only harm how communities like Moss Park, Corktown, and St. Lawrence are represented * — it is time for me to put my efforts to good use elsewhere. To that end, I will no longer be running in this fall’s election.

This decision comes filled with mixed emotions — and frustration is certainly one of them. Frustration with a system designed in a way that let this happen. Frustration with a Premier whose only policy is to settle scores with political foes. And frustration with the government’s rank and file members who are more desperate to please their political masters than to do what is right. No matter how long the current court case lingers, history will be the ultimate judge for all those involved — and I have no doubt that it will not be kind.

Yet as this strange, brief adventure draws to a close, I am struck by another, more powerful sense of something else: gratitude. Not that my campaign is now over, but rather that it happened at all.

That is because the experience has changed me. In the brief period I spent on the trail, it has taught me what issues matter most and how to fight them. It has allowed me to look under the hood at how our political system works — sometimes for better, sometimes for worse — and I am wiser as a result. It has pushed me out of my comfort zone in ways I never expected, yet I enjoyed every minute.

But with awareness comes restlessness, even impatience. Knowing what I do now about the issues that face our community — from homelessness, to addiction, to poverty, and more — I feel more convinced than ever that I can do my part in other ways than sitting at City Hall, and am eager to do so. Some of the things I have already started to throw myself into include:

  • Advising Ample Labs, a new social start-up focused on using technology and design to help those experiencing homelessness through new training programs, tools for accessibility, and more;
  • Supporting Neighbourhood Information Post — an advocate for the downtown east’s low income communities — as they determine how to better engage with other social services in the area;
  • Working in Corktown — one of the city’s most historic and unique neighbhourhoods— with the Residents & Business Association as they think about community engagement and the future of development;
  • Returning to the Moss Park arena — the place where the idea for this campaign all began — and taking what I have learned to help better tailor its programming to the needs of a changing and diverse neighbourhood

…and this is hopefully just a start. For now it is early days and these are just small ways in which I believe I can help. I will continue to write, to listen, and to add to this list. Once you get an itch, it is hard not to scratch.

Make no mistake, this is still a bitter pill to swallow: I am a proud person, and stopping before even really getting started — before showing this city what a group of smart, political firsttimers can do — is anethema to me. But if the goal is having an impact on the issues and people of this City, then it is time to focus on the many other ways to do so.

And so, at this stage, all that is left is to say thanks to those who made the past couple months possible. To Cameron and Atrisha for the many hours of hard, thoughtful work as you helped steer a ship that was still learning how to float. To Alysa, Greta, Josh and the dozens of other volunteers for your time and wisdom as we learned together along the trail. To Justine, Lauren, Marie-Pierre, and Sean for sharing your time and talents to make us look good. And to Meghan, my parents, and the rest of my friends, family, and colleagues for your support every step of the way.

Until next time,

*The proposed boundary changes have a significant impact to the ward-formerly-known-as Ward 21. In particular, the new dividing line between Fort York Spadina and Toronto Centre cuts several communities in half — including the St. Lawrence at the Esplanade, and Corktown / the Distillery at Mill Street — diluting their voice with their local councillor.

I’ll be discussing the implications of these changes in a forthcoming blogpost and article for the Corktown News.