Toronto Mayoral Candidates Talk Gender and the City

Background: A coalition of organizations (Toronto Women’s City Alliance, North York Women’s Centre, Women in Toronto Politics, METRAC and the Toronto-York Region Labour Council) organized a Gender and the City mayoral debate for October 9th. Public interest in this event was significant as 300 people registered to attend. Unfortunately, due to circumstances explained in an October 7 press release, the debate was cancelled.


In lieu of the Gender & The City Mayoral Debate, the coalition of debate organizers decided to publish mayoral candidates’ written responses to the following questions. The responses are listed in alphabetical order by candidates’ last names, with no edits for content. Contact information for all candidates is listed at the end of this blog post. Only candidates who responded to our survey are included.

The coalition who prepared this questionnaire includes: North York Women’s Centre, METRAC, Toronto Women’s City Alliance, Women in Toronto Politics, and Toronto York Region Labour Council.

1. Affordable childcare is an issue for parents across Canada. In Toronto, the bare minimum cost of daycare is around $600 a month, which is almost half the salary of a minimum wage earner (most of whom are women). There are currently almost 20,000 of the city’s children on the waiting list for subsidized childcare. With that in mind, what specific steps will you take to improve access to childcare in the city of Toronto?

Olivia Chow:
I started after¬school programs in 2005 and will work within the city and across levels of government tirelessly to advocate for better child care. My investment and expansion of these programs will cover at least 1,200 additional kids in 40 more neighbourhoods and will also create 200 jobs for young people. On top of this, I will invest in 3,000 more child care spaces, 1,500 of which will be subsidized. These will be funded through a close partnership with the Government of Ontario, building on $20 million the Province recently allocated for this purpose in its 2014 budget. I am the only leading mayoral candidate with a plan for child care. For more information in this area, visit

Ari Goldkind:
Over and over again I watch as people who have no power in this city are pushed aside to further the selfish interests of a few. Children have no political voice, and mothers and other caregivers are often ignored. Creating sufficient childcare for Torontonians allows people to find work, go to school and take care of the essentials of life, while exposing our youngest citizens to diversity, learning, and personal growth opportunities. The hallmark of a civilized community is one in which caring for the weakest and less fortunate is done without question. We have a long way to go to achieve that in Toronto. My specific steps will be to erase the waiting list by creating sufficient childcare spaces across all wards. I will ensure that families pay what they can to support the system, but that the city assists to ensure no children are denied an opportunity to join our community. My childcare press release contains more detail and is available here:

Stephen Lam:
Self-help plus mutual-help would be a solution.

A non-profit community daycare operation with a one day volunteering from parents and volunteering from able body senior in the community would reduce operation costs of daycare. This would help parents, children and seniors.

Ram Narula:
Children and mothers are the future of the city and of Ont. And Canada…they must be looked after with comfort to the 10 per cent of your by the city..supplemented by ont. And Canadian govt.

Michael Nicula:
There’s plenty of Childcare available in the City. The problem is the cost of it. I do not believe in subsidies; they’re prone to inequality, abuse, waste etc. The REAL solution is to make sure low income households have enough money to afford proper housing, childcare, healthcare and other basic needs.

As Mayor, I would use my position to educate the voters and make them understand that the REAL solution to any poverty-related issues lies with the Federal and Provincial governments who hold the keys to the Income Act. The City of Toronto, and all other cities and municipalities, have very limited resources, their budgets are extremely small compared to the Federal and Provincial governments.

As an Accountant, I understand these things perfectly and I can explain them to people with no accounting background, given the opportunity.

Subsidies are always subject to revision, cuts, waste, fraud, abuse etc. They’re part of the problem, not the solution.

D!ONNE Renée:
1. My Toronto Plan, based on reciprocity with the voluntary involvement of businesses & organizations as Members being signatory to the plan, includes a commitment from businesses & organizations to contribute to the development and placement of more Childcare centres in the city; especially near to accessible transit.

2. We ensure that these Childcare centres get built.

A) We introduce into legislation the requirement that all condominiums being built in Toronto provide mandatory Childcare public space for a maximum number of children based on the number of intended units in the condo calculated on a 2 (children) x # of units x appropriate square footage.

B) All JPOP (Joint Property Ownership Plan) Toronto properties will have Childcare services available wherever possible.

We create both infrastructure & employment as a result of the above.

3. Affordability: Being signatory to The Toronto Plan, businesses & organizations agree to employ people at Toronto’s “living wage” rate.

John Tory:
Early learning and childcare supports early childhood education, employment and education opportunities for parents, and helps to relieve poverty. It supports families by helping us make the most of our workforce and provides education for our children to enable them to get a good start in life. It is therefore an obligation and concern to be shared by all citizens of our city.

While Toronto Child Services is a good operation, Toronto needs more spaces. More focus should be placed on this need in city planning and development and usage of city and school properties.

Finally, a meaningful increase in spaces and ensuring childcare is affordable is the responsibility of all levels of government. As mayor I will work with the provincial and federal governments to ensure they do their part to help meet the increasing demands of families across the city.

2. Almost 60% of minimum wage earners are women, and women who are recent immigrants to Canada earn minimum wage at three times the rate of the general population. With that in mind, what steps will you take to ensure that recent immigrant and racialized women don’t get stuck in low-wage, precarious work?

Olivia Chow:
Creating more opportunities can reduce inequalities such as those disproportionately affecting recent immigrants and racialized women who can get stuck in low¬ wage precarious work despite their skills and achievements. Many policies in my platform will help make lives better for all people in our city. Women will be less reliant on precarious work with affordable and safe childcare options. Women will have more employment opportunities as transit options are faster and reach deep into underserved areas. And women will have more options as I work to help make economic development in our city a more multi¬lingual environment, more supportive of small business and entrepreneurs, and establishing a newcomer and existing business mentorship and sharing program. I will also invest in the creative industries by increasing per capita spending in the arts, supporting the city’s cultural spaces, and creating the Toronto Music Office. You can see the jobs platform at

Ari Goldkind:
There needs to be more education for these new citizens, delivered by ambassadors – individuals employed by the City to reach out to new immigrants and speak to them in both their native language and their cultural context, to ensure they are made aware that they have rights and freedoms here. This is a delicate issue, given the wide variety of cultures that make their home in Toronto, but the choice to find work and live a life of quality should be up to the individual. I will therefore take positive steps to ensure these people are located, educated and that they feel the safety and support required to further their lives. This is not merely a “politician’s election promise” – this is the type of battle I have always sought. It is part of who I am. It is essential to add that I will seek guidance from women who have experience in these areas – people who have lived it and know better than I what the right steps are. Please also see my “living wage release:“

Stephen Lam:
Again, self-help and mutual-help are necessary. Language is usually the barrier. English as a Second Language must be promoted so they could have mobility in the job market for better pay and working conditions.

Ram Narula:

Michael Nicula:
Please see above. This question is also related to the topic of Poverty.

The Mayor of Toronto has no jurisdiction over income inequality. That belongs with the Federal and Provincial governments.

As Mayor, I would use the high-profile position to EDUCATE voters and make sure they cast the right vote next year in the Federal elections, and resolve the income inequality problems once and forever.

D!ONNE Renée:
1. As mentioned above, my Toronto Plan. The Toronto Plan is key to equality, equity, efficiency!

2. Further, empowering people to recognize the power of their voice, their person, their contribution, their vote individually and collectively is essential to helping people feel like they are NOT powerless about a particular situation or circumstance. The empowerment of women is key to advancement!
When women are doing well, everyone is doing well!

3. When people are informed they are better equipped to address their concerns.
Creating a central hub of social services/businesses that are already doing the work to help people provides an accessible resource to better enable people to navigate the system.

John Tory:
My ‘One Toronto’ vision for this city is an inclusive Toronto where people of many backgrounds, economic status, disabilities, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation can live together in mutual respect and with more equal distribution of the benefits of economic growth.

SmartTrack and my ‘One Toronto’ economic development and jobs plan are the pillars of this vision.

SmartTrack will link jobs to transit, and transit to jobs. The 53 kilometre, 22 station SmartTrack plan will allow us to directly link major employment hubs in Toronto for the first time. Major areas of growth include up to 200 000 jobs in Scarborough and Markham Corporate Centre as well as 200 000 jobs in the far West Etobicoke area and airport employment centre. We can also link a potential 70 000 new jobs in the East Donlands-Portlands area, the new Southcore financial area, and the growing Liberty Village area.

I will personally champion a number of common sense solutions that will effectively work to attract investment, create a better business climate and oversee the development of four new large-scale employment areas.

These efforts will help bring permanent, long-term jobs to all four corners of the city and to people of various race, gender and economic status.

3. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto is currently $1,100, and there are over 92,000 people on the waiting list for affordable housing. This lack of affordable housing leads many women and LGBTQ people to stay in violent homes, or homeless shelters, for unacceptable periods of time. This is happening at the same time that Toronto is undergoing an unprecedented wave of property development. What steps will you take to ensure that low-income women and trans people in need of affordable housing will reap some of the benefits of Toronto’s rampant development?

Olivia Chow:
I will work to help create more, and better, affordable housing including 15,000 new affordable rental units over four years. I will expand mixed¬income neighbourhoods, introduce policies designed to expand our existing stock of affordable homes, and establishing a pilot project to decentralize management of some TCHC buildings. City enforcement records show that over half of orders to fix problems take two years or more to resolve and follow¬up enforcement is almost non¬existent. I will also stand up for tenants by increasing enforcement with a dedicated unit for apartment standards and increasing fines and penalties for non¬compliant landlords to improve tenant housing conditions. I am the only leading mayoral candidate with a plan to create affordable housing. You can learn more at

Ari Goldkind:
When a property developer erects a condo tower or builds a new neighborhood, it is done for profit. The land upon which the property is built is managed and regulated by the city, and the services that ensure that property’s safety and habitability is paid for in part through city taxes. Therefore, since this property exists as part of the city, and since the owners/investors stand to reap profits from its use, it stands completely to reason that they should allocate some of their revenues to assisting the marginalized by both contributing to the financial existence of safe and appropriate shelters, and creating, or contributing to parallel housing opportunities for the less fortunate that are affordable, safe and dignified. In addition I would allocate funding specifically and directly from the city for more shelters such as the Red Door. Please see my YouTube video on LGBTQ shelters here:

Stephen Lam:
To keep housing affordable we need the co-operation of the government and the private sector.

The City could require developers to participate in providing affordable rental units.

The City could also explore the feasibility of non-profit organizations participating providing affordable housing.

Co-ops might be another possible avenue.

Ram Narula:
1.People on subsidized housing are investigated..I.know 10 people who beat the system..have global income or assets outside CANADA…2…TURN SUBSIDIZED TO CONDO UNItS…people will find money to become owners..3.Try living with less..4. Build and settle..

Michael Nicula:
Same as above.

I’m afraid though that voters are so ignorant and uneducated in political matters that they don’t even realize they are asking the local government to address issues that belong elsewhere, and there are other Candidates who are ready to promise all sorts of things in order to get elected. This way, the problems will never be resolved. We will keep using subsidies to ‘patch’ the problems rather than solve them.

D!ONNE Renée:
1. We will ensure that legislation is being followed. Accountability is key regarding how our city will function under my Representation.

Are developers building in accordance with legislation regarding affordable housing, public spaces, public art?

2. We have to create 24hr emergency shelter services throughout Toronto so women & anyone in an abusive environment knows that there is a welcoming place for them to go to.

3. JPOP Toronto – “Joint Property Ownership Plan” with Toronto. JPOP Toronto is my plan for Torontonians that allows you to finally get into the housing market to own property in the city!

It’s easier to qualify for a mortgage on a property in Toronto (valued at $500,000 at market rate) if all you needed to think about was getting a mortgage for $250,000 or less, depending on the percentage required for ownership.

Essentially, we own the property with you. You’re investing in your own property, equity & future and the self-sustaining future of our city.

John Tory:
Creative and meaningful change is needed for how public housing is managed in Toronto, especially because it involves some of our most vulnerable citizens. My vision includes taking advantage of the immense resources devoted to property development in the city and seeing them as opportunities to find creative and innovative solutions to our affordable housing crisis.

My vision includes:

– Reviewing and re-invigorating Toronto’s Tower Renewal program and promoting affordable infill housing. I will explore incentives, such as reduced development charges, so that more affordable housing can be created in apartment complexes, particularly as a contribution to the Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy.
– Exploring innovative financing arrangements for affordable housing, both ownership and rental. I will work with the not-for-profit and co-op housing sectors, as well as private sector developers to develop long-term solutions to both the retention and provision of affordable housing for Toronto. I will also promote the consideration of social impact bonds.
– Enhancing the Rent Bank program. I will enhance the Rent Bank program, which helps low income tenants facing eviction with no-interest loans. It is a program that needs more resources and greater awareness by tenants in difficulty.
– Providing more Section 37 funds for affordable housing. I will work with City Council and the provincial government (legislation may be necessary) to ensure that a significant amount of Section 37 funds are used for retention or new construction of affordable housing. Section 37 funds result from increased heights or densities on re-zoning applications largely from condo development in the downtown area. Funds are used for local amenities on or near the site of the re-zoning.

4. The women’s shelter system in Toronto remains consistently at 96-97% capacity, and 25-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Women and LGBTQ people face heightened vulnerability to gendered, homophobic and transphobic violence when they lack access to shelter. In some cases, they experience violence within the shelter system itself. What specific steps will you take to ensure women and trans people have access to safe, accessible and inclusive shelter?

Olivia Chow:
It is unacceptable that any person in Toronto would have to sleep outdoors or be in an unsafe situation within the shelter system. I will work with community service providers and City staff to ensure that enough emergency space is available in the system, but also to work on long term solutions to end homelessness. This means more emergency beds, transitional housing programs, and housing solutions need to be available. Recognizing the disproportionate representation of LGBTQ people on the streets as a result of homophobia, I support reserving 25% of emergency shelter beds for LGBTQ youth.

Ari Goldkind:
This is something we have been studying closely in our campaign, and we resolved long ago to make this a day 1 issue. There is great work being done by I. Alex Abramovich, and supported by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, and I would immediately put forward a motion to council that Toronto open/fund shelters specifically for women, as well as LGBTQ people in general and youth in particular, that provide access to both support and safety. Again, please see my YouTube video on LGBTQ shelters here:

Stephen Lam:
Shelters might not be the best solution.

For families, affordable housing is the best and final solution.

For youths and single homless, affordable studio units could be the solution.

Ram Narula:
Taught [full name redacted] at shelter, bipolar, depressed, for 20 years…Two techniques of meditation ram Narula at well within one month..found boy friend, moved to Vancouver…EDUCATE..NEUTRALIZE STRESS.

Michael Nicula:
Personal Safety, Security in shelters and any other city property is the duty of the Metropolitan Police Services. As Mayor I will summon the Police Chief and address the issues the old-fashion way.

We have all it takes to address such issues. We have Police resources, an adequate legal framework (more or less).. we just need to enforce the rules, show more
police presence, take every incident seriously and punish those who commit acts of violence and hatred.

D!ONNE Renée:
As mentioned earlier, we have to create 24hr emergency shelter services throughout Toronto so women & anyone in an abusive environment know that there is a welcoming place for them to go to.

John Tory:
I will continue the city’s Housing First and Streets to Homes policies and will consider adding Shelters to Home and prevention programs for the near homeless. The critical challenge will be to get people out of shelters and into real housing solutions, ideally eliminating the uncertainty and dangers associated with unstable living situations. I will work with all levels of government and social groups to develop and execute a real strategy in this area.

5. Toronto’s last Vital Signs report noted that by 2031, Torontonians aged 65 and older will make up 17% of the population. Almost three-quarters of our seniors are women. With that in mind, what steps will you take to ensure that a diversity of accessible public spaces, services and programming will meet their needs?

Olivia Chow:
Caring for our seniors is an important part of Toronto’s culture and a top priority for many families in our city. Many of my proposals speak directly to the needs of seniors, particularly in housing and transportation. Caring for my own elderly parents, including my mother who lives with me, I know that mobility is a key issue for them. I support a city that is pedestrian and transit-friendly. In 2013, 40 pedestrians died in collisions with motor vehicles. 33 were seniors. This is unacceptable. I will rebuild a hundred dangerous intersections with fixes such as longer walking times, advanced signaling and pedestrian safety islands. I will ask the TTC to offer seniors “request stop service” during off¬peak hours to minimize walking distances. Seniors also require their independence and we need to give more seniors the options to stay in their homes by keeping property taxes affordable through the Property Tax Increase Cancellation Program. These plans are at

Ari Goldkind:
I believe this question is best answered through my position on accessibility which can be seen in my town hall meeting here: I find that current targets are insufficient, and I would personally chair a committee to ensure that our city is both more accessible, and senior-friendly. Features ranging from more actual benches to sit in, through to community programs, ease of transit, and transit stations being accessible without delay – these are all top of my agenda, since they serve a growing and very important sector of our population.

Stephen Lam:
Toronto is one of the best city for accessibility. There are already legislation for providing access in new building, etc. We need to inform people how to help each other.

Ram Narula:
Education, awareness, unity consciousness development through meditation techniques of mine plus alternate health care..AYUR..VEDA..EDUCATION, NATURE CURE, MASSAGE..ART OF LIVING COURSES..NUTRITION…

Michael Nicula:
The programs and resources are already in place. We just need more funding to be able to provide more resources and services as the needs continue to grow.
This is a very simple issue: more money dedicated to funding these programs will translate in better services. The REAL problem is how would the City find more money to allocate to these programs.

My Platform has an innovative solution to resolve the City’s budgetary shortfalls. It is called ‘City Income Rebate’. As an Accountant I believe I am presenting a good solution.

But again, I’m afraid that voters will listen to politicians like Tory and Chow or to complete incompetents such as Ford, rather than rely on a professional Accountant like myself to resolve the financial problems. Sad to say, but voters deserve better and if they cast the wrong vote, then nobody can help them. We will find ourselves talking about the same issues 4, 8, 12 years from now.

D!ONNE Renée:
What we choose to plan for and do now prepares our future.

Addressing equality, equity, inclusion, diversity and the like now means that we’ll be better prepared for our future as a city.

These issues are still outstanding in Toronto! It’s the 21st century!

We cannot believe that any career-interested-politician who hasn’t done much to publicly speak out about exclusion will do so now. Say no to Party politricks and elect me, a person with fresh ideas & perspectives who is fearless to stand up for you!

John Tory:
We have known for decades about the wave of baby boomers moving through the population. We have also seen that not only are we not coping adequately with the present number of seniors, we are not taking the steps to cope with the dramatically increased number on their way to senior status. We have commissioned report after report highlighting what needs to be done, but we haven’t set concrete targets and deadlines. We need to set those targets and deadlines so we can support our seniors at precisely the time they deserve the most respect and, in many cases, need more care. It’s time that we build an age friendly city. As mayor, I will start by appointing a seniors advocate who will hold me and the city to account on seniors issues including planning, development, transportation, homecare and more.

6. Over the last few weeks in Toronto there have been numerous incidents of violence which has sadly led to the death of many young men in this city. When these violent incidents occur, there are very little supports to help family members and communities deal with these losses. And this work is often left to the women in these communities. What measures will you take to ensure that families and communities who are impacted by violence get the support they need to heal and how will you work to end this type of violence caused by systemic inequalities from reoccurring?

Olivia Chow:
We can make communities safer all across our city, starting with the implementation of a broad, multidisciplinary, preventative approach to crime that focuses on young people. I believe in implementing police¬-community partnerships across the city to better identify and prevent problems and expand the use of interdisciplinary teams to better deal with complex issues, such as situations involving people with mental illness. I will also implement Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams across the city, building on the success pioneered by St Michael’s Hospital where an officer is paired with a mental health nurse, allowing the nurse’s expertise to help diffuse potentially volatile situations while reducing arrests and emergency room admissions. Please see my full plan at

Ari Goldkind:
I would start by addressing the root causes of these issues, before the tragedies occur – not just showing up for photo-ops or media releases the day after. The city needs a revised approach to handling/defusing the situations themselves and to the healing required afterward. My career has been dedicated to seeking justice for the marginalized, and so the motivation to find solutions needed is personal and genuine.
The whole purpose of my “50 cents a day” plan is to create dedicated revenue to the very types of programs that help reduce the number of these tragedies. While some are inevitable in any big city, we can certainly, by investing in people, give them a new hope that they matter to our city, rather than the stigmatization and sense of hopelessness that so many feel because of the undiscussed problem of income inequality, which is what breeds these issues. Please see my “Peace of Mind” press release here ( for more insight into my approach.

Stephen Lam:
Education, both at home and at school, is the only true solution.

Sports, pop music, dance would not provide the solution as they could spark violent competition amoong participants.

Acceptance of diversity, promotion of harmony in schools and society, compassion toward the less fortunate might all help to reduce violance and tragidy.

Ram Narula:

Michael Nicula:
Inequality is a Federal issues – see my answers above.

Personal safety, violence, crime – those are mainly local police issues. There’s no question in my mind that we need a stronger police force focused on guns and drugs. They are the main source of violence. Guns and drugs are way too easy to find in this City.

As Mayor, I would champion a sustained effort to crack down and eradicate these issues from our City. I believe I can do it.

D!ONNE Renée:
One of my platform objectives is to create a mental health plan for the city of Toronto.

Mental health is not limited to pathology; it includes one’s overall well being and ability to function & cope with life’s challenges.

Every aspect of life can affect our mental health, whether it be the stress of being late because transit was delayed and the ramifications of having to explain again that you were late because of transit or familial concerns or tragedy. Everything affects our mental heath.

A Community Wellness plan must be in place to assist Torontonians to navigate the systems that are in place to help each of us along our journey.

John Tory:
We need to cut violence off at its source. We need leadership on crime prevention not just empty gestures.

I have made a strong commitment to public safety by promising to hire an additional 400 police officers. As your mayor, I will work tirelessly with community groups and police to get guns and gangs off our streets. For years I have called for stricter security and stronger controls at the border to stop the flow of illegal guns. As your mayor, I will work with the provincial and federal governments to ensure we have a coordinated approach that gets real results and keeps illegal guns off our streets.

In terms of a long-term strategy against violence and crime, it is important to recognize the obvious tie between violence and the systemic inequality we see in distribution of wealth across our city. Resolving this social issue requires a two-fold strategy that focuses on increasing the material wealth of marginalized neighbourhoods across the city and strengthening the platforms and forums where communal and social building can occur.

My SmartTrack transit plan – the infrastructure intended to connect ‘One Toronto’- will be built with the purpose of servicing lower and middle income neighbourhoods. It has been shown that when you create an economic link that puts the outside world within reach of an at-risk neighbourhood, you materially improve quality of life and access to opportunities for those that live in it.

In addition to bringing jobs and economic opportunity to neighbourhoods that are more prone to violence and crime, it is important that we continue supporting the Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy to strengthen the social, economic and physical conditions of underinvested neighbourhoods. I will work with community groups, government officials at all levels, the private sector, and particularly the residents of these neighbourhoods to develop new and innovative ways to invest in people, services, programs and facilities that will strengthen the social fiber of these areas, helping to reduce violence, and providing mechanisms for individuals and communities to deal with the horrors of violence.

7. Fifty-two per cent of Toronto’s 2.79 million residents are women. As a city that locates its “strength in diversity”, the needs of diverse women must be incorporated into policy and planning for this to ring true. A Women’s Equality Office with a permanent location in city hall could help to oversee policy design, provide knowledge of how policy outcomes often affect women and men differently, ensure political commitment to gender equity, and act as resource for civic engagement among all women in Toronto by reducing barriers to participation. Would you support instituting a Women’s Equality Office for the City of Toronto? (Y/N)

Olivia Chow: I believe in the Equity, Diversity, and Human Rights Office at the City and their hard work. I support their work and would proudly call on them to continue to provide valuable feedback on the impacts of city work on the lives of women.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and I hope I can count on your support on October 27th. I look forward to working with you and your community.

Ari Goldkind: Yes

Stephen Lam: Yes

Ram Narula: Yes

Michael Nicula: Yes

D!ONNE Renée: Yes

John Tory: As Mayor, John Tory will assign a staffer in his office to monitor on the full range of women’s issues, liaise with stakeholders and to advise the Mayor on an ongoing basis.


Olivia Chow:
Email:, Web:

Ari Goldkind:
Email:, Web:

Stephen Lam:
Email:, Web:, Phone: (416) 540-2543

Ram Narula:
Email:, Phone: (647) 774-3793

Michael Nicula
Email: Michael@Mayor4.TO, Web: www.Mayor4.TO, Phone:(416) 567-6913

D!ONNE Renée:
Email:, Web:

John Tory:
Email:, Web: