Friendly match shaping up between Augimeri, Pasternak in Ward 6 York Centre
Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, October 10, 2018 7:37PM EDT
Listening to James Pasternak and Maria Augimeri chat, one might not realize the two are competing for the same job.
But after Oct. 22, only one of the two incumbents will remain on Toronto City Council.
That’s because a plan imposed at the eleventh hour by the provincial government means that their two wards (Pasternak represents Ward 10 while Augimeri represents Ward 9) will become a single ward known as Ward 6 York Centre.
“Overnight we were each handed another 50-60,000 constituents to talk to and discuss the issues. It is a paradigm shift, a real cultural shift and a bit of a shock to the system,” Pasternak told CP24 in a sit-down interview alongside Augimeri Wednesday.
Augimeri described the situation of having to run against a respected colleague as “sad” and said that’s the sentiment she’s encountering when speaking with constituents who now have to choose between herself and Pasternak.
“I’m hearing on both sides – old Ward 9 and old Ward 10 – people are very sad that their councillor has to run against an incumbent councillor. I think it’s equally sad on both sides,” Augimeri said.
“I think it’s because people have gotten used to their councillor, they’ve gotten used to being served by their councillor. They’re friends with their councillor and there’s a commitment there. People weren’t expecting this. It came out of the blue.”
The two colleagues spoke about one another in glowing terms and said it’s difficult to imagine that residents will receive the same level of service unless more staff are hired under the new arrangement.
“Do you know how many calls come into our offices on garbage day? How many calls we have to make in a week?” Augimeri said. “I go to visit people door-to-door to help them do their taxes, to help them do their water rebate forms. Is that going to happen after the amalgamation? I don’t know how much of it is going to happen.”
Pasternak seconded that sentiment and said that while local wards will now be pegged to federal riding boundaries, it’s a mistake to think that people will be represented as well at the local level.
“I think there was a mythology that if federal MPs could handle that geographic territory and that population, then why not councillors,” he said. “But our job is quite different. If you look at what federal MPS do – and I’m not trying to diminish their importance – and you look at the minutia and local politics of what local councillors do – deliver services and programs that affect the day-to-day lives of residents, it’s quite different.”
Heading into the race, both incumbents are clear that proper planning for some 1,000 acres in the Downsview Secondary Plan is a major ward concern for the next term.
“There’s 1,000 acres, 1,000 acres in Downsview. That’s more than any other city has to offer in North America that is ripe for development,” Augimeri said. “They (residents) want a steady hand there, they want someone who will fight developers. They want someone that will build smart development with community consensus. I think that’s the issue that I’m hearing at the door most often.”
Pasternak said the issue will become more acute in five years when Bombardier leaves the area.
“One hedge we have is that it’s zoned employment lands, so developers cannot come in and build hundreds and thousands of stacked townhomes,” Pasternak said. “We need to make sure that we protect the integrity of local neighbourhoods, protect the residents that have been there for decades. We say it’s employment lands – it should stay as such.”
With Pasternak and Augimeri apparently on the same page on most issues, some residents can be forgiven if they find themselves a little confused about who to vote for at the ballot box.
“They will be served either way,” Augimeri said. “As in many places in the city, you have two people who are committed to their constituents, you have two people that are fairly honest with people and tell them up front what can and can’t be done, you have two people who work hard, you have two people who care about community.”
Pasternak offered an equally rosy assessment of his chief opponent in the race.
“We both are extremely dedicated to this role – public service as elected officials to make sure our local residents receive the care and services and support that they need,” he said.
Voters do of course have the option of choosing neither candidate. Unlike other wards where there are a dozen or more people vying for a seat on the shrunken council, only two people are running in Ward 6 aside from Augimeri and Pasternak.
Louise Russo has been a strong advocate on the issue of gun violence since she was paralyzed in a shooting 14 years ago. She sees gun violence as the biggest challenge facing the city today.
“A lot of people know the work I’ve done in the community from all the advocating I’ve been doing so I feel like I have a good chance at this,” she told CTV News Toronto.
Edward Zaretsky is also running in the new Ward 6. He told CTV News Toronto that he and his son have personally put up all his campaign signs – proof of the hard work he’s willing to do if elected.
“I’m the guy to fix the sidewalks and put in the benches,” Zaretsky said. “I’m a person from my ward and I want this ward to be the best.”
Barring those options, a choice between incumbents may leave some voters scratching their heads.
Augimeri said she has “umph” while Pasternak said he “has a reputation for getting things done.”
However Augimeri said that in a race where choosing a candidate could be a particular challenge, everyone wins if voters engage in the process and do their homework.
-With reports from CP24 Reporter Nathan Downer and CTV News Toronto Reporter Sean Leathong