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Keesmaat officially kicks off campaign, says Tory is 'not very good at his job'
Chris Fox and Kayla Goodfield, CP24.com
Published Thursday, August 23, 2018 3:38PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 23, 2018 10:39PM EDT
While officially kicking off her mayoral campaign, Jennifer Keesmaat said John Tory “talks a big game” but is “not very good at his job.”
Speaking at a campaign rally on Thursday night in Regent Park, the former chief city planner said Toronto needs “someone who will be willing to stand up and fight for Toronto’s best interests.”
“I don’t think the kind of government we’ve been getting under John Tory is good enough,” she said. “John Tory is just not very good at his job – I know because I worked for him.”
“I simply don’t agree with his approach to leadership – I believe leaders need to have a vision and need to feel comfortable making bold decisions, and that’s just not John.”
Keesmaat added that while Tory ended a “profoundly chaotic era” in Toronto, he just “not good enough anymore.”
She noted that while Tory has been in power for the past four years he has not begun construction on any new transit projects.
“What does the TTC look like in reality after four years of John Tory? Fares have gone up and ridership has flat lined,” she said.
Ahead of her campaign event, Keesmaat spoke with CP24 on Thursday afternoon noting that it is time for municipal leaders to “embrace new tools” when it comes to paying for badly-needed infrastructure projects.
“A really important part of the role of a leader at city council is figuring out innovative ways that we can address having the monies that we need to build the infrastructure that we need in this city,” she said. “Part of it is not being frivolous with spending on big projects that deliver little value but it is also about embracing new tools and recognizing that there are things that we can do in the City of Toronto Act that we are not doing today.”
The City of Toronto Act allows a number of potential revenue tools that are not currently in use, including taxes on alcohol, tobacco and even entertainment. The legislation would also permit the revival of the vehicle registration tax, among other things.
Though Keesmat did not single out which tools prescribed in the act she would consider implementing if elected, she did say that having a willingness to look at different sources of potential revenue is a matter of leadership.
“A good example is when I was chief planner I raised the planning fees. Developers paid more but they didn’t mind because they got a better service and Torontonians wanted that because they wanted more work around how we plan their neighbourhoods,” she said.
While speaking at her campaign launch, Keesmaat also touched on other issues in the city, including safety and affordability.
Tory’s campaign issued a statement on Thursday night after the campaign event took place.
“John Tory has shown leadership over the last four years working with the other levels of government to get things done for the people of Toronto,” Keerthana Kamalavasan said. “He’s working to keep the city affordable, to build transit across the city right now and to keep Toronto safe.”
“The people of Toronto need real action, not empty talk.”
Kamalavasan said Keesmaat is making “hollow promises” to Torontonians.
“The people of Toronto need to know if the NDP candidate in this mayoral race is going to raise taxes and introduce new ones,” she said. “The people of Toronto need to know if the NDP candidate in this mayoral race is going to secede Toronto from Ontario, Canada.”
As mayor, however, Tory championed a 0.5 per cent property tax levy to pay for infrastructure and pushed for the introduction of road tolls along the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway, though that move was ultimately thwarted by the then-Liberal government.
While Tory has said that he would keep any property tax increases to around the rate of inflation if re-elected, Keesmat told CP24 that any debate around taxes needs to be part of a conversation about the city’s overall fiscal plan.
“It is about bringing together a fiscal plan that demonstrates how this city is going to be governed moving forward and I am going to be releasing that throughout my campaign,” she said.
In March, then-City Manager Peter Wallace tabled a long-term financial plan that indicated that the city will face a growing shortfall in its budget over the next five years unless it finds a new revenue source or raises taxes.
The report projected a gap of $388 million in the 2019 budget but it said that in 2020 the shortfall will nearly double to $730 million and will continue to climb steadily before reaching $1.42 billion in 2023.
A municipal election is set to take place in Toronto on Oct. 22.