New faces bringing diversity to Toronto City Council

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There will be nine new faces on Toronto’s City Council for the next four years, representing a more diverse slate of councillors, but how do they plan on making their mark?

Seven councillors filled seats left open as the incumbents decided not to run again, while another managed to unseat a long-running incumbent.

The ninth new councillor, Jamaal Myers, was elected to the seat previously held by Cynthia Lai in Scarborough North after she passed away three days before the election.

In Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Amber Morley unseated incumbent councillor Mark Grimes, who had been on Toronto City Council since 2003. In the hours after her victory, she told CityNews she was exhilarated and ready to get to work.

“I hope to connect with the mayor, understand what his vision is going to be for this term of council and how I can be most effective in terms of serving and also how we can cope create some better solutions for Torontonians because that’s what we’re all focussed on in this next term,” Morley said.

“I stick to my guns, and I’m very intentional about my values and the things I’m there to do and the voices I represent.”

Morley also commented on how vital it is that diverse councillors will be at Toronto City Hall for the next four years,

“It changes the experiences represented around the table, and I think it’s going to get us to better policy outcomes,” said Morley. “That is the power of diversity if we let it do its work, and I know all of us diverse candidates are ready to show up and do that, and it’s going to pay off.”

Chris Moise is taking over from the Toronto Centre ward, previously held by Robin-Buxton Potts, who was appointed in 2022. Moise tells CityNews he’s hoping to start by addressing the issues related to housing and those experiencing homelessness.

“There are many gaps due to the pandemic, and there are a lot of issues around addiction and mental health and under housing. And housing is a big piece to that,” said Moise.

“I want to sit with my fellow councillors and the mayor to talk about strategies to address homelessness and the under-housed issue. We need to have some short-term and long-term solutions to that.”

Moise said he’s keen to see more diversity on city council.

“With four new Black councillors of different stripes, I think that’s a positive. And I think they will bring that wealth with them, and change will happen,” he said. “The mayor, I think, based on the conversations I’ve had with him already, he’s open to looking at things differently because we want to build the city.”

Ausma Malik was elected to replace Joe Mihevc in Spadina-Fort York, another 2022 appointee, and has become the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to be elected to Toronto City Council.

Toronto city councillor Ausma Malik, 2022. Photo: Ausma Malik.

Malik said from these election results, you can see the hunger for change and representation across the city,

“I’m so proud of the choices that Torontonians have made to make sure that we have more Black people, more racialized people, more women and more relatively young people with different experiences and backgrounds coming to bear and making sure our representation is richer, more courageous and hopefully more effective,” Malik said.

She was first elected as a school board trustee in downtown Toronto in 2014, and Malik tells CityNews she wants to bring that local knowledge and experience she has gained to City Hall.

“I’ve done that by collaborating with my colleagues by making sure that we have strong relationships in our communities and that I’m always accountable to the interests of our neighbourhoods, and that’s going to be an uphill battle,” she said.

Dianne Saxe narrowly defeated Norm Di Pasquale to secure Ward 11 (University-Rosedale), winning by just over 120 votes.

“It’s exciting. It’s an enormous challenge. And we know that this city has tremendous opportunities and challenges simultaneously,” Saxe told CityNews the morning after her win.

“It’s an honour to have the opportunity to try and make the best of those.”

Saxe believes, as a progressive independent and as a non-partisan city councillor, it will be easier for her to build links on the council floor and with Mayor John Tory.

“It is tough to find consensus if you’ve painted yourself into a particular partisan corner. I’ve been non-partisan most of my life,” Saxe continued.

“I’ve got endorsements from all across the political spectrum and all walks of life, and I think that’s going to help a lot in learning where the common ground is.”

How will re-elect Mayor Tory approach new council?

As many new councillors voiced their readiness to perform alongside Tory, the mayor reiterated that he is inclined to work with “anybody who wants to work with me.”

“We’ve got such big challenges, we can’t afford to take people who want to be constructive and not somehow plug them in, and so I’m looking forward to that,” Tory said. “There are some very talented people that got elected last night.”

The mayor believes council is starting to look like the city it represents.

“What’s great now is we have people who reflect the face of Toronto, stepping up to run, and they’re getting the confidence of the people, and the council is going to start to look like the city that it represents,” said Tory.

When asked about the “strong mayor powers” afforded to the mayor by the provincial government, Tory said he would not hesitate to use them but hopes it “isn’t necessary.”

“We’ve got to get on with the building more housing faster, though, and the steps that I’ll announce this week will be steps that will be designed at the beginning to speed up our approval process.”

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