Parks Help Make Communities feel like Home

Parks matter. In our increasingly vertical city, people still need places to play, to explore, and to relax in a setting where they are in touch with nature. This blog post from Nature Canada talks about how spending time in nature improves mental health – and we’ve seen some of the challenges in our city that are caused by increasing stress and insufficient mental health supports. https://naturecanada.ca/news/blog/mental-health-week/ Tha’s why I support the Park People Parks Platform.

The reality is, we aren’t spending enough on the operating and maintenance budgets of our parks in Toronto. It’s hard to do this when we are struggling just to keep a roof over people’s heads. My first commitment is to affordable housing, and ending homelessness in our City. It’s important that when we say we are in favour of plans, that we make sure we are, simultaneously, figuring out how we will pay for those plans. This is somewhere we have fallen down as a city. If we continue to write policy and then underfund it, we will contribute to the cynicism and lack of hope that is pervasive in our society. I am confident that if we work together, we can find ways to create affordable housing – and do it in neighbourhoods that have beautiful, safe spaces that take us from housing, to homes.

Community programming makes the park near my home, Regent Park, come to life. The same can be said for Riverdale Park and the Farm, and a host of other parks across the City. Animating our parks to engage residents helps build connections and community that go far beyond events. It makes us more resilient, more collaborative, and more caring.

 

Read more
2 reactions Share

Let's keep the conversation going

We had a fabulous Democracy Talks All Candidates' meeting in Regent Park last night, with a spectacular turnout. Thank you so much to all of you who invested your evening to learn more about those of us who are running. The event began with an opportunity to meet more of you, and also for you to see videos of interviews that some of us have done with Regent Park TV. (It seems so long ago! I recorded mine with Gisela Torres back in the summer, when we were still Ward 23).

This week at the doors we talked about housing (we always talk about housing). I also attended a community panel presented by Dixon Hall, on strategies for solving Toronto's persistent homelessness problem. One message that bears repeating: no one is "unhousable", if the right supports are in place. I'm committed to making sure we create more supportive and transitional housing spaces throughout Toronto. This has been part of my platform from the beginning. Many of you have written me about poverty reduction, and that starts with housing. I've pledged to fund poverty reduction strategies. There have been some heated discussions at both last night's event, and on social media, about unsafe housing spaces. Let me speak very clearly on this: everyone deserves a safe space to live. It is not an "earned right". Crime is not something that anyone deserves to have on their doorstep because of what they look like, or because of their economic means. Full stop. I will work diligently to ensure residents of Ward 13, Toronto Centre, can be safe in their homes. Here in Regent Park, where I live, a group of active, involved residents have already put together a plan - and I'll make sure we use their advice and lived experience to solve safety issues all across the Ward. 

What else did you ask about this week? Clean streets - we need to do a better job of cleaning up litter, especially dangerous litter. Residents in the Church Wellesley Village, in Cabbagetown, in Regent Park, St James Town, Moss Park, and the Garden District agree. Fast food containers, cigarette butts and other litter make it look like we don't care. We can all do our part by throwing litter and recycling in a proper container, and picking up after pets. And dangerous waste like needles and condoms are a health hazard. We need to do more. Not everyone is trained in universal precautions, and we need to make sure residents, especially kids, aren't harmed by this kind of waste in our streets.

We also spoke about programming for young people. Arts, sports, and recreational activities of all kinds are more than just a way to fill time. They are pathways to the future, to careers, and to a rich and rewarding life. That's why we need to be sure our kids are able to be involved. Anyone who has ever tried to register their child for swimming lessons knows what a challenge it can be. I'm pledging to fight for priority registration for residents in priority neighbourhoods. 

There are more conversations waiting for us in future. I look forward to seeing you soon at your door, or at one of the many All-Candidates or Community Meetings coming up. If you'd like a one-on-one, volunteer. It's a great way to hear these conversations for yourself. Just make sure you dress in layers! In our vertical ward, sometimes we're inside, sometimes we're outside, and the weather is pretty much always unpredictable.

I've got time to build a better community!

 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanks to all of you who have opened your door and joined our email list this week! I'm especially grateful for all of you who have donated, volunteered, spread the word, invited me to speak at your event, to your board, or with your organization. On behalf of my whole team, have a safe, happy weekend, however you spend it.

This week I've had a number of conversations about housing. The lack of rental housing, affordable housing, and housing with mental or physical health supports is critical. We absolutely must find ways to create more places for people to live. I also want to stress something from a conversation I had yesterday with a representative of one of our Ward's many associations. That housing must be safe and secure. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their home, so we need to ensure that vulnerable residents are safe from predators and unit takeovers. 

In addition, we have many aging apartment blocks in our Ward, and there are a number where the residents have dealt with a host of issues - from infestations, to crime, to faulty wiring. As a City, I believe we have a responsibility to ensure landlords are keeping their buildings in good repair. I'll push for tools to make sure this is happening. The week after next, I'll be attending an event to discuss emergency preparedness, as well. The recent fire at 650 Parliament Street has highlighted our lack of readiness for tall-building emergencies. Our firefighters and emergency response personnel did an incredible job, but this was a single building. In the case of a larger-scale emergency, we are not ready. I will continue to work on this issue as your Councillor.

I look forward to seeing you soon at your door, or at one of the many All-Candidates or Community Meetings coming up. 

We are only 16 days to Election Day. If you're following@megannwillsonTO on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, sharing helps spread the word and build momentum. 

 

Read more
2 reactions Share

Preserving Heritage Neighbourhoods

I was asked to share my thoughts on Heritage Conservation Districts. Living in Regent Park, areas such as Cabbagetown and South Cabbagetown are right next door, so they are very much top-of-mind for me. It is always challenging to balance our need for new housing spaces, and our desire to retain heritage buildings that are a key part of our City's identity. Here are my thoughts on these questions. I believe in active, true community consultation, so I expect we will be discussing these issues in much greater detail when I am elected.

The new Toronto Centre Ward includes parts of multiple Heritage Conservation Districts. How do you see this impacting on your work if you are elected Councillor for the Ward?

I’m particularly pleased that we have been taking steps to preserve Toronto’s heritage buildings. One way I hope to make sure we can make these much larger Wards work, is to rely more heavily on the work that City staff do for us – Heritage Preservation is one of these groups. We commission many studies and consultations that seem to be ignored. I will work to ensure that we take the advice of experts seriously. I want to stress that while these are my views on the situation at present, I intend to seek advice from staff who are much more experienced than I am, when making decisions.

In Toronto Centre, development is another important aspect of the Councillor’s portfolio. We are one of the Wards with high growth and many opportunities to provide housing through densification. Therefore it will be especially important to ensure we have responsive development processes that include real, meaningful community consultations. Proposals that can provide new housing units and shelter spaces while still preserving heritage spaces should be given special consideration.

What are your views about the City’s effectiveness in protecting and preserving heritage architecture in designated Heritage Conservation Districts and otherwise?

Each change in government brings new challenges and different views on a host of things, and that is no different at the municipal level. Buildings with heritage designation, as well as Conservation Districts, must be respected. I’m well aware that at some times in the past, developers have rushed to demolish before they could be stopped, sometimes in the cover of night. There are currently motions being put forward to curb this sort of activity, and I support those.

Read more
3 reactions Share

Bike lanes? Yes, Please!

I'm not a cyclist - those of you who know me personally, know this. I have ridden a bike, but not for a long time, and frankly, I find the prospect of riding a bike in our city to be kind of scary. It shouldn't be. Today I received a set of questions from Ward 13 (Toronto Centre) Build the Grid advocates. These are my answers...

Will you be a champion for building safe connected bike routes in our Ward?

Yes! We need great active transportation routes for all ages, including cyclists, and also safe walking routes for pedestrians. Our streets must also be safe for our kids and for seniors and disabled people. 

Will you support building protected bike lanes on main streets? (For example Bloor, Danforth, Yonge, etc.)

Yes, I support a strong network of protected bike lanes. If we must take an interim step of painted lanes to begin educating the public, then let’s look at that as well.  Protected intersections make it much easier for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers to understand what they need to do at the corner – a key step to saving lives.

Do you support accelerating the City’s 10-Year Cycling Network Plan to be completed in the next four years, instead of by 2026?

We definitely need to stop lagging behind. The faster we can get bike lanes in place, the sooner we can slow the rate of accidents, and also educate drivers. It is imperative that we strive for consistency in implementation, so that even drivers and cyclists who are visitors can clearly understand what they need to do at intersections and other points where safety is at risk.

Our Ward 13 specific question, do you support a Complete Street for Shuter Street?

I will support a Complete Street for Shuter Street. My one concern is that many cyclists are already regularly using Dundas. This may be simply because the street is in better shape (lanes not interrupted regularly by construction and potholes), but it is very possible that if we ask cyclists who are already proceeding from east to west across the bridge to turn and take another street, they will not be as compliant as if we allowed them to continue in a straight line. We should definitely research this further with a pilot project to be sure we can get them to make the change.

Read more
2 reactions Share

Show me a Sign!

Before commencing with today's newsletter, I want to personally extend my condolences to the family of Mackai Jackson, tragically shot in Regent Park this week. This is a tragedy and a trauma that no family should have to undergo. Regent Park is a family neighbourhood as much, if not more so, if any other. One thing families need when such a thing has happened, is support. You can make donations to Victim Services here. Thank you to all those community members who have pulled together to offer help and assistance in large and small ways. Our neighbourhoods are what make our City what it is.

Thanks also to all of you who have opened your door and joined our email list this week. And as always, thanks to those of you who have donated, volunteered, spread the word, invited me to speak at your event, to your board, or with your organization. Here in Ward 13 and across the City, it's SIGN DAY today. That's the first day signs may be posted prior to Election Day (October 22nd). Signs can show your support, share with your neighbours, help keep candidates going in the tough final weeks of the election. We're doing signs a little differently, because even though those plastic signs are recyclable, people often don't do so. Even a small one is the equivalent of 1100 plastic straws. That's something I don't want on my conscience! So instead, we have some gorgeous 11x17 card-signs that you can put in your window. The back side is blank - great for kids to use as drawing paper when you're done - and then they are fully recyclable. Call us at 647-797-9733 or email us today to order yours!

How's the campaign going, you ask?...

Read more
1 reaction Share

Arts and Culture is Vital

What makes Toronto a vibrant, energizing city in which to live? It’s the people. What makes the people who they are? It’s the diversity of cultures who come together to live, work, and play as neighbours. As a City, we’re facing challenging times – we have housing costs that are spiralling out of control, a transit system that is bursting at the seams, and active transportation routes begging to be improved. Yet funding for arts and culture remains important.

We need to create spaces for people to live; we also need to be sure those spaces are liveable. That means access for residents throughout the City to art installations and exhibitions, concerts, and studio spaces. It also means making sure we look for ways to include arts programming side-by-side with athletics and sciences in youth-focussed activities in Toronto.

Youth Group Square Circle at Cabbagetown Festival

In Ward 13 we are fortunate to have a great number of Arts outlets – however funding is always an issue, and with a Provincial government that is taking an austerity tack, we will need to figure out how to afford what we need. I pledge to look for opportunities to support the arts in our City, from looking for new ways to access funding, to creating spaces, and partnering with our many exciting community organizations.

 

Add your reaction Share

We are 13 of 25 - and We Can Do This!

Thanks to all of you who have opened your door and joined our email list this week! And as always, thanks to those of you who have donated, volunteered, spread the word, invited me to speak at your event, to your board, or with your organization. We're at 25 Wards now, and although there has been an ongoing battle over the past weeks, and there will continue to be appeals in the courts, it appears we're settled for the election. We are Ward 13. So let's focus on the work, shall we? 

One concern I'm hearing from you, is "How on earth will one Councillor respond to all our needs, when we have trouble getting a response now?!? I have some thoughts on that.

First, I do not in any way support meddling in an election mid-stream. However, in my visits to City Council throughout the year (and did you know you can also watch a live-stream from work, home, or school?) I have noticed that sometimes partisan politics *does* interfere with decision-making. There are occasions where both sides, the forward-thinkers as well as the traditionalists, dig in their heels. In collaboration facilitation (I make a living doing this - or have until now), we call this "hardening of the categories". Those of you in the tech sector and product management will know that using a "How Might We?" question is much more useful. I plan to gently but firmly encourage colleagues to see the other side and step out of their hard-won boxes for the good of our City. As you're looking at us, the Candidates, remember that there's a fine line between tenacity and blind stubbornness. I'm all for the former, and not so supportive of the latter.

Secondly, we're going to need your help. Community Councils, Resident Committees, and Neighbourhood Associations all have an opportunity to step up and play a greater role in organizing, communicating, and managing things at the grassroots level, in tandem with a strong Councillor-Community relationship. We can do this! I plan to run my constituency in a way that responds to you, but also depends on you to work with me to be sure I'm getting responsive feedback and volunteer engagement in each of our Ward 13 neighbourhoods. In my own neighbourhood of Regent Park, some amazing people have come together and moved mountains, when the City and community said it was impossible, and couldn't be done. Never say never. 

Thirdly, office composition is important. In order to stay responsive to constituents, Councillors need to set the standard. That doesn't mean we answer every single call, but it does mean that we need to ensure our staff understand that every contact gets an answer - even if, as is sometimes the case, the answer is, "We can't fix that right now". Back to point one, come to my team, or to me, with a locally-developed solution to a problem that might work in other neighbourhoods, and I will be your best champion. We have a list of things to accomplish, and we have work to do. You can make a difference...

 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

My City Includes Rental Housing...

Welcome to the rollercoaster!

We've had quite a busy week of canvassing - thousands of doors knocked already and many more to go. Cheers to those who repped Team Willson at the Cabbagetown Festival. Thanks to those of you like Beth Kaplan, who have been kind enough to host events in your homes. Thanks to everyone who has canvassed on the street and at front doors with our team this week - we are making a difference and people appreciate the messages we're bringing. 

This week we heard more stories of the lack of rental housing in the City - we really do need to encourage more purpose-built rental units. That includes tall towers, gentle density like lower-rise walkups, laneway housing, and more. All of these solutions have a place, just as you've heard me advocate for flexible, multi-modal transit networks. If you want to share your experience with a city that has taken a novel, successful approach to making sure there's room for renters, please do email me

If you'd like to join our team and help us promote these things, we'd love to have your help.  

  • Affordable & supportive housing
  • Efficient, accessible transit
  • Safe streets for active transportation
  • Support for children, seniors, and vulnerable people
  • A responsive City government that listens to you and gets back to you

Have you signed up for a weekend canvassing shift?

Every hour you can spare will be put to good use.

On social media, please follow @megannwillsonTO on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. It helps when you share! Likes are nice, but sharing helps spread the word and build momentum.

Want to take action?

Read more
1 reaction Share

Let's Get Toronto Moving!

We've had quite a busy week of canvassing and the weekend looks bright! Thanks to all of those who pitched in, in dozens of ways, big and small. As promised, let's focus on issues that you've told me are important to you. One of these is getting around our City. I'm really pleased to hear from you that you want efficient, accessible transit, and better active transportation routes. Cities that have invested time and effort in getting their people moving have transformed themselves for the better. Sustainability, less pollution, and more comfortable, usable public spaces have all contributed to people getting around and getting along. 

I've shared with many of you that I believe we need a network of transit that serves us efficiently, and frequently enough that the convenience is an incentive to leave the car at home. We also need streetscapes that are attractive and safe, and that encourage lots of activity during the day, in the evenings, and on the weekends. This week you've also told me that you want wide sidewalks that have enough room for two people with dogs, or strollers, or walkers, or scooters, to pass one another comfortably. Those of you who are older want places to sit along the way. You've also said that we need to keep those sidewalks clean, to encourage us to take pride in this place where we live. Parents want their kids to be able to walk safely to and from libraries, community centres, or parks. All of this will make for a healthier Toronto, where we can easily interact with one another whether we're very young, or we are active and young-at-heart.

Another aspect of safe pedestrian routes are well-timed lights leave enough time for people to cross, and for cars to make their turns. Cross-all-ways crossings aren't appropriate at every corner, but other cities have changed lights to give more crossing time, and experiments with no right on red but a dedicated (no pedestrian turn arrow) have been tried with success...

Read more
Add your reaction Share