By Sean Delaney
Toronto City Councillor Anthony Perruzza, the representative for Humber River – Black Creek described 2021 as a year of confusion, concern, viruses and tragedy. But when asked to speak about his community, and what he saw on the ground, Perruzza could not help but find positives in a year that almost everyone is going to welcome seeing in their rear-view mirror.
“The mayor, the council, my staff, my office, it was an all-encompassing effort from everyone,” Perruzza said. “Working on the education around the pandemic, a military style operation to get clinics out in neighbourhoods, efforts from the Black Creek Community Health Unit, our healthcare workers, educators, parents, community folks that helped them out, schools, churches, it was truly everybody.”
What Perruzza saw that surprised him in 2021 was the desire for people to do more than asked of them, more than one would expect a member of the community to do, he said. Volunteers willing to extend hours, double up their volunteer efforts, go from one organization to another, parents and educators simply calling into his office, stopping him in the street and saying, what can we do?
“The desire for people to come out and help out, people wanting to step forward and saying hey, how can I help? I’ve never experienced it to this level,” he said.
Perruzza said he recalls a day he was going to tackle some typical constituent work. He went down to a street off of Weston Road because folks were had concerns about some parking signs. As soon as he arrived on site, they quickly explained their parking concern, and then moved on almost immediately.
“In talking to people about their parking signs, suddenly the people are asking us how they can help us, who they can connect with to help us, it’s really amazing. There is something that coalesces around this need and is bringing out the best in the community.”
And Perruzza said the vast breadth and wealth of assistance, expertise and effort seen in the community over the past year will bring one positive to 2022. Humber River – Black Creek has been through the pandemic gauntlet, and they are at least, prepared for more.
“If there is one good thing to the pandemic, was that it really taught us a lot over the year and a half on how to organize, on how to get people together effectively, and how to efficiently respond to things. We’re just ready for it now, now we know how to do it, and it’s really encouraging from that perspective.”
Perruzza and his staff have continued to connect with people and the community as the rules began to change and allow more contact, he said, and from that, they have developed a number of plans ready to implement and know where their strengths are.
Outside of the pandemic, the councillor noted, 2021 was actually a very busy year for development applications in the community. He said an additional positive about the level of preparedness for pandemic concerns is that he plans to get to work on development in the community as well. A community centre development at Weston has been stalled, and he wants to see that move along, and he knows the LRT construction will take a stern eye to keep the community moving despite it.
“The LRT takes up a lot of work in the office,” he said. “The activity and the traffic around it, connecting with those folks so they know where they can make noise, where they can’t, where they have to move construction equipment, strategies for not blocking the street. They will get out there and spread out, and unless you stay on top of it, it can cause really delays.”
Heading into 2022, the councillor said his main hope is that the coronavirus, to some degree, will begin to be behind us. But he will also keep an eye on development as the world does proceed. While there are those projects he wants to see move forward, he said the growth of the community has seen some development happen without services or amenities in place, and he wants to find a better pace.
“That will be a challenge moving forward, but one I look forward to getting involved in.”
Heading into the holidays, however, the councillor asked everyone to enjoy their time with family and loved ones, be safe, and keep positive about the potential for a much better 2022.
“I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and I’m hoping that 2022 is far more hopeful for all of us. We are hopeful that COVID-19 will finally, to some degree, be off the ground and we can get on with it. Happy Holidays to everyone.”