By Sean Delaney
For Toronto Councillor Anthony Perruzza, it’s been a whirlwind year.
“With the unexpected and surprise resignation of Mayor Tory earlier in the year, that threw the city into a mayoral election, and when that happens, everything is kind of at a standstill.”
Perruzza said there was a long period in which the city was “holding its breath,” but with the new Mayor in place, the city is gearing up for the next term.
“With Mayor Chow, we’re all just trying to understand from a city-wide perspective what the new direction is, the change in city council priorities in terms of what we’re going to be dealing with.” And Perruzza said many of Chow’s priorities have begun to surface. “What is percolating to the top is housing, affordable housing, and the underlying issue of affordability. Because that’s really what people are really clamoring about. Toronto has become very expensive, including food, energy, and interest rates. Everything has gone up and incomes aren’t keeping pace, and the economy is in a bit of a stutter and people are worried.”
Work has begun. Perruzza said to put together the pieces to try to build some affordable housing, but he believes the reality is unless the upper levels of government come on board, a lot of it is just going to stay as talk and not materialize into anything really concrete.
“Housing is a very expensive proposition, and nobody gives concrete or steel away. We have to pay for the labor. All of this makes it very expensive, and unless you pay for those things, there is no real magic around it.”
However, Emery’s Councillor believes there are tangible ways the city can impact their constituent’s budgets to help them in other ways.
“Where the city can really help people is try to keep our costs to them down, try to keep property taxes down, not move to increase fees and charges around recreation programs, permits, and those other kinds of things that add to costs of life in the city.”
And that will take work from him and his council colleagues, Perruzza said. He said the new deal from the province, and the Ford government, is not what municipalities were hoping for and there are some budget shortfalls.
“It isn’t a lot of money, and the fall back is to increase taxes and fees across the board,” he said. “And I think we need to resist that, so we don’t make life in the city for people harder.”
Putting 2023 behind him and looking forward, Councilor Perruzza said 2024 is already looking like a calendar full of positives. His office has been a strong supporter of the Finch West LRT from the beginning, and while the project has been difficult for some people with the construction, delays, and road closures, Perruzza is looking forward to seeing all of that coming to an end.
“To see Finch reopening, buses coming off of the streets, and the LRT in operation,” he said. “To see Finch Avenue being transformed from a very unsightly suburban road to a more dynamic urban avenue, with streetscape improvements, a new separated dedicated bicycle pathway from end-to-end, it’s a very significant investment in the neighborhood and upgrades to the urban infrastructure. It’s brought considerable value into the area.”
Perruzza will also focus on finding ways to limit and hold steady development in the Emery area, as well as continue to work with the new property owners on the issue of the Marian Shrine.
“It’s a place of worship that’s been very active for many years now, and I don’t believe it needed to get into a crisis situation,” Perruzza said. “Hopefully, we will find a way to walk through that. The new owners, these new folks that have come on board will hopefully see the existing community that feels so attached to this place and maybe could work with them somehow instead of just having a confrontation that isn’t good for anybody.”
A final goal for 2024 will be to see the community centre on Weston Road begin construction.
“The clock is ticking at the former site, and we need to get that centre up and running for people who have been waiting a long time for it.”
To the readers, Perruzza said he reads the news every day, and there is always a lot going on in the world, particularly conflict. And the holidays always make him reflect on the luck we have as Canadians.
“We’re blessed to be in Canada, and we should be thankful to live in a country where we can spend time with families and enjoy the blessings of the seasons. But at the same time, we should understand we’re bit players in a big world and think about how it is we can make sure people elsewhere can find the same peace and tranquility that we get to experience.”