Photo: Emma Cosgrove

Q & A with Olivia Chow

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By Emma Cosgrove

I’d like to hear the specifics of your plans for affordable rental housing.

Number one, any housing that is affordable, for ten years there will be deferral of development charges. That gives a financial incentive for affordable housing and rental housing. And rental housing, if you want to build it, I will make sure that there is an approval process that is within a year. Right now with building any housing, the application for approval is three years. It’s too long. We need to fast track that because if it’s approved faster, then it’s less money being tied up, that’s also a financial incentive. We can use section 37 [of the Planning Act] with different ways to encourage developers to develop rental housing. We can also use that to repair the existing rental housing because quite a few of them are quite old. So we need to mandate it, they need to do repair or else they will have fines. In total I’m looking at 15,000 units of affordable housing being created in the next four years.

What will you do for the short-term plan and strategy around getting affordable rent in Toronto? We talk about middle class and upper class, but so far we haven’t heard any of the candidates talk about poor people.

Four years will get all 15,000 units built, but that doesn’t mean we won’t start now. So the first year there will be some units built. In my vision of the city, no matter your income, your colour, which neighbourhood you live in, you need to be counted. Because for far too long, the people we are talking about have been left behind. And it’s not a coincidence that the number of children living in poverty has gone up in the last three or four years. Twenty-nine per cent of kids are living in poverty; it has been rising. We know that when you have poor kids you have poor families. A good percentage is from radicalized communities. That’s why I’m the only candidate talking about why we need to invest in people.

How will you tackle youth unemployment?

One out of five young people can’t find a job, that’s tough. There’s a crisis. And under Rob Ford and Doug Ford, that percentage has gone from 18 per cent to 22.5 per cent. We can use the capital budget, the investment that the city is going to be spending on infrastructure, to create jobs. Any projects that we are going to ask people to bid on that are over $15 million, we will ask the company to sign a community benefits agreement. This agreement mandates them to hire young people and also to provide apprenticeship programs and training, if need be. We tried it at Regent Park—do you see how beautiful Regent Park is now? It’s been revitalized. And through that, because the developer signed an agreement, 500 jobs got created, providing hope in that community. We can do that all across the city, so that it benefits young people, trains new workers, and it’s also good for our economy.

Do you support raising minimum wage to $14/hour?

I do, because it’s a living wage.

Will there be concrete steps to tackle poverty in the city? Are there ways to bring down that statistic of one in three children living in poverty?

Yes there will be. Affordable housing is very important. Childcare, after school programs; if you don’t have that, a lot of the parents can’t go to work, or if they’re working they pay so much in childcare and after school programs they don’t have anything left. No more increase in TTC fares; we can make life a little more affordable. Community centres should be free for children and family programs.  Libraries should be open more often. Renting fields to have tournaments, soccer tournaments, basketball games — we need to keep that fee low. Making parks available for people without charging permit fees. With all of those elements, the daily lives of people will be impacted. And in communities with social support for families, even though if that family is living in poverty, we noticed that the academic performance and the health of the family improve, even if they income level is low.

Almost 15 years ago I had a placement in your office. How can students have the same opportunities for practicums and internships that I had?

We need to work with professors. That kind of practicum is very important because it gives to students the experience they need, and I often find the students that have placements end up with jobs. Under Mr. Ford there have been a lot of cutbacks on councillors’ office budgets. What they don’t understand is when you cut the budget it means that the staff gets cut, meaning that there is not enough staff to help train the students that are in the office. And then when you cut the office budget, sometimes there is a lack of computers, and there is not enough space to have student in there. We need more mentorship programs, internship programs, co-op placements, so that you will have the experience on the ground so that when you graduate it is a lot easier to find a job.

What is your standpoint on police brutality?

I think we need to end racial profiling. As your mayor I will sit on the police service board because it’s very, very important. Police need more training. Especially when it comes to dealing with people who have mental health issues. If you look at the States they have programs where they train front-line officers, where they come in, they use their voice, they use their words to deescalate a situation. There is also a crisis intervention team, working with social workers, psychiatrists, or people with experience with dealing with people with mental health issues. There have been a lot of reports, lots of recommendations, and lots of things written on paper that we need to translate to action.

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