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Voices of Change: Nonprofit Leaders on What Really Matters During Toronto's Mayoral By-Election

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

The 2023 mayoral by-election is a pivotal moment for Toronto. But while political candidates dominate the headlines, we rarely hear from those who are intimately familiar with the city's most pressing issues—and most viable solutions.

At Evenings & Weekends Consulting, we work to advance equity, justice and social impact through collaboration with non-profit organizations, grassroots groups, charities, activists, local leaders, community groups and policy makers.

In this blog post, we’re excited to delve into the insights and opinions of nonprofit leaders Daniel Anckle, Kitty Raman Costa, Victor Willis, and Cheryll Case.

From the cost of living crisis to transit equity, their perspectives provide a fresh and compelling perspective on the by-election and its possibilities for an inclusive, equitable, and sustainable Toronto.

Evenings & Weekends: What are your top issues going into the Toronto mayoral by-election?

Daniel Anckle Executive Director, Cecil Community Centre

The rising cost of living is deeply impacting the people who use our services. They’re already marginalized, earning very little or nothing at all, and so it has made essentials like food and shelter completely inaccessible. It’s also made it harder for us to support them.

At Cecil Community Centre, we provide services to our community members, including racialized, homeless, low-income, and LGBTQ+ people. We have a fixed budget, and the price of offering services like our community meal program has skyrocketed. We have to be creative in how we work around that.

Our city’s housing crisis is also continuing to pose significant challenges. We run a housing readiness program, where participants are supported to access what they need to find housing—including ID, a family doctor, and income supports and benefits. But once they’ve gone through the program, they’re finding that everything is way outside of their price range. There is simply no housing for them.

The next mayor of Toronto must understand the severity of these crises, and work quickly to address them. Yet nothing remarkable has been said at all on these issues. This suggests to me that it’s been lip service, and that things won’t happen. I’m disappointed that there have been many policy proposals, and no talk about where the money will be coming from. We’re a billion dollars short in our budget, with no indication of how it will be raised.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard lots of ridiculous things. One candidate called to remove safe injection sites, while another candidate keeps saying that the most important issue facing Torontonians is safety—and it’s a particularly narrow definition of “safety.” These messages are pandering to affluent people who are not seeing the impacts firsthand. These are just distractions from the real issues, and real solutions, present in our city.

Kitty Raman Costa Executive Director, Parkdale Community Food Bank

For years, Toronto has been lacking in effective leadership and the impacts are clear to see. The city is more unaffordable than ever, the quality of our services is degrading, and it’s taking a toll on the wellbeing of our city and the people who live in it.

The first issue to be addressed is affordability for housing, food, and other necessities. If people don’t have the means to live in the city, we risk losing the culture and community which has been built up over decades.

Maintaining quality services and infrastructure is another priority essential to our city's health. The TTC has become emblematic of the issues with the approach our municipal government has taken to service planning and delivery. In response to declining ridership and concerns around public health and safety, the city has elected to cut funding, raise fares, and further reduce the quality of service—driving more riders away from the network. Many people who rely on the TTC may not have an alternative mode of transportation to get where they need to go. This election is an opportunity for Torontonians to decide what kind of city they want to build for the future, and neglecting our transit network while doubling down on decades of car-centric urban planning will not move Toronto forward. It’s a backwards approach to planning that I think needs to be addressed at its roots.

We need candidates who have a vision to build our city up, not cut around the edges and continue to make the same mistakes that put us here in the first place.

What have you been pleased to see proposed or discussed during the campaign? What do you wish Toronto's mayoral candidates were talking about more?

Victor Willis Executive Director, Parkdale Activity Recreation Community (PARC)

I was born in Toronto, and I have lived in this city for most of my adult life. I want a city that includes everyone, something it currently doesn't come close to being.

I’m encouraged that candidates are discussing affordable and supportive housing, decent work with strong local businesses, and reliable and affordable transit that connects the amazingly diverse communities of this city. It means the mayoral hopefuls appreciate the goals of accessibility, inclusion and thriving. I want a mayor who will move from aspiration to action for all Torontonians.

From my perspective, as someone who has been delivering community mental health services to adults for the past thirty-seven years, the next mayor must ensure that the city's own target of 20,000 units of supportive housing over the next ten years actually happens. There are over 23,000 people on the supportive housing wait list to access only 7,000 units. Housing for people with disabilities is a human right. Our shelters are beyond capacity, parks are not a permanent housing solution, nor is giving someone a ticket to ride the TTC when they have nowhere else to go or having Toronto Police Services respond to homelessness.

People with disabilities deserve more, and so do we.

Cheryll Case

Founder and Executive Director, CP Planning

It’s is great to see the transformation of Toronto’s planning policy landscape. Now, more than ever, residents across Toronto are leading the design and implementation of innovative planning processes. We have an incredibly educated public that is aware and trying their best to work with the City, developers, and other key housing industry leaders to invest in the protection and development of affordable housing. Toronto’s next mayor has the opportunity to work with communities to validate the concerns and solutions they have been putting forward.

It’s been great to see mayoral candidates acknowledge the value of developing affordable housing on publicly owned land through models that build up the nonprofit sector. Substantial progress can not happen without fulsome support to the nonprofit sector.

Why is it important for Torontonians to vote in the upcoming election?

Kitty Raman Costa: Marginalized people have been disenfranchised by municipal politics by decades of governance which hasn’t meaningfully responded to their needs. A big part of this is that many municipal politicians feel beholden only to certain constituencies to keep them in office—particularly those who have the luxury to show up at every meeting, and to gather support for them in every election.

The reality is that there is power in numbers, and there is strong momentum for change in Toronto. We’ve seen that power in recent years as the city has taken some minor steps forward to improve social welfare in Toronto, even when the will to do so has not been reflected in our leadership.

This election is an opportunity for Torontonians to make their needs and priorities clear by supporting candidates who are tackling the issues that are making life in our city increasingly difficult.

Victor Willis: Municipal elections historically have the least electoral participation, yet municipal elections are as local as it gets. This is about where you and I live. Vote for a mayor that will deliver the city you want to live in.


The Toronto mayoral by-election will be held on June 26. For more information on how to vote, visit the City of Toronto website.

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