Make way for the new Canadians.
With a surge of immigrants moving into the Scarborough-Agincourt area, Ward 39 will greatly rely on their votes during the October 25 municipal election.
Ward 39, in northeast Toronto, is one of the city’s most diverse neighbourhoods housing several Chinese immigrants.
Childcare, education, job opportunities, and city services, are the area’s main concerns and candidates are emphasizing the importance for everyone to vote, especially new Canadians.
Incumbent councillor Mike Del Grande says new citizens should vote because it exercises their rights as Canadians.
Del Grande, 56, who has represented Ward 39 since 2003, wants to ensure the quality of city services in the area.
“I want to make sure areas that need funding get it. This means for proper garbage pick-up, more playground equipment, and improvement to our parks. It’s getting down to the basics before we go and do more,” he says.
He is also campaigning on promises of responsible and balanced spending in the area and continuing to make L’Amoreaux Park a destination point.
Del Grande, a resident of the neighbourhood for 27 years, also hopes to provide sports facilities and wants to help the community establish a dog park.
Candidate Kevin Xu thinks he is better suited for the job as he can speak English and Mandarin fluently, plus a bit of Cantonese.
Xu, who is the president of a private high school, the Canada International College, wants new Canadians to become familiar with the neighbourhood.
Xu, 43, does not have a political background, but he was always interested in politics.
Although Xu promises prompt, punctual, public transit, less littering on private lawns and to create more job opportunities for residents, he stresses that he wants to cooperate with the Toronto District School Board to ensure better facilities for students.
“I want to work with the TDSB to make use of facilities and that public schools provide newly, updated textbooks.”
Diversity is also a key component of Xu’s campaign. He hopes to propose a Multicultural Week that would take place annually in August or September.
“We need to keep cultural activities and performances. We need to make sure the culture (in this city) is not lost.”
Xu also thinks it is very important for new citizens to be aware of Canadian politics.
“All Canadians have come to build a new country and a new life. I strongly encourage them to come out and vote,” he said.
Caldwell Williams, who grew up in the Scarborough-Agincourt area, is the third and youngest candidate running to be councillor of Ward 39 at 23-years-old.
Williams, who has volunteered for the United Way, Toronto Community Housing and Tropicana, says he wasn’t always interested in politics.
He says he decided to run for council so he can deal with all the unresolved issues happening in his neighbourhood, such as inadequate lighting, property improvements, community safety, and accessibility to immigrant services and clinics.
Daycare accessibility and job opportunities are also two of Williams’ main concerns.
“Ward 39 has one of the biggest youth populations. We need to be ready to accommodate these needs. Another thing is also employment. Businesses in our ward are hiring people who live in Mississauga as opposed to hiring the person who lives in the area. So definitely getting employers to invest more to the community and to its people,” he said.
Like the other candidates running to represent Ward 39, Williams also believes that it is vital for immigrants to participate in the municipal election.
“This is going to be the most immigrants within and the minority, which is generally the immigrant population, is now going to be the majority. Understanding that we need to invest in this group is crucial.”
Longtime local residents also think there are many improvements to be made in the neighbourhood.
Deacon Valentinus Danukarjanto, who serves at the Epiphany of Our Lord Parish, says he wants traffic problems in the Warden and Steeles area to be dealt with.
As a 28-year resident of the ward, he also wants a balance in attendance for local schools as he sees that class sizes are getting smaller and smaller.
“Schools like St. Maxamilian Kolbe have smaller classes while St. Henry’s is growing. Why do you have to close one school and have one that is bigger? There should be a balance,” he said.
Real estate agent Oliver Pereira, 53, wants owning a home to be more affordable.
“The property taxes need to go down. Many people cannot pay for homes and most of them don’t have enough money.”
Eric Sin, who is a municipal worker, suggests to see more events such as clean-up days, environmental awareness events and barbecues.
“This is so that the councillor can actually talk to their constituents and let the public know that the councillor is actually working for them by repping them at city hall.”
Danukarjanto encourages everyone to follow the election so they can choose the best candidate.
“It is very important because they are exercising their rights as a citizen.”