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Councillors to candidates: ‘What can you do for us?’

Vaughan city councillors, like all Ontario voters, are asking the contenders vying for the seats in Queen’s Park one question: What can you do for me?

“Me” means the city, in this case.

With the Oct. 10 provincial election fast approaching and the various parties kicking their spin machines into high gear, councillors are spelling out their pre-election wish lists.

“When you look at it, it’s taxes, health care by virtue of the hospital, and reducing traffic gridlock,” Ward 1 Councillor Peter Meffe said. “Those are the keys.”

Claiming that the property-tax assessment system is unfair, especially to seniors and others on fixed incomes, several councillors said they’d like it reformed.

Of the property tax the city does collect, several councillors said “the infamous transfer of funds to the City of Toronto,” as Regional Councillor Mario Ferri termed it, ought to be scrapped quickly.

Ward 4 Councillor Sandra Yeung Racco, wondered why one cash-strapped city is forced to pay another.

“Why should we in York Region, or any of the outside regions, be paying money to subsidize the City of Toronto, when we don’t even have enough money to go into infrastructure?” she said last week.

Not thrilled at having to pay for provincially mandated programs either, councillors would love to upload those costs back to Queen’s Park.

“The (next government should) look at ways to relieve the region of the funding that it’s using for services that really ought to be within the mandate of the province,” Ferri said. “For example, welfare, housing, transportation. They need to take back those services.”

The government of Ontario has promised Vaughan a hospital, but councillors Tony Carella, Ferri, Meffe, Racco and Alan Shefman won’t rest easy until a shovel breaks ground.

“There’s been a commitment to have the funds available so that we can actually build it and have it operational in the next three or four years,” Ferri said. “I hope that will continue.”

Getting people to and from the hospital – or any place else in Vaughan – is another outstanding concern that councillors are relying on the province to address, including the Hwy. 427 extension.

“The 427, wherever it goes, is going to go between Hwy. 50 and Hwy. 27, and that’s the jewel in the crown in terms of our employment lands,” said Carella, councillor for Ward 2. “Determining the route is critical to the development of this huge swath of industrial and commercial land.”

Much like the hospital, promises have been made to the city that one or maybe two subway lines will soon snake their way north of Steeles Ave. Councillors want to see action on this.

“The number one thing is the continuation of support for rapid transit,” said Ward 5 Councillor Shefman. “We can’t simply do these things on a piecemeal basis, and we can’t do it simply as an election plum.”

Hopeful their expectations will be met by whichever party emerges victorious on Oct. 10, councillors are allowing themselves to picture a day with better services and fewer taxes for their constituents.

“If the province were to undertake those reforms, it would then lessen the pressure of property taxes on our residents, particularly seniors,” Ferri said. “It would allow us then to build a better infrastructure here.”

With so much riding on the outcome of the election, the central question remains: which party will deliver the most for Vaughan?

“Who I’d like to see in office is the government that makes sure the city of Vaughan has a hospital,” Ferri said. “The government that makes sure the city of Vaughan does have major infrastructure improvements.”

Racco, whose husband is Liberal MPP Mario Racco, was not shy in declaring her allegiance to her husband’s party. Ferri, too, said he’d like to see the Liberals win a second term, because they’d most likely follow through on their own promises.

“But, as everyone else says, I’m willing to work with everybody,” he added diplomatically.

Vaughan Today
Friday, September 7, 2007
Page: 1
Byline: Philip Alves