Councillor Josh Matlow
Today the Toronto Star welcomes Josh Matlow, a fresh-off-the-ballot member of Toronto City Council, to these pages as an occasional columnist. His diary will offer a unique perspective on life at city hall, through the eyes of a new councillor coping with the surprises, challenges and joys of serving his ward and guiding Canada’s biggest city.
I arrived at City Hall with my fellow newly elected city councillors, full of optimism and with a strong sense of responsibility to my community and city. I also felt an old but familiar feeling — as if I were about the start my first day of high school.
Along with choosing our mayor, Torontonians elected 14 new councillors and 30 incumbents on Election Day. While each of us “newbies” campaigned on our own platforms, we all heard a similar message from residents — that council needs to behave more maturely, run the city more efficiently, be more thoughtful with tax dollars, and create an agenda that benefits the city as a whole.
We attended seminars on subjects such as how to set up our offices and use the lobbyist registry, and meeting procedures. We began building positive relationships with each other and with the returning veterans.
We were also given an unintentional crash-course in politics. To be candid, it seems decisions are sometimes based more on ideology and relationships at City Hall than on the merit of an argument for good public policy.
Some right-wingers told me to “beware of the socialists”; some left-wingers warned me to not get too close to the new mayor and his team.
Mr. Ford’s team has been meeting with most, if not all of the councillors, to discuss committee appointments. I had the pleasure of meeting with the mayor-elect’s new chief of staff at a pub in my ward (I sipped on a lager and he had a Bloody Mary — neither of which was expensed to taxpayers).
In that same conversation, he inquired into how I intend to vote on a list of items Mr. Ford would like council to approve immediately, including: cutting councillors’ office expenses, repealing the vehicle registration tax and voting against any increases to the operating budget.
I told him that while I’d like to sit on the economic development committee, I simply couldn’t tell him how I plan to vote until I have an opportunity to consider the arguments for and against those items. He finished his drink and told me he’d follow up with me soon.
Josh Matlow is the councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s.