Councillor Josh Matlow

All politics is local

The evening before our most recent city council meeting, I drove home up Avenue Rd. during rush hour. For many months, traffic has moved painfully slowly in midtown Toronto due to a major water main replacement project; consequently I had plenty of time to consider the current issues making the headlines at City Hall.

I went over the arguments for and against the mayor’s priority items I’d be voting on the next day, such as repealing the personal vehicle tax (PVT) and requesting Queen’s Park make the TTC an essential service. I had canvassed homes in my ward the previous evening to hear my residents’ opinions and I thought back to what they had told me. Most gave thoughtful responses and were especially opinionated on the vehicle tax but, despite the media hype surrounding Mayor Ford’s priorities, some of which I agree with, very few of my residents found anything on the agenda to be a top-of-mind issue.


They really wanted to speak with me about garbage pick-up, litter in a local park, a tree that needs pruning, property taxes, a nearby derelict building or traffic. Lots of people wanted to talk about traffic. I can’t say I blame them — so did I.

I finally arrived home, studied my council agenda, made a quick dinner and enjoyed a brief “sleep break.”

Early the next morning, I took the Yonge subway to work. Curious and amply caffeinated, I decided to engage anyone standing near me in conversation about their views on making the TTC an essential service, as I knew I’d be voting on the topic later that day.

Some riders responded with fervent conviction, delighted to share their opinions on a subject that affects their lives on a daily basis. Others hovered nearby to listen in and one man simply replied to my query with a cold, blank stare while music leaked out of his iPod headphones.

Now, if you’re a loyal Star reader, I’m going to assume you know what council decided on that day. We voted to scrap the PVT, requested Queen’s Park make the TTC an essential service (I hope the guy listening to his iPod is reading this) along with many other decisions on both city-wide and local priorities. In addition, the mayor and his brother kindly bought us all cookies and pizza so we wouldn’t be too hungry to pass his agenda.

I took the subway back home that night, this time thinking of ways I could help relieve traffic on Avenue Rd. instead of talking to my fellow travellers. I really couldn’t wait to get back to my office the next day to start working with staff on finding solutions.

It’s clear to me that as much as I’ve learned from the many informative briefings from the helpful staff at City Hall, it’s really my constituents who teach me every day how I can best serve them.

It’s been said that all politics is local. I couldn’t agree more.

Josh Matlow is the councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s.

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