Councillor Josh Matlow

National Post: Rookie councillors get tour of City Hall

By NATALIE ALCOBA, National Post

Published on Tuesday November 9, 2010

It was like the first day of school for the crop of rookie Toronto councillors who were at City Hall checking out their new digs today.

They got a tour, and they posed for photos. They were handed big three ring binders that read “Council Handbook” and were given a primer on the logistics of setting up their new offices.

“I feel like I’m in Grade 9 all over again,” said Mary-Margaret McMahon, who ousted Sandra Bussin in Ward 32 (Beaches-East York). “They’re really treating us well and giving us all the information.”

Toronto elected 14 new councillors — 5 of whom dramatically upset incumbents — last month, putting a decidedly different face on the municipal government. The new council is sworn in on Dec. 1.

“I’m delighted with my new colleagues,” said Josh Matlow, who leaves a high profile trustee position with the Toronto District School Board to assume Michael Walker’s old seat representing Ward 22 (St. Paul’s). “We heard from people across the city who said consistently they want to see the partisan bickering end, they want to see a mature group of people making decisions based on the merit of arguments and really having more respectful disagreements.”

But some of the councillor-elects are experiencing a bumpy beginning, with little or no contact from the outgoing councillors who could help brief them on important local files.

Ms. McMahon, for example, says she hasn’t heard from Ms. Bussin, who lost her bid for re-election after opponents rallied behind Ms. McMahon to unseat her.

“It would be nice to have some sort of contact and get some ideas across, but it doesn’t look like it’s happening right now,” said Ms. McMahon. “It doesn’t surprise me, but I’m doing what I usually do, and meeting with the public and talking to city staff.”

Following her defeat, Ms. Bussin left a message on her office line thanking residents for their support, and directing them to contact the City Hall hotline 311 in the weeks leading up to the new councillor taking office. That message was updated today and assures callers Ms. Bussin will get back to them.

Mr. Matlow also hasn’t heard from Councillor Walker, who had endorsed his executive assistant Chris Sellors as his replacement. Mr. Matlow won Ward 22 handily.

But not everyone has complaints. Jaye Robinson says all signs point to Cliff Jenkins being “very cooperative” in the handover of Ward 25 (Don Valley West), while Sarah Doucette heard from Bill Saundercook the day she clinched Ward 13 (Parkdale High-Park). “He actually came to my party on election day and shook my hand and congratulated me. I’m meeting with him this Friday in the constit office to talk about ongoing cases,” she said. “He’s been very good and very helpful handing over, so I have no problems.”

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