Councillor Josh Matlow

People to watch in 2011: Josh Matlow

City Councillor Josh Matlow, photographed on Dec. 11, 2010, is a former innovative school trustee and now a newly minted councillor who is big in the environmental community and a maverick when it comes to policy. – RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR

by Louise Brown

Of course Josh Matlow is one to watch in 2011 — try not watching him. He’ll be everywhere, from a weekly city councillor diary in the Star to a CFRB talk-radio gig on Sunday afternoons and daily, if not hourly, tweets, Facebook updates and web posts.

The first new politician to represent bustling St. Paul’s riding in 28 years is passionate about keeping the public plugged in, no matter how tricky the issue. As a Toronto District School Board trustee for seven years, he had a knack for diving into hot water. He drove supporters of the Africentric school batty with his relentless opposition long after it had been approved. He outraged helicopter parents by proposing the cellphone ban in class. And the board chair even demanded Matlow apologize — fat chance — for comparing the rental of the Air Canada Centre for a teacher rally to a drunken spending binge.

“I want to make sure the public is as informed as possible so they can be part of the decision-making process,” says the 35-year-old environmentalist, who vowed to give citizens a say on everything from how to use the decrepit TTC yards at Yonge and Eglinton to changes to local parks.

He’s done this before: as the trustee involved with the controversial rebuilding of North Toronto Collegiate, he insisted ratepayers have so much input on the re-design that opposition melted away.

Despite the fact Matlow ran for the provincial Liberals against Premier Ernie Eves in 2002, his stands on city issues may be hard to predict. Former school board chair Bruce Davis calls him “an independent, a progressive and someone who’s really up on issues. And even when he’s aggravating, he’s very endearing.”

Matlow — who is writing occasional “city hall diary” entries for the Star — calls himself a workaholic, but he says wife Melissa, an advocate with the World Society for the Protection of Animals, “is the one who’ll say it’s time to take our canoe for a paddle through the Toronto islands.”

How will this avid camper vote on city issues? We’ll have to watch.

“I drive a car, ride a bike, take the TTC, walk and canoe,” says Matlow. “What does that make me?

“A Torontonian.”


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