Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Star: A drink with Councillor Josh Matlow

January 24th 2014

Eric Viellette

Toronto Star


Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow went to theatre school and trained in improv before turning his attention to politics. Improv was good training, he says:


This week, a drink with Josh Matlow, city councillor for Ward 22 (St. Paul’s), on the things you learn when your first term as councillor happens alongside your first turn at fatherhood.


The drinks: We settled in at the Led Zeppelin-blaring Ted’s Collision (573 College St.). Josh — not much of drinker, especially when driving — opted for a ginger ale, while I ordered an ounce of Wild Turkey rye, a new addition to LCBO shelves late last year. In October, I spoke to Eddie Russell, the storied bourbon maker’s fourth-generation distiller. Regarding rye whiskey’s recent revival, Russell said that when he was growing up, “rye was considered bottom-shelf. It’s funny to see it become so popular again.” At $32.70, it’s a welcome, reasonably priced addition to the provincial regulator’s shelves, as some American rye whiskeys like Sazerac or Knob Creek hover in the $50 range.


You picked a hell of a term for your first stint as councillor.

That’s an understatement.


In 2003 you were tasked to run as the Liberal candidate against then premier Ernie Eves. You had little political experience. How terrifying was that?

Completely terrifying. Before that, I was a struggling actor — I went to Concordia and École Jacques Lecoq, a theatre school in Paris — and when I came back to Toronto, I was resolved to become an actor. I was doing festivals, some really bad commercials for Buckley’s. I did a lot of comedy improv as well, so through that experience, I think I had some basic confidence to get up onstage and run with it. I still contend that studying improv is the best thing that most people could ever experience. You learn how to accept offers, not block, work with what’s onstage.


Sometimes you want to compartmentalize, though. How do you turn it off?

I compartmentalize well, but shutting it all down, I don’t do it well, only because there’s so much going on. In my community, I feel a lot of love and support. But when I come to city hall, I feel my heart rate go up because of the constant insanity that’s happening. Imagine going to work every morning, you’ve taken two sips of your coffee, step out of the elevator, and CNN and Al Jazeera want to talk with you. And every time I’d walk to the grocery store, 30 people stop me and want to talk about Rob Ford.


You lose your anonymity.

Losing your anonymity is something you need to get used to as a first-term councillor. Recognizing that every time you walk out the door, you’re open for business — that’s the reality of it.


And then you go home.

There’s always work to be done, but when I’m finally home, I’ve got a 1-year-old girl, Molly, who just wants to cuddle.


So halfway through your term you also became a father?

It’s an awesome feeling and totally frightening when you leave the hospital. We had a midwife and she was guiding us through the experience. She’s there to walk you through it so you always feel like someone is there with you — someone who knows what they’re doing. But all of a sudden, you get in the car, you’re on your way home and you’re like, “Wait a second — we’re in charge now? We have no idea what we’re doing. We’re going to keep this little person alive now. What did that book say?” After a while, it all makes sense. I’m no longer worried about keeping her alive. Now it’s about how she’s going to walk soon, talk soon. I’m going to get to know her even more.

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