Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Sun: Speaking out part of the job — Matlow

By DON PEAT,  Toronto Sun

Published On December 3, 2010

An outspoken school board trustee for seven years, rookie councillor Josh Matlow has no plans to quiet down anytime soon.

He won the race in his ward — St. Paul’s (Ward 22) — handily in October’s municipal election, beating out incumbent Michael Walker’s executive assistant, Chris Sellors, by 3,855 votes.

Sitting recently in a Timothy’s on Yonge St., just south of Eglinton Ave., Matlow, who formally takes office Wednesday, was enthusiastic about the new leadership style he wants to bring to his mid-town ward.

He points to an extra hole in his belt that he had to punch due to the weight he lost going door-to-door during the election campaign.

“It’s a testament to how much work we did as a team,” said Matlow, who got an earful from residents demanding change at city council.

“They want an end to the partisan bickering; they want to see a mature group of people go to council, have thoughtful discussions and have respectful disagreements,” he said.

Issues on Matlow’s plate include improving the way city does its road and water main repairs, the decision-making process for development and planned improvements for the Yonge St.-Eglinton Ave. intersection.

A belief that government can better serve taxpayers inspired his successful run for council.

“The point I decided I most likely would run was (while sitting as school trustee) during the school pool battle,” Matlow said. “It became very apparent to me that there is a basic resource that whether you’re a student, a parent, a senior, an average resident you want access to pools in our city.”

The Toronto District School Board voted to close several pools due to a lack of funding needed for repairs and upgrades. When the TDSB and irate residents asked the city for money to help with the pools, the city cried poor and blamed the province.

The province threw up its hands, called the pools issue a local decision and sent residents back to the TDSB and the city.

“What became blatantly obvious to me is that not only did Toronto residents have no idea who to hold to account for the very services that they paid for with their own property taxes but every level of government didn’t seem to have any idea who was supposed to provide those services,” Matlow said.

Now as a councillor, Matlow hopes he can bridge those gaps.

“We’ve got to work better together,” he said.

His TDSB experience has taught him how to get motions passed, even on controversial issues.

Matlow said he wants to consider conservative mayor-elect Rob Ford’s agenda “item-by-item based on the merits of his arguments.”

He is eager to see reports from staff listing where the much-touted “gravy train” may be chugging and is prepared to help stop it.

The St. Paul’s councillor added he is leaning towards supporting Ford on his first order of business — repealing the personal vehicle tax. However, he wants to know how the city will make up the revenue. He applies the same caveat to repealing the land transfer tax.

“I would like to repeal it,” Matlow said. “It would be responsible and prudent to have a conversation as council first to discover how we are going to fill in the gap in our operating budget that would be created by repealing that tax.”

On transportation, Matlow wants to hear a substantive plan from Ford on transportation and how he plans to pay for it. He also wants to see relief for the Yonge St. subway line.

Matlow gained a reputation at the TDSB for weighing in on any debate and speaking publicly about any issue.

“It’s my nature to be candid about my views,” he said. “If I’m ever asked a question, I’ll answer it.”

Speaking out is his job, he added.

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