One of the best features of Reddit are its AMAs—that’s “ask me anything” for those that don’t spend most of their day on the social networking and news website. Famous people give a bit of their time and promote their message, and those that participate get a chance to interact with individuals they normally wouldn’t have access to in normal circumstances. It’s a win-win for everyone. The most popular ones usually involve celebrities, but, in some sense, the format feels like it was made for users to engage with political candidates on important issues.
Enter David Soknacki’s AMA. The former David Miller budget chief hopped on his computer and spent most of the afternoon answering user questions.
As of the publishing of this article, he has answered a whopping 47 questions—contrast that to the meagre eight questions Kathleen Wynne answered during her disastrous pre-election AMA. And while he didn’t bring the website down like a certain U.S. president, he did provide thoughtful and articulate answers throughout. Below are some highlights.
One hopes that at least some of the other candidates follow suit and make themselves available to answer a couple of questions.
Question: What cities across the world do you look up to in terms of governance, city planning and transit? Is it fair to say that Toronto has made some big mistakes in the past in long-term planning for transit, public space, etc—compared to to other major successful cities—or is that simply our inferiority complex?
Answer: First, let me say it out loud: we’ve made mistakes but this is still one of the best places in the world to live and earn a living, and we are ranked that way by many outside organizations.
Still, we have a lot to learn from other cities, and we have made big mistakes (like changing transit plans once every few years after the latest election). To name three cities I’d learn from, I think Rochester’s campaign to reinvent itself is worth learning from. I think we have a lot to learn from New York’s innovation agenda. I’ve also learned a lot—and I think Toronto could learn a great deal—from London’s transit strategies.
Question: What do you think Toronto’s most pressing issue is? Put another way, what would your first task as Mayor be?
Answer: The priority issue is breaking up gridlock on our streets, in our transit system, and breaking up political gridlock at City Hall. But the first thing I will do is meet with the Chair of the Police Services Board, since my plan to invest in transit and other services partly depends on getting work done quickly on plans to save money from the police budget.”
Question: Could you please clarify your position on the downtown relief line? Are you in favour of it? If so will you push to get it built?
Answer: Hi, I’ve been clear from the onset: the Downtown Relief Line is a priority. (Although, I like to call it a Commuter Relief Line since I feel Downtown Relief Line is a bit of a misnomer considering it doesn’t just benefit the downtown core.) And yes, I will push to get it built.
Question: What is your opinion on the progress of the current review of the Condominium Act and what recommendations do you hope (or would you have hoped) to see come out of the final stage of the review?
Answer: Good question! And a tough one. I’m generally familiar with the Condo Act and I know some work has been done to try to update them for better, more accountable boards and so on. Obviously it’s been provincial work. But it matters to Toronto, so I’ll take your hint and brush up a little on the details. What I know is that in principle, revisions to the legislation must strike the tough balance between keeping developers and post-construction boards accountable for promises and common property, while still keeping it relatively smooth to develop condo units once approval is granted. Condos are filling over 20% of our rental demand right now where rental apartments used to fill that gap, more density is helping us with city services, and the job creation value of our condo boom is crucial to our economy right now.
Question: Would you be willing to support ranked ballots in multi-councillor wards of 4 to 6 councillors? That way, we could get a better diversity of councillors? Ranked-ballots in single-member wards only change the results 5% of the time. With single-member wards, council will remain mostly white even though the city has a very diverse population. Will you support the Single Transferable Vote with multi-councillor wards?
Answer: Sorry, I won’t. I think ranked ballots will help, and even if there wasn’t other problems, multiple member wards will make the odds of getting reform out of the province even more unlikely. I want our requests for provincial legislative changes to be realistic.
Igor Bonifacic is the managing editor of Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter.