Toronto Council Renewal Project

TCRP Recommended Candidate: John Filion

Boundaries: Steeles Ave. to the north, Bayview Ave. to the east, Hwy 401 to the south and Don River and Bathurst to the west. 

Demographics: There are 118,801 people with an average age of 41. The average household size is 2.4 people with a median household income of $61,653. The percentage of visible minorities in the ward is 66%. [ Info Toronto Star | Sept 24]

Ward 18 - Willowdale

Saman Tabasinejad: 
Tabasinejad placed third for the NDP in the Ontario provincial election earlier this year. She has no previous political experience, but should benefit from the fact she is endorsed by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. For the past two years she has been on the executive of Roofs for Refugees, an organization that pairs newly-arrived refugees with homes with reasonable rents. She also is on the Board of Directors of the Iranian-Canadian Congress. 

Tabasinejad is passionate about social justice, creating a more equitable society, and wants to see accessible pharmacare regardless of age and class. In her academic career, she has written and researched class, gender inequality, and the far-reaching effects of austerity measures. She has been involved in teaching English to newcomers and been a part of the Iranian Canadian Congress advocating for progressive policies. Tabasinejad immigrated to Toronto from Iran with her family in 1997.

As councillor, Tabasinejad would work for: the Downtown Relief Line; extending the planned Finch West LRT to Finch Station; fixing the Highway 401 ramp; upgrading local schools; and facilitate Community Benefits Agreements to ensure developers contribute fairly to the community.

Farah Aslani:
Aslani is a registered professional planner. Her twitter feed shows her concern about affordable housing and child care, climate change, single-use containers, bicycle safety, as well as her opposition to pension funds that invest in nuclear weapons manufacturers. “Did you know that Canada has not signed the Treaty on the prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?” 

Lily Cheng: 
Cheng is best known for starting North York Moms, a non-profit organization that offers socializing activities for Toronto area mothers. It now includes more than 7,000 families. In response to the van attack on Yonge Street, she co-founded We Love Willowdale. As a result, she was invited to represent the community as a co-host at the city vigil. She is a former Director of Community Engagement at a local church.  She was born and raised in Canada to first generation immigrants, but early in life moved to Taiwan where she developed a thriving career in the media in Taipei. She has degrees from McMaster and Ryerson universities. 

Endorsement: John Filion, City Councillor, Willowdale: "When I knew that Willowdale would be divided into two wards for this October's municipal election, Lily Cheng was the first person I thought of to become councillor in the new ward 29. She knows Willowdale, is a natural leader, and has the vision to solve problems and bring people together. I enthusiastically support Lily Cheng as the new councillor for our community." 

Doug McDougall, Former Senior VP at Celestica also endorses Cheng.

Sonny Cho: 
Cho was a candidate in the 2010 city election in ward 24, taking 27 % of the vote and finishing second to winner David Shiner. He was the choice of the Toronto Star: “We favour Sonny Cho, a successful commercial real estate broker with Liberal roots and fresh vision.” In 2014, he was the unsuccessful federal Liberal candidate in the area. He has organized numerous political campaigns (including his own), fundraisers, concerts, festivals, and conferences.

Cho is well known in his community as President and CEO of the Canada Korea Business Council, as well as several other positions. 

Endorsements - Chungsen Leung, Member of Parliament for Willowdale, 2011 to 2015 and Jong You, Economics Professor and Bank Director are among Cho's endorsers.

Danny DeSantis: 
DeSantis describes himself as a highly successful philanthropist and entrepreneur. He is entering politics for the first time. He is a director and co-founder of Jump to Media Inc., which “provides patented end to end security for Enterprise compliance for public and private clouds, SaaS and PaaS solutions.” DeSantis is involved in a broad range of companies including private equity firms, angel investor firms and construction companies. 

DeSantis is endorsed by Liberal MPP Michael Coteau, Conservative MP Chungsen Leung, and entrepreneur Steve Rafael.

Some of his issues:  

  • extend TTC subway service
  • increase police protection
  • create bike paths along Beecroft or Doris instead of Yonge
  • improve infrastructure: roads, sewers, and power
  • promote business development along Sheppard Ave.

David Epstein:
Epstein is a small business owner who has run unsuccessfully for election in Toronto. In 2010 he ran for mayor and received 1,202 votes. In 2014, he ran in ward 10-York Centre and took 11% of the vote. His 2014 campaign issues included increased transparency in council decision-making, and creating a comprehensive plan for public transit. As of July 23rd, he has not provided information on why he is running or his policies.

Norm Gardner: 
Gardner, at the age of 80, has come out of retirement to run for council in his Willowdale neighbourhood. He opposes a proposal to restructure the stretch of Yonge Street between Finch and Sheppard Avenue by making it more pedestrian friendly.

While he has had a long career in various political fields, his campaign for mayor in 2014 received so little attention that he did not register in opinion polls. Gardner was first elected to the North York city council in 1976, following two unsuccessful attempts. When he was elected to city council he soon became a reliable ally of Metro Chair Paul Godfrey.

He has argued against tighter restrictions on gun ownership, saying "We're not the people who commit crime. Why make it tougher for somebody who is looking after his collection in a responsible manner?” In 1989, Gardner controversially recommended that the maximum age covered by the Young Offenders Act be lowered from 17 to 12. In 1991, he recommended a five-year minimum prison sentence without parole for criminals who use firearms in the commission of an offence. He is a member of the extreme right-wing think tank the Mackenzie Institute for the Study of Terrorism, Revolution and Propaganda.

Earlier in life, Gardner served 10 years in the Canadian Forces. He has been the regional manager for a pharmaceutical company. He owns Toronto's Steeles Bakery. 

Albert Kim: 
Kim's website says he has served in the political sector for a number of years, holding a variety of roles and titles throughout his career. He has years of experience working in NGOs and NPOs to make positive change in the lives of families, seniors and young people.

Gerald Mak:
Mak is a Senior Manager within Risk Management in Toronto's financial sector.  He has also volunteered for over 15 years in various community organizations. Mak’s governance involvement includes being a Student Trustee with the Toronto District School Board, where he represented over 250,000 students, being the Chair of the Chief's Youth Advisory Committee on the Toronto Police Service, and being a Member of the Board of Governors at Ryerson University.

Issues: Policing seems to be Mak’s biggest issue. He received the prestigious John Herra Memorial Award for his outstanding commitment to Community and Police partnerships. He says the city is losing the battle with gun violence, and he wants more support for the Toronto Police force.

Sam Moini: 
Moini has been the spokesperson for the Toronto Taxi Alliance, which has tried to help elect as many cab-friendly councillors as possible in the past. He also supports Doug Ford’s provincial government, and liked Ford’s move to downsize city council to 25 seats. As a York U Alumni, he supported back to work legislation for staff at the university. He was pleased to see the students get back into the classroom. 

Moini opposed the North York Yonge Street revitalization project, stating that the initial proposal would have a negative impact on the “day-to-day life of Willowdale residents” by adding congestion to the neighbourhood and removing on-street parking spaces for businesses. 


David Mousavi: 
This is Mousavi’s second attempt at politics. He unsuccessfully ran for the federal Liberal Party nomination in Willowdale in 2015. He is General Counsel for the Toronto Real Estate Board and a Professor at Centennial College. He is devoted to helping the Civic Action Leadership Foundation, which has an Emerging Leaders Network and a Youth Connection project. He is president of Family Day Care Services and chair of Lumacare Services. He played a big role in raising $100,000 for Syrian refugees.


Chung Jin Park:
The fact that he was able to help several people who had been injured obtain compensation inspired him to run for Council. Park says he is quite liberal, innovative and open-minded.

His priorities include the installation of a sidewalk fence from Steeles Ave. to the Hwy. 401 entrance on Yonge St.; free lunch daily for students from Grade 1 to 6 in elementary schools; alternative use of laneways from Steeles Ave. to the Hwy. 401 entrance on Yonge St.

Winston Park:
Park is running for the second time.  He was a city council candidate in 2014 for ward 23, running as Kun-Won Park.  He is president of a technology company. Winston is endorsed by former Conservative MP for Willowdale, Chungsen Leung, and Senator Yonah Martin.

Issues: Introducing a $1/day toll charge for commuters outside of Toronto to provide money for the improvement of our local roads and transit; building an overpass to the south-east 401 on-ramp at Yonge Street; introducing mini and double-decker buses; and extending the subway northward to Steeles and east/west to connect the Yonge/Downsview lines; and adopting smart traffic light systems. 


Hamid Shakeri: 
Dr. Shakeri is a University of Toronto trained materials engineer. He is also a professional language interpreter serving members of the community in legal and medical meetings. Shakeri was featured in the Toronto Star in 2015 as a vulnerable immigrant worker who was not paid $3,000 for several months for his work with a Toronto translation company.

John Filion, a three-term city councillor of the former Willowdale Ward, will not retire after all. Incensed by the impromptu council reduction bill imposed by Premier Doug Ford, he decided to re-enter the race. An experienced politician with solid liberal credentials, we here at TCRP are glad to have Filion on our candidate list. He is our top pick for Ward 18. 

Originally a Toronto Star reporter, Filion entered Toronto municipal politics when the city amalgamated in 1997. He was elected to Toronto Council in 2006 and has since chaired several civic committees and community boards, many of them focused on promoting the city’s art and culture scene. Filion’s recent voting record reflects a more fiscally prudent position with motions towards a long-term financial plan, budgetary cuts to the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), against full funding for TransformTO, the city's long-term climate action plan and in favour of considering a reduction in child care spaces. 

Filion is noted as being an ardent adversary to the Ford political dynasty. In 2013, after admissions that Mayor Rob Ford had smoked crack-cocaine, driven while intoxicated and purchased illegal drugs while in office, Filion

helped foster the bill that stripped the mayor of legislative powers. The move was highly divisive but ultimately contributed to Rob Ford’s political downfall. 
Despite an overall liberal platform, Filion has never been endorsed by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council; a highly coveted recommendation known to give candidates a voting edge. This election the endorsement was granted to newcomer Saman Tabasinejad, a social justice activist and NDP candidate in Willowdale in 2018. She is perhaps a potential obstacle to Filion’s election aspiration. 

Filion’s wide range of political experience will be an asset towards our goal to make City Hall more progressively minded. His nomination is key to shifting the composition of Council away from a majority of conservative, John Tory establishment councillors. With a potential fourth term in power, we hope Filion will mind his incumbency record and mentor the next generation of leaders in the Willowdale Ward. 


Filion is back in the race after saying he was retiring. He considers himself a progressive and activist. After the legislation from Premier Doug Ford increased the size of wards, he decided to run for re-election because he believes it would be "virtually impossible” for another less known community activist to get elected. Filion first entered politics as a trustee on the North York Board of Education to which he was elected in 1981. From 1987 to 1990 he served as chair of the school board. He was elected to North York's City Council in 1990 replacing retiring councillor Jim McGuffin.

John moved to Toronto city council with the creation of the new city in 1997. He was re-elected in 2014, taking 55 per cent of the vote. Filion received a great deal of attention for his role as chair of the city's Board of Health. He used this position to push for a smoking ban in Toronto bars and restaurants and to force restaurants to post records of their health inspections. As a member of the police services board he was a sharp critic of Chief Julian Fantino and also publicly accused members of the police force of monitoring his activities.

Filion was in the spotlight in 2013. As Wikipedia points out, after admissions by Mayor Rob Ford that he had smoked crack cocaine, driven while intoxicated and purchased illegal drugs while in office, Filion drafted an emergency motion which transferred much of the Mayor’s powers to the Deputy Mayor. The motions transferred much of the Mayor’s budget, removed his ability to set key matters on the legislative agenda, and removed his right to fill vacancies on the civic appointments committee. He led the way for Council to stop a bad property deal.  Executives from the Toronto Parking Authority and Giorgio Mammoliti pushed for a deal that would have had the city overpay by approximately $2.6 million for a piece of land in Mammoliti's ward, according to a report to Toronto City Council by law firm Torys LLP. The deal was days from being completed when it fell through largely due to pressure from Filion.

Interestingly, Filion has never been endorsed by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, an endorsement that can get a candidate a lot of votes. Instead, the Labour Council is endorsing newcomer Saman Tabasinejad.

John says he will continue to negotiate non-profit, parent-run childcare centres in new developments, fight for a new childcare centre at Sheppard and Willowdale, encourage safety for students, and promote a “Cap and Hold” freeze on residential development to relieve school overcrowding. He will secure the creation a nearly 5 acre site to become an enormous, brand new community park in Newtonbrook West – at no cost to taxpayers, and beautify more public spaces - including a new prospective site near Yonge and Finch. In the area of transportation, John will encourage growth outside over-developed areas, easing the development pressure in Willowdale; work to ease congestion on the over-crowded Yonge subway line and strongly advocate for the prioritization of the Relief Line.

Boards and Committees: North York Community Council; Planning and Growth Management Committee; Board of Directors of Civic Theatres Toronto; Board of Directors of The Hummingbird (Sony) Centre for the Performing Arts; Board of Management of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts; Board of Directors of the Toronto Centre for the Arts; Hummingbird (Sony) Centre for the Performing Arts Corporation Board; Nominating Panel - City Theatres; Nominating Panel - Committee of Adjustment; and Toronto Music Industry Advisory Council.

Voting Record 2014 - 2018: Filion voted in favour of keeping bike lanes on Bloor; in favour of considering child care space reductions; in favour of a long-term financial planfor the city; against the Scarborough subway extension; in favour of considering budget cuts that would impact quality of life for Toronto Community Housing Corporation residents; against exploring the feasibility of a Toronto sales tax; was absent for a vote to add 1,000 new beds in the 2018 Shelter Infrastructure plan; against full funding for TransformTO, the city's long-term climate action plan; was absent for a vote to name a stadium after Rob Ford.

2014 electoral results and 2017 attendance: 1st runner-up David Mousavi got 56% of Filion's vote count. Filion missed 14.8% of recorded council votes.


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