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RICHMOND HILL VOTES: Greatest problem facing city? Mayoral, regional councillor candidates address key issues
Oct. 18, 2022


There have been many of those over the past four years in the City of Richmond Hill and the mayoral candidates got an opportunity at a virtual event to talk about what they think the biggest one is and how they would address it.

The all-candidate event, held by the Council Accountability Group or CAG, took place on Oct. 6 for mayoral candidates and the regional councillor candidates in Richmond Hill.

The one-hour-and-half virtual event was part of a series of all-candidate events the CAG had organized to inform the voters during the 2022 municipal election.

Three of the four mayoral candidates -- incumbent Mayor David West, the city’s deputy register general Domenic Bardari, and IT professional Holo Devnani. Incumbent regional councillor Carmine Perrelli did not respond to the invitation, according to the CAG.

All five candidates who are vying for the two regional councillor seats attended the event. They are incumbent regional councillor Joe DiPaola, incumbent Ward 6 councillor Godwin Chan, business owner Abu Alam, condo corporation manager Marco Coletta, councillor’s assistant Terrence Au.

Here are candidates' answers to a couple questions the event.

QUESTION FOR MAYORAL CANDIDATES: What is the greatest single problem facing Richmond Hill presently and how would you combat it?

West: I would have to say that the affordability of housing is probably our single biggest problem for Richmond Hill right now as a community and as a city. We’re quickly becoming quite aware of that in Canada and especially many places in the GTA that it is very difficult for people to afford housing … Housing a human right. We need to work a lot hard than we’ve been working in the past ... We need more rental housing, we need more housing that people can buy, rent-to-own type of programs and all of those things require a great deal of co-operation from other levels of government.

Bardari: I think it’s the current council. There needs to be changes. They don’t work together and they want to work together. There's two groups and it actually hurts the residents. I said this from the beginning. Nothing will get done. There has to be change. There's two teams at the city council and you can see it, just go look at their votes, how they vote. And it's all it's become personal and nothing will get done. Financially, it's a disaster. We just spent $650,000 nine months ago to do a byelection for the mayor. Nine months later we're back at the same spot. How much more money are we gonna spend on this election?

Devnani: The one biggest problem facing the city at the moment in my opinion is transportation. I walk six kilometres every day for small shopping. There are lots of senior citizens. Just imagine them trying to cross a seven-lane road. They had to push a button. Now how do you expect a guy who's on a wheelchair to push the button? What doesn't make sense to me is that a guy sitting in the car doesn't have to push a button and a pedestrian has to push a button ... bicycle lanes are not secure. Personally, I will not drive on the bicycle lane. I feel unsafe.

QUESTION FOR REGIONAL COUNCILLOR CANDIDATES: How do you plan on advocating for Richmond Hill in the face of provincial and/or regional directives that are contrary to Richmond Hill's Official Plan?

Au: I would like to see a more fair share involved in the regional level and the provincial level with the issues in Richmond Hill. For the past four years, we have been missing out on so many things in the regional council, as well as we are being forced to do so many things on the provincial level. So I think there are two big points I would like to raise and I'm trying my best to advocate. Number 1 is leave the planning decision back to the city … Number 2 is the fair share of our services from York Region.

Coletta: Unfortunately, this isn't a matter of just saying, you know, we're gonna get more and they're gonna listen to us. The fact is that the province can and has mandated an MZO on us. That is not something that we can change at council, regional or otherwise. So the only way to get them to change it -- I stressed on “change it” -- because of the unlikelihood to remove it -- is to add citizen advocacy and council advocacy at Queen's Park to convince the current government to change their minds and limit and scale back or at least spread out the MZO that has been enforced on us.

DiPaola: I think our three regional advocates have done a good job in making sure the region is aware of Richmond Hill’s funding requirements. I myself have played an active role in making sure that we're getting funding for the bridge over the Elgin Mills train track for example … and we have a good working relationship with our neighbours and definitely with the region. The region and Richmond Hill have been symbiotic in a lot of our planning process but the government of Ontario has really let us down in Richmond Hill ... but we've as council refused to sign on their memorandum of understanding and will continue to put pressure on them to understand we need schools and local amenities.

Alam: Our Richmond Hill residents need to select an efficient candidate who has the qualification experience and knowledge to interact and communicate with the provincial government. Canada has too many layers of government and if there is not efficient leadership, then it cannot build a good quality connection that you need to have a relationship that you need to make your work or plan workable. The leadership needs to play an active role to go ahead and proceed with the plan they have. We see that at this time, the city is ineffective and the administration is poor. And within the council there's a lot of division, confusion and chaos so we need to eliminate and make a peaceful council.

Chan: I think when dealing with any advocacy, you need to have a very clear set of objectives and a strategy. How you’re going to go from that grassroot-level at the community to let people know about what the issues are in conflict, mobilize the community to voice their vocal opposition likely to be supported in conflict. Second, anything in the official plan that’s related to planning, that’s a professional component so we can get allies such as the registered planner association. There are also other organizations at municipal level ... At the provincial level, you need also to engage not only the government but also the opposition parties who could be buying into the idea in support of your advocacy drive.