Two Toronto city council candidates initially endorsed by John Filion in 2018 election are set to face off in Willowdale | The Star

2022-06-15 20:41:05 By : Ms. Julia Mu

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Days after Toronto councillor John Filion announced he will not seek re-election this fall, new potential Willowdale successors are emerging, including two well-known to him.

Lily Cheng was initially endorsed by Filion in the 2018 civic election in newly created Ward 29. But after the province cut the number of wards, Filion abandoned retirement plans and won re-election, with Cheng finishing a strong second to him.

Markus O’Brien Fehr, a city hall aide to Filion for the past decade, was also endorsed in 2018 by his boss, in a neighbouring ward, but after the council cut opted not to run against Filion.

This time Filion, who told the Star he is ready to pass the torch after 40 years in elected office, is endorsing O’Brien Fehr to succeed him in what is now Ward 18.

“Willowdale needs someone who lives by a strong set of principles and knows how to get things done,” Filion said. “Markus has both of those, which is why I am endorsing him.”

Cheng, who registered her candidacy Monday and was “leaning toward” a run whether or not Filion sought re-election, is now focused on persuading voters she should replace him Oct. 24.

“Our city, country and humankind is going through a lot right now, and as a leader I have a gift of gathering people together for the (common) good,” said the executive director of community development agency NeighbourLink North York and founder of Facebook group North York Moms.

“I want to increase citizenship engagement and help solve problems.”

Top issues in Willowdale, she says, include guiding relentless condo tower development and addressing residents’ concerns about public safety.

Cheng says, if elected, she’d urge the city to look at alternative sites for a modular housing project — quick-built homes with on-site supports for people who have experienced homelessness — planned for 175 Cummer Ave.

“What are the other options that can expedite getting housing for the homeless while not bulldozing the neighbourhood,” and worrying residents of an adjacent Toronto Community Housing Corp. seniors’ building, she said.

O’Brien Fehr said, if elected, he’ll stick to Filion’s position that 175 Cummer is the best spot for a badly needed community resource. The city is forging ahead with rezoning.

“There is a terrible housing crunch, every neighbourhood needs to play their part and this is ours,” he said. “I think it is shameful, frankly, that we have all these modular units (stored) unused in a TTC parking lot when they could be providing homes for people that need them.”

Asked what he would do, if elected, differently than Filion, O’Brien Fehr said his boss has been adept at getting developers to help pay for amenities, such as parks and community centres, to cope with growth.

“The housing crisis is such that we can’t just say ‘No’,” to proposed developments, he said. “I think I would take a slightly different approach — it’s not the growth that is the problem, the city has to figure out solutions to keep neighbourhoods livable.”

He plans to register his candidacy Tuesday. The only other Willowdale candidate registered so far is TTC station manager Michael Sosedov. More hopefuls are expected.

In Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest, meanwhile, veteran politician Lorenzo Berardinetti is trying to make a comeback and oust three-term councillor Gary Crawford.

Berardinetti, who was on Scarborough council from 1988 to 1997, amalgamated Toronto council until 2003 and at Queen’s Park until his 2018 defeat, said he brings experience.

A lawyer by trade, who has written a book and studied photography since 2018, is vowing to get a new merchants group on Kingston Road and attract manufacturers to the area.

Crawford so far has three other challengers including Kevin Rupasinghe, a road safety and urban sustainability advocate.

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