We like our Pizza like we like our Wards: evenly populated and able to meet everyone’s needs.
Ward 23, Willowdale
Pizza Shab aka “Night Pizza”
The largest ward in Toronto by population, thanks mostly to the rapid development of new condos and townhomes – especially at Sheppard and Yonge. Willowdale proper is mostly encased in Ward 23. Major landmarks include North York Civic Centre, the TDSB HQ, and Mel Lastman Square. The population is diverse, with a lot of Chinese, Korean and Persian communities making a significant showing, bringing a very wide variety of delicious opportunities for hungry Willowdalians. Bubble Tea to cap off Persian Pizza, anyone?
Filion has been a councillor since pre-amalgamation Toronto, serving as a councillor in North York from 1991 to 1997. He first held office in the North York Board of Education before moving up through the ranks to become a councillor. He’s been an advocate of redrawing the ward boundary lines in Toronto, as well as advocating for child care, parks, recreational facilities and when he was Chair of the Board of Health he introduced a restaurant rating system and a ban on smoking in restaurants.
Most of the pizza joints in the area were chains, as far as we could tell. But when we found Pizza Shab, and started to learn more from friends about Persian Pizza – there was no way we were going to miss out! Our server, Amin, tells us that they have been around for 5 years and are named after a popular pizza place in Tehran. We talk about the area, very car-centric, and how most of his customers order for pick up often parking their cars and running in to grab a slice. He directs us to the “one bar” of the area after we are finished with the za, and we watched a steady stream of cars park, hop out, grab their pizza, and drive off – no walk ins.
The pizza scorecard:
What we ordered: The Night Pizza, Rolling pizza
Why we ordered: We asked for the most popular pizza (The Night Special), and the Rolling pizza caught our eye as something different from what we’ve had before.
Topping selection 2/5
Bang for your buck 3/5
Meets Expectations 2/4
We are fairly torn, the rolling pizza was amazing. Something great to try, different from your usual pie, with a great Avishan spice mix and special sauce on top. The night pizza however was underwhelming. We recognize that there is a cultural difference, Persian pizza (according to our server) is supposed to have a very thick crust with lots of toppings and no sauce. As girls who lean towards thinner crusts and love a good dough to sauce to topping ratio, we recognize our bias. But, regardless of this difference, the toppings were not very fresh, the meat appeared to be simple lunch meat and there was not a lot of flavor.
What’s on the menu for Ward 23?
The “Night Special”, like Ward 23, was just too populated. Too many toppings on one pizza, too many constituents in one ward – a problem of quality.
It is difficult for one councillor to be able to deal with that many constituents on their own, and assuming the system is as fair as it claims to be (LOL, it’s not) – there must be people not getting the service they need from their municipal government.
Constituency work done in Councillors offices is a lot more than just relaying calls to 311. Case work can range from neighbourhood disputes over fence height and dog parks to the implementation of youth outreach programs and other critical services in priority neighbourhoods. Councillors need to balance being able to serve the needs of their community, while also connecting with residents enough to have an idea of how to reflect their needs and challenges honestly within their role.
We have both knocked on a lot of doors in our time. Literally, thousands. Claire has worked, volunteered or both in some capacity on campaigns in every single major election since 2007 – including a bunch of by-elections, too. Terra has done civic engagement work, and knocked on doors for multiple campaigns in the last couple of elections. Between the two of us we have been in all different communities across Toronto, from North Etobicoke, Mimico to South Scarborough, and most recently Claire was knocking on the doors of Upstate New York! We both have shared that the one thing we’ve learned is that people are far more likely to bring up local issues at the door. Consistently, folks will talk your ear off about potholes, speed limits, their Hydro bills, transit (mostly lack there of), parking spaces, noise, TCHC, day care subsidies, cycling infrastructure, and the sorry state of the parkette down the road. Plenty of these topics can be linked back to other levels of government through longer, more in-depth discussions about funding, downloading and all that, but it doesn’t generally go the other way.
Talking to people from ward to ward, constituents will dive into broader issues when brought up – and likely around the dinner table or at a pub. But understandably, when given the chance to talk to canvassers the topics that they will want to discuss are what’s top of mind, the visible issues that they see and come up against in their own backyard every day – these issues are municipal. Regardless of canvassing for a municipal, provincial, or federal candidate, municipal issues are more top of mind for constituents. And if you talk to municipal constituency assistants, they’ll tell you about all of the provincial and federal issues they discuss with constituents (in addition to their municipal duties!).
The moral of this story is that municipal issues are extremely important. So how many councillors is enough to effectively represent the needs of a constituency?
Consider Ward 23, which has seen an overwhelming about of condos go up, had a population of 88,435 people as of the 2011 census. For context, Ward 19 which is downtown had 57,240 citizens, and Ward 14 had 53,765. Each with only one councillor. Have you ever taken a class with an outrageous teacher to student ratio? Multiply that by a few thousand and you’ll quickly see how overwhelming this problem can be, and why the city’s current Draw The Lines Ward Boundary Review is so important.
A Councillor is supposed to represent the interest of their constituents in the broader decisions made by Council at large. Their job is also legislative. When one ward is so disproportionately large, the influence of their one councillor, with his or her one vote is diluted in comparison to that of a councillor with a smaller ward. This is a problematic aspect of municipal democracy.
Obviously, it’s not going to be perfect all the time. The city does not grow at the same rate evenly. And it would be costly, confusing and time-consuming to change the ward boundaries by population every single election. This is why it’s so important to forecast trends ahead of time.
Right now the City has commissioned the Canadian Urban Institute to help with the redistribution of ward boundaries. The last time the city reviewed the Ward boundaries was in 2000. And Ward 23 Councillor John Filion has been a big advocate in bringing the new reviews to reality.
The Draw the Lines process started back in 2014, it included an impressive series of public consultations and the final report – which will be discussed in council – will be presented in May. It`s important to note, that the research and report process is being done independent of the city.
Draw the Lines is currently proposing 5 different options which you can find here.
The TL;DR version is as follows:
- Option 1: Minimal Change
- Option 2: 44 Wards
- Option 3: Small wards (focused on keeping population at 50,000)
- Option 4: Large wards (focused on keeping population at 75,000)
- Option 5: Focuses on natural and physical boundaries
It will come as no surprise that we are hoping the city passes an option that provides citizens with more access to their councillors. And no, we don’t just feel that way because more wards will equal more pizza for us!
When this comes to council and is debated, it will be important to pay attention to the motivations of what councillors are arguing. Does the option that they fight for happen to include not cutting out areas where most of their supporters live? Will they vote for the ward options that their constituency prefers? We’d urge everyone to pay close attention, make your voice heard, and hold your elected representative accountable. Ask questions, meet with your councillors, look at the options and see what option feels best for you.
We sincerely hope, that as the city reslices our Wards, every citizen gets their fair share of democratic representation.