Kristyn Wong-Tam never intended to run for council.
But a surprise party with 60 supporters asking her to run convinced her to register on March 1 as a candidate in Toronto Centre Rosedale’s Ward 27.
“I had not planned to run for civic office,” she said March 30. “But I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I had a real chance of winning.”
She’s no stranger to working on local issues.
“I spoke with local councillors about issues that affect residents,” said Wong-Tam, who owns an art gallery on Queen West. “I have worked on issues around affordable housing, racial and gender equity, economic justice, parks and recreation, community-based arts and street safety.”
One of her first jobs was as an intake worker in a women’s shelter on Church Street where she helped people transition from living on the street into stable housing.
She’s acutely aware of how much development is a huge issue in this dense, downtown ward.
“I have worked in real estate for over 15 years on planning, zoning and development on a practical level,” said Wong-Tam, who got her real estate licence at age 22.
She said residents must be involved in development proposals from the beginning so the project addresses their needs.
“I am proposing residents are informed as soon as a developer applies,” she said. “So we can put public facilities inside the project including public parking, a green roof accessible to the public.”
She would like to see more family friendly condos, so that those with children aren’t forced to move out of the community.
This doesn’t have to mean building three bedroom condo units, which are rare in Toronto, but adding family space such as daycares and playrooms in the common areas.
And for those who work at home, office space in the building would help them free up room in the condo for living spaces.
“We are now a city hub of home offices,” said Wong-Tam, who used to own a Timothy’s franchise on Church Street and co-founded the Church-Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area. “I’d ask developers to put in board rooms and office space.”
She’d also like to see streets that are inclusive of all users.
“We would have wider sidewalks and complete streets for strollers, wheelchairs to move around to accessible businesses. We are an ageing population yet we haven’t planned for it,” she said.
“I want to be able to raise a family downtown and have my parents visit me downtown and want them to be able to get around with a walker if they need to,” said Wong-Tam.
She worked as a facilitator for 20 years bringing together various groups and said she would bring that approach to city council.
“People say to me at the door that they don’t want to be ignored. They want their emails and phone calls returned,” said Wong Tam. “I am asking residents to raise expectations of what they want from a city councillor.”
For more information, visit kristynwongtam.ca.
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