Our Home in the City – Matthew's Launch Party Speech

Naval Club of Toronto – June 20

 

Let me start with some important “thank yous.” First and foremost, to my family - Donna, Emily, Hannah and Rory…here we go again! Em and Hannah, you’re long done with high school now so it shouldn’t be that painful. Rory, sorry….although I think you’re beyond embarrassing.

And I want to thank my campaign team for getting us here tonight to such a wonderful celebration of this launch – especially Victoria and Shannon who have been co-chairing this effort.

I’m thrilled that the campaign team is made up of people who have been down a similar path with me before and new people as well. So it happens that in forming this team, there has been the need to introduce ourselves to each other. Questions like, "what brings you to commit your time to get this character elected to Council?” are asked.

There was a response that came from one of the team members that was to me meaningful in its simplicity: “I’m here because I already know what Matt stands for.” And he listed a number of issues: childcare – accessible and affordable; housing – affordable and supportive; transit – active and public; and the environment and climate change.

I think it meant so much to me because I’ve put a lot into creating a record of what I believe in and am committed to – in office as an MP and in the community.

But, more than that, it feels good to be among people who have transformed that record into a trust, into a confidence, into an understanding of what’s in my heart.

And so I’m going to take license from Craig’s early comment. I know issues and platforms are the candy of electoral politics, but I want to jump past that and talk to you about what’s in the heart….not just mine, but all of ours.

And it is this place we call home. This place and how we feel about it has, I think, important implications for how we practice politics as we deal with issues in a rapidly growing, changing city.

So, on this matter of a record….as I sat down the other day to a blank screen to put some thoughts into writing, I happened upon a “Beach Metro” column that I wrote some time ago entitled, “The Beach… Deep in the Heart of Me.”

The column was written at the time that the anti-condo signs were popping up throughout the Beach in response to development on Queen. I felt the need to intervene in support of those concerned with development and against the easy counter-charge of “nimbyism” (Not-In-My-Back-Yard).

I started the column with a quote by author Charles Montgomery, who wrote a book called “Happy City.” He asked this question: “How could anyone know enough about the needs of the human soul to prescribe the ideal city for happiness?”

And I answered like this: If it’s happiness we seek (and surely it is) and this is a matter of the soul (and surely it is), then we better give to the people some say over the city we live in – how it’s planned, how it’s built, how it changes.

It is my experience that our neighbourhoods are necessarily thought of as our backyards but more as our homes. They are the places where we live out our everyday lives and our happiness is bound up with them. What happens in them - and to them - are matters of the heart or – in Montgomery’s terms – the “soul.”

In the column, I go on to tell my story of how my wife Donna and I made this place our home. It’s a simple story that most of you know or will at least recognize. It’s about raising a family here. It’s about playgrounds, wagons and strollers and parks, hockey rinks and dance studios and, of course, coffee shops.

It is simply a story about making the public spaces - and sometimes private spaces - of this community our own through the routines of our everyday lives and the important moments in our lives that we experience in these places. So the fights we have for our neighbourhoods and over our neighbourhoods – about saving them and changing them – are deeply personal ones. These are important stakes we have in these fights. And that point, to me, goes to the importance of doing politics - municipal politics - differently. We need a deeper kind of democracy in our city.

Now Jane Jacobs warns us about sentimentality. “Neighbourhood is a word that has come to sound like a Valentine,” she said. Point well-taken.

Our ward is changing and so are we. We ought not to be overly sentimental about these things. There are things that have always needed to be fixed here. Things that we need and things that are simply useful, have been missing. It is most certainly true today.

With 93 pedestrian and cyclist deaths over two years, we know our roads are not safe. They ought to be.

100 homeless people died on the streets of this city last year. We don’t have enough housing that is both supportive and affordable. We ought to.

Our main public park, along on what must be one of the most beautiful stretches of waterfront in any city in the world, has been leased out to private interests. That’s nothing short of outrageous.

We have too many empty storefronts on our main streets when our main streets ought to be where we want to be.

This community, that ought to be rich in recreation facilities, isn’t. We have dozens upon dozens of kids turned away from House League hockey at our community arena because of lack of ice. Many had to fight hard to hang onto a local public pool…where an Olympic athlete learned how to swim.

We have a sports club in this riding that regularly produces national calibre athletes – rugby, rowing and paddling – without a porta-potty for its field and with a shed for its boathouse.

And beyond today - and the fixes required for today - we also have a future to create for ourselves.

We are on the cusp of dramatic change in this ward with the Danforth Planning Study drawing to a conclusion, with the impending implementation of a high-density mobility hub along Main Street, with enormous strips of Queen Street already assembled for development.

And so the question confronts us: how do we respond?

And, here, I’ll invoke the wisdom of Jane Jacobs again. She told us: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

And this, fundamentally, is what this campaign is about. It is about understanding that all of us who call this place home have a claim on participating in the creation of the places and spaces in which we live.

And we have the right to build into those spaces the things that are necessary to our well-being, that are useful to us and that enhance our everyday lives - the schools, the pools, the parks and playgrounds, the transit and affordable housing, the vibrant main streets and even – perhaps especially - the speed bumps and stop signs we need to keep ourselves and our kids safe on the sidewalks and streets of our neighbourhoods.

We need a Councillor that understands our desire to shape the city and where that desire comes from. We need a Councillor that encourages our engagement and ensures that, included in our politics, are the voices and needs of everyone who call this place home because these are matters of the heart.

I will be that Councillor…with your help.

Thank you for being here tonight!

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