By RON FANFAIR
By the time the municipal elections roll around on October 25, councillor Renrick Ashby will be familiar with most of the residents in his ward, the largest of four in the Town of Ajax.
Though he’s the only councillor to commute to work in Toronto, Ashby has found time to knock on the doors of most of the 13,000 households in the riding promoting his plans to enhance citizens’ opportunities and attract business.
He’s also encouraging residents to vote. Just 23.2 per cent cast their ballots in the last municipal elections in November 2006.
Ashby made history in the March 2008 by-election, becoming the first Black Durham councillor by securing 41 per cent of the votes. Traditionally, voter turnout is low for by-elections and less than 10 per cent of the close to 22,000 eligible voters bothered to show up at polling stations.
“Getting out and voting is a citizen’s right and responsibility and that’s one of the reasons why I have been out since March,” said Ashby who is a senior planner with the City of Toronto. “In addition, I want to hear first-hand the concerns of residents and at the same time tell them about some of my plans going forward.
“For me, it’s vital that I get out there and meet residents instead of sending campaign team members to do that for me. I have a full-time job that takes me to Toronto everyday and a family, but the residents voted me in and I have a responsibility to face them. That physical contact makes a difference.”
Ashby said rising taxes and employment opportunities are the main concerns of area residents. This year, the city passed a 2.75 per cent tax increase, elevating the tax rate to 0.399580 per cent for a total of $799.16 – a $21 increase from last year – for a $200,000 home.
Despite the increase, Ashby says Ajax has had the lowest average tax rate increase of any Durham municipality in the past three years.
“The reason taxes are high is because this is a growth municipality,” said Ashby, who sits on the Ajax Town Council’s diversity & community engagement and trails committees. “We are building libraries, community centres, a fire hall and new roads and these things cost money.”
Last week, Ashby organized a job fair with 12 businesses, including United Parcel Service (UPS), TD Canada Trust and Paragon Security.
“These are all firms that are hiring,” said Ashby who came to Canada from Trinidad & Tobago at age four. “One of the things I keep hearing all the time is that we need more jobs and businesses here. This is a step in that direction.”
A graduate of Birchmount Collegiate, Ashby pursued post-secondary education at Seneca College where he graduated with a Civil Engineering diploma and Ryerson University where he secured a degree in Urban Planning.
Ajax is one of eight municipalities that make up Durham region which was established in 1974 as one of several new regional governments in the province.
It’s also one of the most diverse cities in the Greater Toronto Area.