By RON FANFAIR
Single mothers in the city will be eligible for a scholarship created by outgoing mayor, David Miller to honour the legacy of his mother who succumbed to cancer in September 2001 at age 82.
Joan Miller raised the San Francisco-born David alone after his American father Joe died of leukemia when he was 18 months old. She took him to England where she worked for a few years as a headmistress in a small farming village before moving to Ottawa in August 1967.
Like most newcomers who are unable to get their qualifications recognized, Joan Miller returned to school and obtained a degree at age 56 in 1975.
“I wanted to honour the memory of mom in a way that would help give people the kind of chances that I had because of the scholarships that I received and she had when she went back to school to earn that degree,” Miller said at an event last week at the Liberty Grand to celebrate his seven years as mayor. Proceeds of the event will go to the Joan Miller scholarship fund.
“Because of your generosity tonight, we are able to create this entirely new scholarship for single moms who, like my mom, want a better chance for themselves and their children,” he said. “That’s what this is all about. This is about a chance to give somebody a second chance…My mom would be so proud if she knew that 500 people and some very generous donations from the trade union movement and business leaders helped create a scholarship…She came to Canada not for herself but for me and to give me a chance.”
The Cooperative Housing Federation of Toronto will administer the scholarship.
Miller, who turns 52 on Boxing Day, did not seek a third term as mayor because, he says, he wants to spend more quality time with his wife and two children.
He graduated from Lakeview College School which he attended on a scholarship, Harvard University and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law and pursued a legal practice before entering politics in 1991 when he campaigned for city council. He was elected three years later.
Most of the speakers paying tribute to Miller praised his outstanding leadership qualities.
Former Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities John Godfrey said Miller’s leadership shone in his capacity as a member of the Big City Mayors caucus.
“After Paul Martin (then Prime Minister) presented his October 2004 Throne speech, he invited the Big City Mayors spontaneously to come back to 24 Sussex (the PM’s residence) and eventually that wound up around the national dinner table with the mayors and David Miller leading the conversation with Martin,” said Godfrey. “Out of that partnership came a number of extraordinary things, including the rebate on the GST for cities and the gas tax deals which we signed across the country for renewable infrastructure. That we can thank David for.
“And what was really important was that that leadership extended to the ground of Toronto itself…He brought together politicians, civil servants and members of civil society to work for a common mission. That’s leadership on the ground and that’s also national leadership.”
Canadian Labour Congress secretary-treasurer Hassan Yusuf said Miller showed leadership by calling on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to support the expansion of Canada’s public pension system, by increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement by 15 per cent so that no senior lives in poverty and by protecting Canadian pensions through a federal system of pension insurance.
“He provided outstanding leadership in the resolution that was passed unanimously that said every Canadian who spent a lifetime working in this community should not have to live in poverty just because they are old and might not be able to work,” said Yusuf.
Central Ontario Regional Council of Carpenters, Drywall & Allied Workers Union executive secretary-treasurer Ucal Powell said Miller’s leadership contributed to considerable positive change in the city and he pledged that his union will fight to keep a program – established as a pilot this year – designed to train and employ young people in the construction field.
“We are not going to lie down and let this program die,” said Powell who is a director of Build Toronto, an innovative real estate and development corporation, chaired by Miller.
The outgoing mayor said last April, at the opening of a youth-focused community hub at 1652 Keele Street, that the initiative will form a permanent component of the city’s procurement program.
Oneil Barnes, one of the program participants and a Local 27 member, thanked Miller for providing him with the opportunity to enhance his carpentry skills and become a rounded builder.
“I learned how to properly use power tools and also to safely work on job sites,” he said.
During his tenure as mayor, the City of Toronto’s Partnership Opportunities Legacy fund was created for new social, programming and recreational facilities and other infrastructure improvements. Youth-focused initiatives at the neighbourhood level are the main beneficiaries of the leveraged investment.
In addition, many of Toronto’s agencies, boards and commissions have changed to reflect the city’s diversity.