When you are the incumbent, there’s always a bull’s eye on your back.
Renrick Ashby knows this as he tries to convince residents in Ajax Ward 2 that he deserves their vote to remain as the councillor for a third-term.
The City of Toronto senior planner has four challengers for the position in the October 27 municipal elections.
“I accept the challenge,” he said. “At the same time, I am not going to revert from what I have always done which is to listen to residents and restrain from making promises I know I can’t fulfil. I will continue to embrace residents’ thoughts about how we can build a better Ajax together.”
As he makes the rounds campaigning, Ashby said property taxes are high on the list of constituents’ concerns.
“I acknowledge what they are saying, but I try to put things into perspective because they are comparing it to Toronto instead of Durham region,” he said. “When you do that, you will find that tax increase here has been one of the lowest in the eight Durham municipalities. The reason taxes are high is because this is a growth municipality.”
This year, Ajax raised property taxes – based on a home assessment at $335,300 – by $34.50 and Durham elevated taxes by $43.
Ashby said seniors have been requesting a rebate to help with their property taxes.
“This is the first time I have heard this since I have been campaigning,” he said. “These are people who are on a fixed income and looking for some sort of relief.”
Seniors in Toronto with a combined household income of $38,000 or less and a residential assessment of $650,000 or less can apply for a cancellation of property tax increases.
As part of its growth, a third recreation complex in Ajax was opened in Ashby’s ward last year.
The 55,000-square foot Audley Recreation Complex will host next year’s Pan Am Games baseball and softball events at the adjoining President’s Choice Pan Am Ball Park.
“When I was campaigning the last time, residents said they wanted a community centre in the north end,” said Trinidad-born Ashby, who 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. “We had planned to build a centre around 2018-2019, but the timetable was moved up and the people here are thrilled with how things have turned out.
“It’s estimated that about 180,000 visitors will pass through Ajax during the Games. We have an opportunity to showcase the town, its diverse restaurants and the waterfront and also capitalize economically from the money that visitors will spend.”
Ashby made history in the March 2008 by-election, becoming the first Black Durham councillor by securing 41 per cent of the votes. He clinched 54 per cent of the votes in the last elections four years ago.
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.
Personal Support Worker, Veronica Vernon, is confident she can serve the constituents in Ajax’s Ward 3.
“I will protect the taxpayers’ dollars, increase awareness about the things that are vital to our community and be a strong voice, especially for youths and seniors,” promises the married mother of three who has resided in the Durham town since 1999.
The recipient of the YWCA Durham Woman of Distinction and Town of Ajax Civic Awards, Vernon is active in her community organizing after-school programs and summer camps and volunteering with VV’s Adult Support Centre and Victory Neighbourhood Services.
In neighbouring Pickering, TD Bank analyst, Edoh Apaloo, is challenging for the mayoral position held by Dave Ryan for the past 11 years.
Born in Togo to Ghanaian parents, the first-time candidate migrated to Canada in the early 1980s.
“I wanted to run against Dave four years ago, but he promised to bring more jobs here,” said Apaloo. “That, in my opinion, has not happened. Creating more jobs and business opportunities and lowering escalating property taxes are high on my agenda and the reasons I am running. When you look at cities like Markham, Mississauga and Vaughan, you see growth and opportunity. I want us in Pickering to become a vibrant city like them where people can live, work and socialize. Every Friday, my kids go to Toronto to socialize. The money they spend there generates jobs and economic opportunity for Toronto.”
Apaloo and his Grenadian-born wife have three children.
Human rights specialist and community advocate, Maurice Brenner, a former Pickering ward and regional councillor, is the other contender in the mayoral race.
Longtime Brampton resident, Jai Naraine, is another newcomer to municipal elections.
Running in Wards 2 & 6, the industrial engineer and management consultant is seeking a regional council seat.
“Having been a spectator and Bramptonian for the past 32 years, I have seen this city being reduced to a laughing stock,” said Naraine. “With my academic skills, business acumen and community work, I know I have what it takes to help restore order and credibility to a dysfunctional council.”
His platform priorities include optimizing a hemorrhaging management system at city hall and the employment expense to property taxes revenue ratio, eliminating gridlock, attracting high-tech manufacturing businesses and a university specializing in engineering and medical sciences and bringing a state-of-the-art world–class cricket stadium to the city.
A hydrographic technician with Guyana’s Ministry of Works & Hydraulics, Naraine came to Canada in 1971 and attended Seneca College and Ryerson University. He was the proprietor/manager of Calypso Garden and Calypso Court restaurants for 18 years prior to entering politics.
Educator, Karla Bailey, is among 12 candidates vying to replace Brampton Wards 7 & 8 councillor, Sandra Hames, who last April announced her retirement from city politics after 23 years’ service.
“As a city councillor, I plan to make transit planning a priority,” said the owner/operator of Bailey’s Children Centre Inc. “Brampton needs a sustainable long-term transit plan that will enhance the lives of its residents. A part of my plan includes improved rush-hour service.”
A Brampton resident for the last five years, Bailey also promises to make the city economically-friendly for business enterprises, partner with small businesses to enhance subsidized employment for young people and work to create recreational space that will offer affordable programs to youths.