In the lead up to the 2022 Toronto municipal election, CJRU is reaching out to all candidates in the downtown wards.
As a longtime resident of Toronto Centre, Colin Johnson said he has first-hand experience in understanding the needs of Ward 13 and its residents.
He is running to be the ward’s newest city councillor because he believes no current councillor brings in the same type of lived experiences he said are invaluable to addressing the ongoing issues and concerns of the downtown core.
Johnson said he has been openly gay since the 1970s and understands the challenges of addiction and precarious housing supply in the community.
His platform is focused on increasing affordable housing, addressing the mental health and addiction crises and bringing in more accessible public transportation to the ward.
For affordable housing, Johnson said the entire system needs “to be revamped [and] recreated.”
“I was homeless,” he said. “I lived in Toronto Community Housing, which is a mess.”
In his personal experience, he said there needs to be better coordination and communication between residents and city hall.
“You don’t get responses from so-called [city of Toronto] teams trying to help,” Johnson said.
As councillor, he said he can usher in the solutions that “are required to fix it[housing].”
Johnson said some solutions include bringing back rent control and using his proposed revamped Toronto Community Housing to remodel regions for residents.
He mentions remodelling Moss Park and St. Jamestown. Johnson said the community cannot make the “same errors of Regent Park” when it was gentrified heavily and eliminated affordability for its original residents.
To address the addiction crisis in the downtown ward, Johnson said the city must find ways to confront the opioid overdose crisis more seriously, as well as help Canada decriminalize all personal use drugs.
Johnson believes the view on substance use needs to change and move away from “jaded and ignorant” perspectives of the past.
For residents that rely on the shelter system, he said the idea that it is temporary housing needs to change. As someone who experienced living in the city’s shelters, Johnson said changes like lockers for possession’s, and resources like computers and language services can help individuals find jobs or more adequate work. With these changes, he said this can help alleviate more residents out of poverty.
Further, he said Toronto Centre continues to see its population density increase, especially as the ward remains a central hub for new immigrants.
“With the population increasing as it presently is, there’s no way we can have adequate bus service,” he said.
He is proposing more subway expansions closer to areas around St. Jamestown and help lessen gridlock around Wellesley, Sherbourne, Parliament and Jarvis Sts.
As he continues his campaign, Johnson is asking Toronto Centre residents to vote on election day and despite the city’s challenges, to remember that Toronto is “an amazing city” and “so unique in so many aspects.”
More information on Colin Johnson’s platform can be found here.
Toronto’s election is scheduled for Oct.24.
Listen to Colin Johnson’s full interview: