Ana Bailão Q & A Interview: 2023 Mayoral By-Election

Photo Courtesy of the Ana Bailão Campaign

Ana Bailão is running for mayor of Toronto in the 2023 by-election. Bailão was a city councillor in Davenport from 2010 until 2022. During her time in municipal politics, Ana Bailão served as Chair of the Affordable Housing Committee and the Planning and Housing Committee. 

In her Chair roles, she focused on housing and led the creation of a 10-year strategy called HousingTO to address housing issues. She also implemented the Modular Supportive Housing Pilot to combat homelessness. In 2017, Bailão became the deputy mayor for Toronto and East York, until declining to run for city council in 2022.

In a virtual Zoom interview with Excalibur on May 29, Ana Bailão discussed her goals as a mayoral candidate for Toronto.

What are the biggest issues facing Torontonians in 2023?

Bailão: What I’m hearing at the doors is affordability. People are really struggling with affordability. Affordable housing, price of food, price of gas going up – how you move, your shelter costs, your moving costs, your food costs — everything is going up and people are really feeling that. That is why I’m running on a plan to fix city services like the TTC to make sure that people feel safe and find it a convenient and reliable way to move around — and focusing on affordable housing as well. I want to make sure that I am making life easier and more affordable for Torontonians.

Students deal with a variety of challenges, ranging from financial constraints, mental health issues, safety concerns, to commuting difficulties. What policies do you plan to implement that would help students live in the city? 

Bailão: I know that students rely on the TTC. When I was a student, I came to Canada when I was 15, so I finished high school and then went to university and that’s how I got around. I didn’t even have a driver’s
license until my late 20s, so I used the TTC to get around. Making sure
that students feel safe and that we have reliable service is crucial. Making sure we have more staff, constables, supervisors, cleaning staff, [and] outreach workers in our system is essential so we have more eyes, ears, and support when any incident is about to happen. Making sure that we restore the services, so you don’t wait longer for the bus or the subway, that is my plan as well. I will restore the cuts that were introduced. I will make sure there are more cameras and things like Wi-Fi, they help with safety but it’s also a convenience, especially for students, it’s important as well. [The] TTC is a big part of it.

Affordable housing is important for students. I want to make sure that students can afford to live here and that they see their future in this city – building more housing and all kinds of different options of housing. You know, I led the introduction of laneway housing and coach housing. Now we’ve just approved multiplex housing, which is like four apartments in a home, to give people options in our neighborhoods so that we don’t just end up with 80-storey towers and single-family homes [that are] extremely expensive. As mayor, I will make sure that our avenues have 8-to-10-storey buildings that allow people to stay in our neighborhoods. But we need to build 285,000 units in the city of Toronto — I will be doing that. I will go even further to make sure that we have 57,000 units of purpose-built rental. I will also work with non-profit organizations and the co-op to use more of the city land to create more affordable housing.

In terms of mental health, I will make the province accountable to make sure they are looking at mental health as a health care and they deliver on that. I will also ensure that we have mobile mental health clinics available in our TTC and parks, that they are mobile to deal with the issues where they are. I will also expand the Toronto Community Crisis Response Program [CCRP], which was a unit created to have an alternate response to police when somebody is in mental health distress. Right now, this only covers 60 per cent of the city. I will expand it to 100 per cent of the city so when somebody is in mental health distress, they have support and assistance [from] professionals/experts who deal with those situations. 

Toronto boasts numerous colleges and universities. The TTC plays a crucial role as many students rely on public transit. As a mayoral candidate, how do you intend to manage the TTC?

Bailão: We need to make sure that it is safe, reliable, and convenient. That’s why we need to invest in the system we have right now. As mayor, I will invest to have a safe and reliable system, making sure that people come back [and] that we attract ridership back to the system. But, there’s a lot being built and we need to deal with some of those situations. For example, in Scarborough, we have the SRT that is going to be decommissioned by the end of the year. I will make sure that until the dedicated bus route is built, those fares on the SRT replacement buses are going to be reduced by $2 [and] the same thing on the Queen streetcars because of the Ontario line construction. I am also committed to ensuring that the Eglinton East LRT going through the University of Toronto campus gets built, and the waterfront LRT, which is close to George Brown College [gets built]. These are two projects that need to get built. Those are my priorities on the expansion, as well as working with the province on the $30 billion transit expansion projects that we have currently [underway] in the city.

How does your background and experience prepare you for the responsibilities of being the mayor of Canada’s largest city?

Bailão: I come with different experiences. First, my life experience is important. As an immigrant woman from a working-class family, I think it is important to bring that perspective. I will be bringing that to the table. [With] my experience as a city councillor and Deputy Mayor, I know how City Hall works. I have a track record of working with counselors to deliver many projects. That is why I have five councillors publicly endorsing me as the best candidate for mayor. I have a track record of working with other orders of government, which is very important in order to build transit, build housing, but to also deal with the fiscal situation of the city. We need a mayor that is going to stand up for the city [and] that is not going to be an ideological person — [someone who] is not going to be there as the NDP candidate or the Premier’s Puppet — we need somebody that is going to be there for Torontonians. I will be there with my life experience, work experience, support of counselors, [and] my relationships with the provincial and federal government, to stand up for our city. My only interest is the interest of Torontonians.

Bailão adds: 

For me, it was really important to do this interview because the reason why I’m running is to make sure that we have a city of opportunity for every 15-year-old, like when I came to Canada. If students today are struggling to see themselves in the city, our city is at serious risk because we need the students. The students are the future. The youth are the future. That’s how we’re going to attract jobs. That’s how we’re going to attract investment. The social and economic well-being of our city is dependent on making sure that we create a city of opportunity for people like the students that are reading this newspaper can see themselves in the city and want to stay in the city.

Advanced voting runs from June 8-13, with the election date on June 26. Voters can find more information onthe City of Toronto website.

About the Author

By David Clarke

Former Editor

David is in his fourth year, studying English at York University. He has a keen interest in filmmaking, writing, literature, video-editing, and ideas. When he isn’t working on his next project or studying, you can catch him watching film-noirs on Turner Classic Movies.


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