Kristyn Wong-Tam, city councillor for Toronto Centre-Rosedale, spoke with The Ryersonian about her re-election, plans for the university and the hate speech that worked its way into her successful campaign. This interview is condensed.
The Ryersonian: Tell our readers about election night. What was it like to have that much support from the residents of your ward?
KWT: I’m incredibly grateful for the support from the residents and business owners in Ward 27. The large plurality for me represents an affirmation that the work my team and I have done over the last four years is supported.
The Ryersonian: What issues will you be championing that will directly affect Ryerson?
KWT: We’re working on the Yonge Street revitalization project, which began in 2011. In the first quarter of 2015 you will see the launch of the environmental assessment on Yonge Street that includes the redesigning of the street. Ryerson is right at the doorstep and is very supportive of creating a superior pedestrian environment and a vibrant downtown. Another priority is the opportunity to create new jobs for students because the youth unemployment rate sits at 22 per cent. It’s a big issue for the city and Ryerson in many ways represents a snapshot of the city because students are coming from all over Toronto. Everyone is dealing with the same issue of finding job prospects after graduation and whether or not the city, and in this case the government, has a role to play and I believe that we do.
The Ryersonian: Ward 27 is the most urbanized ward in the city. How does this present a challenge for you as a councillor?
KWT: Some of those challenges are very interesting because they represent opportunities. Also, we get to foster a new attitude and understanding about what active transportation means. Many of the students that come to Ryerson, including faculty and administration, arrive at their destination by mass transit, walking, or cycling. We are already at the cutting edge and I would describe Ward 27 and the Ryerson population as the early adapters of active transportation.
The Ryersonian: Racial and homophobic remarks were made about you during the race. How did you cope with this?
KWT: I decided not to sweep it under the rug. I felt it was important that we dealt with the issue head on. I’m a racialized person, a woman and I’m also a member of the LGBT community. That puts a pretty large target on my back right away, even before I say a word. In 2010, Toronto was a fantastic place and I believe it remains a fantastic place to live. But over four years of Rob Ford’s administration and the antics that came out of our troubled mayor’s office, I believe he actually gave people permission to be homophobic. (He did this by) refusing to march in the pride parade and by trying to tear down the rainbow flag we raised at City Hall during the Olympic Winter Games out of solidarity for the LGBT athletes.
I know that the words that were said by some of those that were hurling bigoted and hateful comments don’t at all represent the majority of Torontonians, and in no way do I believe they represent Canadian values.
The Ryersonian: Is there anything else you would like to tell the Ryerson community?
KWT: I’m very proud of my relationship with Ryerson University and I look forward to working with the students and faculty over the next four years.
Rachel Surman was a news reporter for The Ryersonian.
She graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 2015.