Five to Watch • Bringing New Voices to City Hall

While Toronto’s mayoralty race continues to heat up, I thought I’d bring your attention back to the neighbourhood level for a moment.  Don’t forget there are 45 votes on Council, and the Mayor only gets one.

Here’s a list of five candidates to watch. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s a quick look at some of the most inspiring new faces we’re going to see in this election.

I have a lot of friends running (or considering a run) who would each make a great City Councillor in their own way.  Over the next few months, you’ll be sure to see more on my blog about people like Susan Gapka, HiMY SYeD, Chris Tindal, Michael Layton, Josh Matlow, John Laforet, and a whole bunch of others.

But I’ve chosen to highlight these five today, because I think they’re in the best position to bring new progressive voices into City Hall and to help erode the disturbing gender imblance and cultural imbalance we currently have on Council.

Kristyn Wong-Tam, Neethan Shan, Hema Vyas, Mohamed Dhanani & Karen Sun

Kristyn Wong-Tam, a well-known community organizer, is rumoured to be running in Ward 27 to replace Kyle Rae who is not running for re-election. She’s a long-time art collector, social entrepreneur and Realtor and was an appointed advisor to Mayor David Miller. Kristyn is a former Board Member and Past President of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter.  She volunteers at the Triangle Program at Oasis Alternative Secondary School, and sits on the boards of the University of Toronto Art Centre, the Toronto Workforce Innovation Group, Church Wellesley Village BIA & the Toronto Women City Alliance.

Neethan Shan (website), a long time community activist and a public school trustee, is running in Ward 42 (currently occupied by incumbent Raymond Cho). He works as the Executive Director of Council of Agencies Serving South Asians. He’s worked in Scarborough for the past ten years in a variety of including education, children and youth work, employment, immigration and poverty reduction. He helped start and implement after-school programs in over twenty schools in Scarborough. The current City Council does not have any South Asian Councillors amongst the 44 seats. If elected, Neethan would also be the first Tamil to be elected to the Toronto City Council.

Hema Vyas (website) is running in Ward 18, to replace the seat left vacant by Adam Giambrone.  Hema works as a program evaluator at Queen’s Park, and advises on provincial policy in regards to program effectiveness in the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities. Hema’s has cross-sectoral experience in Canada, Japan and India.  She designed and implemented English as a Second Language programs for youth in Japan and raised funds to do research in India so that she could understand how financial literacy education affects budget decisions in the household. She is Past President of the June Callwood Centre for Women and Families. She also serves as Community Representative on the Programs and Services Committee at Culturelink.

Mohamed Dhanani ran in Ward 26 in the last election, and is rumoured to be taking another run.  The incumbent, John Parker, won the election with only 20%, with Dhanani coming in a close second. An immigrant raised by a single mother, Dhanani started out as a youth in Flemingdon Park and is now a businessman, consultant and policy advisor currently serving as Senior Strategy Advisor to the Deputy Premier of Ontario. Dhamani served as the chair of the Toronto Central LHIN, responsible for a $4 billion budget, and also as a board member of the Flemingdon Food Bank.

Please share your thoughts and comments below!

Karen Sun is a candidate in Trinity Spadina Ward 19, the seat vacated by Joe Pantalone. Karen is an environmental and social activist, currently working as the Executive Director of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter. She also currently sits on the boards of Heritage Toronto, the Working Women Community Centre, the Conservation Council of Ontario and the Chinese Interagency Network. Karen has worked extensively in the environmental sector, including stints at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and City of Toronto in Urban Forestry. She was also a member of Mayor Miller’s Roundtable on the Environment.


21 responses to “Five to Watch • Bringing New Voices to City Hall

  1. Great to finally see mention of the city council elections!
    I’m thrilled these 5 people are throwing their names on the ballot. Other than the fact that they would bring some colour (hehe, literally :p) into a council that is predominately white and male, their credentials and background are impressive.

    I remember that Dave in the past had some stats up on what percentage of the current council is female and what percentage is a visible minority. If only i could find it…

  2. Mohamed Dhanani’s a sound bloke. Worked with him while he was at Energy & Infrastructure. I’d vote for him

    I’d be really interested to hear what you have to say about Laforet, tho’ …

  3. Pingback: Meslin Lists 5 Candidates To Watch | Toronto Election News

  4. Great to see more women and racial minorities have a seat in city hall!!
    Their impressive accomplishments and devotion to the community are sure an inspiration to all =)

  5. WOW…that would be amazing to see Kristyn run!!

  6. I’m so pleased to see so many women of colour rumoured to be running in this election. I’ve known Kristyn Wong-Tam for many years. She’s been a tireless activist for many important community causes as well as a business leader.

  7. @whaler: In 2006, City Council went from 14 women councillors down to 10. Councillors of Colour, my preferred term, remained flatlined at 2 and half or 3 and half depending on your worldview: Cllrs Cho, Thompson, DMW, you can figure out the last one.

    Scarborough has zero women Councillors.

    Yet Scarborough has councillors of colour.

    HiMY SYeD

  8. Given the diversity of the GTA,it’s about time we have folks who reflect where we’re “growing” in City Hall.If[rumoured]council candidates like Kristyn Wong-Tam do run,our GTA has a chance to benefit from”The End Bureacracy and The Rise of the Intelligent Organization,”Pinchot.

  9. Suburbanites seem willing to elect councillors of colour, no? What’s up with that? Nice to see several people of colour as candidates and rumoured candidates in Toronto. I don’t know most of the candidates, but Kristyn has been a tireless worker for numerous social-justice issues in the city and beyond.

  10. Kristyn Wong-Tam, is an ideal canidate for the Ward, her business expereince and community leadership is exactly what City Council needs. Krystyn will ensure that business owners, women, youth and the marginalized across the city are positively affected by council policies. It’s about time we have such a talent individual on council.

  11. Thanks for shining your spotlight on Mohamed.

    If Torontonians had Instant Run-off Voting, Mohamed would most likely be the Councillor right now and he would be doing a great job.

    However, I think Mohamed and the voters in Ward 26 are ready to do it the old-fashioned way, this time.

  12. Its time to rid Ward 26 of John Parker. He has done nothing for the people of Leaside, Thorncliffe, Flemigdon or Wynford.

    Mohamed Dhanani is a bright young light that deserves my vote. Let’s send him to City Hall on October 25.

  13. 2010 will be an intresting year for us all. Diversity would be the way to go. We need a City / Council that represents the face of Toronto and these 5 are doing a great service to ensure that we are on our way!

  14. Karen Sun looks a little like Kristen Lucas. Just sayin’

  15. I hope we get a council that is both progressive and diverse. Thank you for highlighting these excellent candidates. These candidates will truly change the face of Toronto Council and our City.

  16. I am so excited to see so many people of colour running who have demonstated a passion and interest in in building communities! Of all these candidates, I am compelled to write about Kristyn Wong-Tam. Wong-Tam is formidible candidate. I have known her for 20 years. She was the kind face in an unfamiliar crowd for me when I was first coming out. Over the years, I have witnessed her entrepreneurial drive and determination. She has encountered challenges and succeeded in achieving her goals in a manner I have rarely seen before. She possesses true leadership skills: a good listener, high energy, unwavering commitment, love and compassion, sound insight, strength and assertiveness and the rare but sound integrity desperately needed in our current political arenas. Wong-Tam can bring vested communities together in Ward 27, She has been involved in residential communities like St. Jamestown, ran a business in the Church Street business area, has been a member and supporter of the 519 Community Centre, volunteer in TDSB school communities, has been recognized by her work and fundraising on social issues affecting youth, racialized communities in the GTA, including her own CCNC work, support and love of the arts, her work with the diverse LGBTTTIQQ communities, and also the Ryerson campus community. As a real estate broker, office manager and business woman, Wong-Tam is familiar with the needs and interests of small businesses and the residents of Rosedale. Underscoring these strengths and experiences is Wong-Tam’s strong sense of equity and social justice. I encourage people to meet her and vote for her. She is a remarkable woman!

  17. There is also a very new, intresting, passionate and smart candidate running for City Council for Ward 43. Samuel Getachew is running against Paul Aislie and spoke to him at a DiverCity event and he was very impressive to say the least. It would be nice to have him at City Hall – he is one to watch as well!!

    It’s all hunky dory for those of you who know Mohamed Dhanani superficially or through work to support him. Have you ever paused to question why a management consultant would own a pharmacy out in Logan Lake B.C. and refer to it as ‘his own successfully run business ‘ on his website ( Well it so happens that he was married to a pharmacist whom he convinced should leave the comfort of Toronto to toil over a pharmacy business in rural B.C. in order to ensure their financial stability whilst he was out and about committing countless incidents of adultery in the name of ‘business trips’. Over 9 yrs of dishonesty with no remorse or apologies! He quotes on his website ‘with the support of loans and scholarchips I studied at…’ – yet another lie. A major part of his funding was from his ex-inlaws….and the list goes on. Voters, be critical about your candidates and ask them the tough questions so that you get to know them for who they truly are and not for the sugar coated lies on their websites and CVs. Don’t be naive to beleive that the lack of ethical values in one’s personal life will not translate to the political scene in which there is even more room to play surreptitiously. A man who breaks promises at home cannot make promises to build our city.

  19. Sophia, you obviously know Mohamed better than anyone else who is posting here. I always thought the pharmacy thing was a bit strange. His website makes it look like he came right back to Flemingdon after Yale to “serve the people of Ontario”. Another misrepresentation as he was out west before returning to Flemo. Then he got a plum appointment to the LHIN thanks to his Liberal connections. And then Smitherman puts him in a Senior Policy Advisor position in his political office on the energy file when he has no absolutely no background in energy or experience in political office! Would love to hear more and chat with you. Email me.

  20. I never thought I would be writing all this because I like to live and let live but it has really saddened me to see that Mohamed continues to lie to Torontonians!

    …He says on his website ‘I have a solid track record of success in both the private and public sectors. From working at Pricewater Coopers….” Guess why he left PWC? He was fired for incompetency. I can’t quite remember the year but I think it was late nineties/early 2000s. So much for success in that sector!

    After grad school he lived in Pakistan and Toronto. He then moved to B.C because he and his ex-wife had purchased a pharmacy. Whilst out there, he had to look for a job and ended up working for the Interior Health
    Authority in B.C. I beleive they lived in B.C for several years. He obviously chose not to mention any of these places on his website

    ‘We live in Don Valley West’ he says on his website. Has anyone questionsed where and since when? To my knowledge he was living in East York at 50 Holborne Av until late last year. How timely and convenient the move to Don Valley West!

    When he joined the central LHIN, many espressed their dissatisfaction with his appointmnet. Anyway, he gets chummy with Smitherman and decides to move to join him. It all sounds rather fishy and I don’t trust either especially with regards to the electronic health record scandal.

    Onto his social work….Why do you think Mohamed decides to organise his first ever Rhamadhan food drive last fall? Yup, he needs the Muslim vote in Ward 26 especially from those who supported Abdul Ingar the last time. I know I sound harsh with this last one but this man has given me every reason to be suspicious and I’m not going to let him pull a fast one on us!

    For all you journalists reporting on the elections (and that includes you Mes), please don’t forget what a heavy burden you carry. It is on your word that many will choose their candidates so NEVER compromise the truth! Never sign off on a report unless you can answer ‘yes’ to the following question. ‘ If anyone were to question the credibility of my facts, can I prove them other than through the candidate’s (and his team’s) sources?”

  21. Sounds like you’ve known him for a long time!

    His food bank activities seem to have increased in 2009, probably because he was planning to run for municipal office. I heard that that the food bank almost closed last year and some people think that if he hadn’t been planning this run for office, the Sunni and Ismaili communities would not have propped it up. He sure gets a lot of media coverage (particularly in the Town Crier) for his food bank activities and his so-called “community activisim”. I couldn’t agree with you more that the journalists and bloggers who are covering the municipal election need to check the facts more. Being “diverse” does not necessarily mean qualified.

    He may live in Don Valley West but I hear that he doesn’t live in Ward 26.

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