Running for the Community
Edward Zaretsky runs for city councillor in Toronto's Ward 10.
For Edward Zaretsky, age makes no difference. That’s why, at the age of 76, he’s decided to run for the position of city councillor, representing Toronto’s Ward 10.
Zaretsky, who grew up in Toronto, has worked in electronics and then became an insurance broker. He has been involved in politics on all levels – municipal, provincial, and federal. He has been involved in volunteer work which has included fundraising for Multiple Sclerosis, and reading stories to patients in palliative care at Baycrest Hospital.
Zaretsky describes himself as feeling like “a young 20” at his age, and he hopes to put his energy and experience towards making Ward 10 a better place.
“I’m tired of my people spending my money and not caring about myself, my wife, my children, the community, the people growing up in the community,” said Zaretsky during a conversation with Shalom Life, when asked why he has decided to run for council. “I’m tired of wasting money. And they [the councillors] don’t return phone calls,” he added.
His philosophy is a very simple one: He believes in getting things done. “I’m driving north on the Allen Expressway, the east side of the Allen which is Ward 10,” he said as an example. “The grass is this high. The weeds are growing like crazy. People get hay fever. It’s ruining the economy, it’s ruining the ecology, it’s ruining everything. Why don’t you cut the grass? There’s not enough people? Hire them! Get them to cut the grass. It’s simple.”
Zaretsky believes in making the city much more accessible for everyone, including bike lanes on major streets and more benches and Wheel Trans vehicles for the elderly. He said that a bike lane already exists on Bathurst Street. “There is a little lane with brown bricks, then there’s grass, then there’s the sidewalk,” he said. “The bricks are the bike path. Nobody knows it’s there. They don’t know what it’s for. It’s not marked, but that’s a bike path. I want to make that bike path visible. Open it up a just a bit wider. Not a big problem. It puts people to work. When you put people to work you’re increasing the economy.”
Even benches, said Zaretsky, can be cheap to put up, since local businesses can sponsor them. “I’m a doer. I’m not a stopper. I would put benches on the street,” he said.
Zaretsky is very good at identifying issues that others may not think about. He brought the bus shelters in the ward as an example. “Some are built backwards. If you’re in a bus shelter that’s facing the street and it’s raining, and a car comes down it can splash you. I want them turned. I want the part that faces the road to be blocked off. Then I want benches put in all of them.”
One of the more important aspects of Zaretsky’s platform is a new program to get children off the street, by having the city working together with parents. “I want to have a twelve month running program for sports and education after hours,” he said. “Parents can know their kid is in a secluded area, that’s managed with no pedophiles, no nothing. And it’s going to be supervised by professional people and parents. They’re going to pay $5 a year per person.”
He is also proposing that professionals in the community, as well as parents who have knowledge in areas such as sports, art, and music give free lectures to children. “I’m going to help kids read and write and if they can’t afford it I’m going to pay for it,” he emphasized.
Zaretsky promises to make Toronto, and specifically Ward 10, a more beautiful and safe place to live, starting with Bell Canada’s street boxes. Once again, his philosophy is simple: “Wherever you go you’ve got those green things on the grass. How many are in good shape? With me they’re going to be in good condition or they’re going to be pulled out. Fix them, or get them out. You don’t destroy my lawns and my city venture.”
He also plans on working to ensure that private properties keep their respective areas safe for others. If, for example, a private property has trees on it which spill out onto the street and block pedestrians from walking, Zaretsky will have the private property division of the City of Toronto get the owners to fix it. If not, he said, the will have the city fix it and put it on the owners’ tax bill. “It takes management, it takes somebody with desire,” he said.
In regards to the Jewish population of Ward 10, Zaretsky believes that Jews can be integrated into society and promises to work to eliminate anti-Semitic behaviour. “People don’t understand Jews. They discriminate. I want to reduce the discrimination of the Jewish population. I want to integrate the Jewish population with the gentile population, so we both know each other and we can both respect each other. Trust only comes from respect.”
He promises to bring in Jewish-related events to the ward, and invite everybody to attend them. “I want to bring in more Jewish presence: The Jewish book festival, the Jewish arts festival, the Ashkenazi festivals, but I want other communities to take part,” he said. “I’m going to hand out free tickets to churches and places like that to come and join. I can’t do anything about education. That’s a provincial matter. But if there’s something that I can do as councillor of Ward 10 to better facilitate the Jewish community I will do it.”
Most importantly, says Zaretsky, he plans on doing things differently than the way things are run right now, and that means better communication with residents. He will do that by opening a constituency office where people could drop by and bring up any issues they have. He promises to answer every phone call and e-mail he receives. Being simple, honest, and respectful is the key.
“I’ve learned from the election process, when I’m talking to you, I’m looking you straight in the eye,” he said, and added: “I’m not a hypocrite. Whatever is good for the community, I will try to implement. Whatever is against community strategy, community programs, I’m against it. I’m not in there for the long haul. I want to be there for one term, two terms, and that’s it. I want to make Ward 10 a model ward that all the other words will emulate.”