“Heritage Matters” Mayoral Debate


Our “Heritage Matters” Mayoral Candidates Debate was held on August 21, 2014 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm at The Cathedral Centre behind St. James Cathedral. It was a well-attended event, with over 280 people in the audience and almost 300 unique Twitter users getting in on the conversation via #HTdebate.

At the event, we issued a survey asking people if the debate had changed their mind on who to vote for. With a response rate of 56%, we found that almost a quarter (22%) had changed their minds on who to vote for as a result of the debate.

Video courtesy of Peter Mykusz on Vimeo.

We’d like to thank the three candidates who participated (Olivia Chow, David Soknacki, John Tory) and our moderator (Nicole Swerhun, Principal at Swerhun Facilitation). We’d also like to thank our State of Heritage Report Sponsor, McLean Foundation, and our Project Partner, Toronto Historical Association.

This debate will help inform Heritage Toronto’s / Toronto Historical Association’s “State of Heritage Report” coming in early 2015.

To see the formal list of questions that were asked of the candidates at at the debate, click here.

1) Meaning and value of heritage
Asked by Moderator Nicole Swerhun.

Talk to us about what you think the heritage of the City of Toronto means to the citizens of this city. What about to you? What is your assessment of how well the City has done in conserving it?

2) Resources dedicated to preserving City’s heritage
Asked on behalf of Heritage Toronto by Richard Longley, President of Architectural Conservancy Ontario, and co-founder of the first phase of Harbord Village Heritage Conservation District.

Many of our City’s heritage properties and landscapes are unprotected, and it can take years for the City to deal with requests for protection. Meanwhile heritage resources are threatened and lost. Should you be elected, what would your administration do to make sure heritage sites can be evaluated and protected in a time-sensitive manner.

3) Political Accountability
Asked on behalf of Heritage Toronto by Gee Chung, President of the Greater Yorkville Residents’ Association.

How do you value cultural heritage conservation among other competing planning goals? When making decisions about property developments that involve heritage resources, our elected politicians are often forced to consider the conservation of cultural heritage resources alongside other planning goals like increased density, accessibility, and employment. Where does cultural heritage conservation sit on your list of planning goals?

4) The OMB
Asked on behalf of Heritage Toronto by Edith Geduld, a Director of the North York Historical Society, and Past-chair, North York Community Preservation Panel.

Many citizens of Toronto who pay attention to the planning process have long been frustrated by the ability of the Ontario Municipal Board’s appointed members to overrule the City of Toronto’s elected representatives on planning matters. The OMB can approve developments that can disregard this city’s cultural heritage, among other matters. If the OMB were to be removed, what alternative would be the best model for appeals to demolition and removal of our cultural heritage resources?

5) Telling Toronto’s story of diversity
Asked on behalf of Heritage Toronto by Claudio Ruiz, Executive Director of the Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples.

Toronto has an incredibly rich history of diversity. That diversity is a hallmark of our identity, but the contributions of many cultural groups to this city’s heritage are often poorly understood. What would you do to change this?

6) City of Toronto Museum
Asked by Moderator Nicole Swerhun.

At the last Mayoral Debate in 2010, we asked this question. We’ll ask it again. The City of Toronto has wonderful museums operated by the City, ranging in size from Fort York to Gibson House. Among cities that rank on an international scale, however, we are embarrassingly without one museum that tells our entire story. Would the establishment and ongoing support for a City of Toronto Museum be a priority if you were to be elected mayor?

7) Archaeology
Asked on behalf of Heritage Toronto by Annie Veilleux, Cultural Heritage Specialist, Archaeological Services Inc.

With all of the digging currently underway in our booming city, Torontonians have become increasingly aware of the vast archaeological resources that lie just below the soil. As it now stands, there is no public repository for those artifacts – they are held by the individual archaeologists in public trust. Amendments to heritage policies in the Official Plan call for the creation of a City of Toronto repository to collect and protect these artifacts, and for better use of these remnants of our past for education. What is your response to these new policies?

8) Natural Heritage and sustainability
Asked by Moderator Nicole Swerhun.

Can you comment on the importance of our city’s natural heritage, and what in particular you might wish to do to protect and enhance it? When we think of heritage in this city, we might not always think of natural heritage – the heritage trees and natural ecosystems in our parks, ravines, and rivers. How important is natural heritage on the grand scale of the City of Toronto, and does it have a place in your platform?


To see the top four questions submitted by those who were in attendance at the event and those who tweeted us on Twitter via #HTdebate, click here.

These had been put forth to all mayoral candidates via email and we planned to post answers from those who responded in early September but have not yet received any responses from any of the candidates.

1.  Some owners of designated heritage properties struggle to maintain them and, in some cases, choose not to. What do you think the City should do to ensure owners of heritage properties invest in adequate maintenance?

2.  With the rapid conversion of employment lands to other uses, how will you work to preserve Toronto’s industrial heritage?

3.  How are fragile cultural neighbourhoods (i.e. Kensington Market, Harbord Village) going to be preserved in face of development?

4.  Cultural organizations are the backbone of Toronto’s diversity. How would your administration support their work?

Stay tuned – answers from mayoral candidates to these four questions will be posted in early September!


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