Doorstep Postings: Ana Bailão, Brad Bradford and Mark Saunders talk about Jewish issues related to running for mayor of Toronto

This is the fifth Toronto mayoral byelection race edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

The CJN conducted 10-minute interviews with these three frontrunners in the race to become Toronto’s next mayor. We asked them to introduce themselves to the Jewish community and share their vision of the future—for us and for everyone.

Ana Bailão: “Worker’s issues are something I’m very comfortable with. I lived those issues, as an immigrant woman from a working-class background.”

The former deputy mayor and three-term councillor for the riding of Davenport is tuned into that neighbourhood’s Jewish past. She talks about how the Little Portugal BIA wants to paint a mural of Aristides De Sousa Mendes, one of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among The Nations.

He was a Portuguese diplomat to France who lost his job and fell into poverty for issuing transit visas to 10,000 French Jews during the Nazi occupation. 

“We need to teach the younger ones about standing up and talking about the Holocaust so that it never happens again,” says Bailão. “Talking about De Sousa Mendes is a great way to bring the two communities together.”

Bailão believes that her personality will make a difference in working with other levels of government: “As the director for Toronto at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, I spent a lot of time getting funding from the province and capital from the federal government. It’s time for the province to step up and bring back services and reverse cuts so we come back from the pandemic in a better position.”

Chief among her ideas for taking a load off the city’s shoulders is for the province to take responsibility for the Gardiner and the DVP. “No other municipality pays for the highways that run through,” she says. “Fifty percent of the cars on those roads have people riding in them that are not from Toronto.”

Bailão also wants to ensure that the TTC is safe, convenient and reliable, making sure that services have value, and continuing to deliver on housing. She’s also promised cellphone service on all subway trains.

Bailão also racked up multiple union endorsements in these early days of the campaign, including Local 75—which represents hotel, food service and gaming workers—the Toronto Carpenters’ Union Local 27, and CUPE Local 79, which represents City of Toronto employees. While petitions have circulated amongst some of the rank-and-file to rescind their support, she says their backing remains sturdy.

“Unions believe in the plan that we have, and they want to get started building housing and making life more affordable,” she says. “Although my mother was not a union member, my father was a proud member of a construction union for many years.”

“I’m somebody who stands with and stands up for the community,” she adds. “We’re very well aware of the hatred that still exists, which was made clear at the recent moving ceremony for Yom ha-Shoah at Holy Blossom Temple.”

Brad Bradford: “The city is at a breaking point. Endless debate, deferral and delay is holding us back. I’m someone who will be a strong mayor of action, working for everyone who wants to make this city home.”

The current Beaches- East York city councillor is an urban planner by trade—and he’s also now raising a young family. 

“I’ve been working with the Jewish community on issues from Holocaust education and antisemitism, to allyship between Israel and Toronto and calling out hate,” he says. “I believe that gridlock in the city is an issue for everyone, and no matter which community you come from the most expensive bill is rent and mortgage. We’ve talked endlessly about housing but have made no progress, and people from every walk of life have told me that the city has never been less affordable.”

Bradford pledges to appoint a congestion relief commissioner to unlock gridlock and coordinate infrastructure projects. He’s also committed to a trip to Israel when he becomes mayor. Recently, he participated in the flag-raising ceremony to celebrate Israel’s 75th birthday.

“Toronto still has a lot of work to do, like a lot of big cities that have challenges with discrimination, antisemitism and hate. I believe the rhetoric we heard at the Al-Quds Day Parade must be called out unequivocally.”

When asked about his stand on antisemitism at public schools, Bradford praised provincial updates to the curriculum.

“I visited the Holocaust museum that is being built and spent close to two hours there. I understood that we need to have conversations with our children at a younger age, and involve storytelling and studying artifacts from survivors. We need our children to understand the context of what happened during the Holocaust; if we don’t understand it we are doomed to repeat.

“Luckily, we expect that there will be effective supports in the new curriculum, and that the Holocaust will not be a footnote.” 

Mark Saunders: “When I was part of the Major City Chiefs Association, they would tell me to never normalize crime and never normalize disorder. That’s the primary reason I entered the race, because we are at a turning point.”

While never previously elected to office, the former Toronto police chief believes he’ll be able to work more constructively than career politicians. “I spent a lot of time at city hall, presenting on the budget to the councillors and talking with them directly. As the person responsible for the largest agency in the city, that speaks to my leadership.”

Saunders says he has been listening carefully to representatives of the community during the campaign. “I was proud to participate in the Compassion to Action tour organized by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, and rode on the Tour For Humanity recreational vehicle. I’ll be sure to visit the new Toronto Holocaust Museum when it opens.”

“I will always support those who are being victimized. We need a leader who truly understands, through action. That’s what Canada is about and that’s what Toronto is about.”

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.