Doorstep Postings: Gord Cohen is the candidate who believes being Toronto’s mayor doesn’t need to be so complicated

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

“If it was a normal mayoral race, I wouldn’t have stepped in. It would have been a million-dollar, months-long race. But right now, there’s no frontrunner. Just a lot of people wishing.”

Gord Cohen, a 61-year-old married father of two boys, with a background in the investment side of real estate, isn’t impressed with the candidates whose names you might’ve heard, so he’s staking his claim to the Toronto mayoralty from his home base at Don Mills and Finch.

And while he doesn’t have any prior political experience—let alone heroes—he says he can bring 35 years of workplace wisdom to the job, not to mention what he’s learned in five years of volunteering with the Bob Rumball Centre For The Deaf.

His main priority? Running the city like a business. 

“All the platforms sound the same,” says Cohen. “A lot of beautiful promises that won’t be done. I’m more interested in the things you can do today, not years from now. You need to come up with things that are workable, and the voters don’t trust anybody because they don’t go to the community and see what they can get done now.

“This is a great city with great people, but all everyone wants to do is complain. Nobody wants to talk about how great Toronto is.”

Cohen points to the debate over moving the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place and the aspirations to build a spa on the waterfront.

“Fixing the Science Centre will take at least three years, maybe longer. Right now, they want to build 5000 units of social housing. That’s not going to get done now. Why are we building with land that other people own? The city already owns plenty of land, and we should be finding buildings that we can retool into residential areas. There are plenty of old office buildings that can be converted into housing.”

Cohen also wants to help with credentialing of health care professionals from abroad, and building more capacity into the system. “Each one of the city’s boroughs has a chance to work with a private centre, with mini walk-in clinics, and we should also be increasing the number of immigrants coming into the system and helping doctors and nurses get set up. We don’t need public funding, as the private sectors can easily fund these clinics.”

However, he believes that safety concerns on public transit have been overblown. “There are 60 million riders a year and about 5,000 police officers in the city. Even with that ratio we do have a pretty safe TTC, and I’m not sure if we need a solution because from what I see, things are not that bad.”

The first-time candidate says Toronto mayoral byelection voters will have to wait for a more in-depth platform or a website. “I believe that if you can’t do something right, don’t put it out there,” he says. “I do hope to do more media appearances, but participating in the press conferences at Ontario Place isn’t a good use of time because it doesn’t do anything for the city. I hope to be at the UJA Walk with Israel and connect with people there.”

Cohen also credits his Jewish heritage and his parents and grandparents with teaching him to be kind. “I always looked up to my father, who’s been gone for 12 years now. If anyone was my hero, he was. I can remember a story that I’ve known since I was 12, where a father and his son are walking along the beach and they see thousands of starfish on the sand. The father picks up one starfish and throws it into the ocean, and the son says, ‘Dad, why did you throw the starfish into the ocean? What difference does it make?’ And the father says, ‘It made a difference to the starfish.’

“And if I can make anything in life, I can make a difference. That’s my motto.”

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