Free early-bird transit, longer pedestrian crossings, and low-property taxes were among the solutions offered by mayoral candidates for problems facing the city’s seniors.
Seven candidates, including front-runners John Tory and Olivia Chow, were on hand at city hall Monday to participate in the discussion hosted by the Toronto Seniors’ Forum.
Mayor Rob Ford skipped the event to hold a press conference about his subway-building plans.
Candidate Ari Goldkind called the issues facing seniors primarily a problem of isolation.
“As people get older we must do everything we can as a city to ensure that nobody feels isolated in the communities people have been members of their entire lives,” said Goldkind.
City council approved a comprehensive strategy to make the city friendly for seniors, including ideas big and small from making public transit more accessible and to funding snow-shovelling services.
The strategy was approved in 2013, but the onus is on city agencies and departments to implement the suggestions.
Tory praised city staff for creating the report, but said more work needs to be done.
“The problem isn’t with the quality of the reports, it’s with the follow-up and the implementation of the reports,” he said.
Candidates drew applause for many of their plans.
Chow called for an end to the technological barriers that can sometimes exist when people try to access information on city services and programs.
And David Soknacki called for a committee to address homelessness, including homelessness in senior populations.
The city estimates one in five residents will be over 65 years of age by 2035 and about a quarter of them will live alone.
Goldkind stressed that all Torontonians will one day be affected by the issues facing seniors today.
“We need to understand that this is a moral imperative that we put our money where our mouths are.”
The discussion was calm and inclusive, in contrast to many events during the election campaign.
“I would like to thank the candidates for being so cooperative and well behaved,” said moderator Fiona Nelson in her closing statement.
“I’ve been to candidates meetings that were not and this went in a very orderly fashion.”