NDP Candidate Craig Scott shares his vision for Toronto-Danforthby Vanessa Pinto
Update: February 6, 2012: The by-election date has been moved to March 19.
It has been nearly six months since Jack Layton’s passing, and the Toronto-Danforth riding is in need of a new MP. According to by-law, the Government of Canada has six months to call a by-election. With the six-month mark fast approaching, the New Democratic Party has already chosen their party candidate, Craig Scott. On the Danforth was fortunate enough to interview Scott, an Osgoode Hall Law Professor, who considers himself an activist and a fighter, whose teaching philosophy informs his politics. “You are always learning. When you learn that, what you can give back is going to be more informed and more connected,” says Scott.
OTD: Could you tell On the Danforth readers a little about your political life?
CS: My political life has essentially been one of an activist citizen, so I’ve interacted with legislative and policy processes almost all my working life.
OTD: What is the one thing that stands out for you about the Danforth neighbourhood? Or Toronto-Danforth as a whole?
CS: The Danforth neighbourhood is the spine in many respects of the riding, but I think of Toronto-Danforth as a community of diverse communities. We have to remember that it has quite a disparity in incomes and life experiences, and is not at all uniform. There are great variations in this riding that make it quite important, almost a microcosm for how to think about a range of issues that affect the country as a whole. I’m really excited to potentially be the MP of a riding with so much energy at the activist level, the arts and cultural level, and the culinary level. It’s one of the most amazing ridings anywhere, when you go from East Chinatown to Little India, to a range of different places along the Danforth involving North East African Ethiopian. It’s quite an amazing place —the culinary side of the riding might not be easily matched anywhere else in the city. Greektown is in some respects an important anchor, and it is important to the extent that the Danforth is part of the identity of the riding, but the riding is so much more than that.
OTD: If you were elected, what is one thing you would change to benefit the riding? Or would you implement an initiative to benefit the riding?
CS: A top priority will be to continue the work Jack started, but also to work as seamlessly as possible with the MPP Peter Tabuns, and Councillors Mary Fragedakis and Paula Fletcher on seeing whether or not we can make some fairly serious strides on child care. It’s a bigger issue than just the riding — it’s a city-wide, even a country-wide, issue. There are so many extensions of the problem — everything from equality issues around the fact that generally it’s women who bear the brunt of child care and the lack thereof, but also just productivity. Toronto can’t be complacent about how it could start falling behind if certain parts of it become unliveable. The lack of child care facilities and/or the ridiculous waiting times, especially for younger families that are moving into certain neighbourhoods in Toronto-Danforth, I think has to be taken really seriously. That’s right at the top of the agenda.
OTD: What is your vision for Toronto-Danforth?
CS: My vision would be to somehow continue what was implicitly the case: that it’s a vibrant cosmopolitan riding within a vibrant cosmopolitan city. I would like to see the riding as a bit of a knowledge hub. I would love to find ways where the riding could take on a bit of that role as being a place where people think not just of things that impact their lives immediately around them, but also thinking about and contributing to broader debates. I have some ideas about how to do that, but the idea of it being a knowledge hub from which ideas radiate, that can benefit the entire country.
OTD: Is there a part of Jack Layton’s legacy that you want to carry forward?
CS: I think the part of his legacy that I want to carry forward is Jack’s character. I’m a different person, but the values he summarized of love, hope and optimism — I very much believe in — they tap into something else, which is being a fighter for social justice and for what’s right. I think there may be a tendency to remember Jack for that amazingly moving letter that reached out to all Canadians and asked people to think about working together, and that’s very much a part of my own character. But I’m also a bit of a fighter, and values like love, hope and optimism aren’t self-fulfilling. You often have to fight against things in order for love, hope and optimism to find their proper space in society. I would like to be able to follow the legacy of Jack being the optimist who was also a fighter.
Disclaimer: On the Danforth Online is a neutral magazine, dedicated to providing information. The political views mentioned or discussed do not reflect the opinions or preferences of the staff or the magazine as a whole.