If they had a million dollars

If they had a million dollars

In an effort to get something better than the usual promises and platitudes from the current crop of mayoral candidates, we decided to pose a hypothetical situation. In an ideal world where all of Toronto’s most pressing problems—transit, housing and infrastructure, mainly—had already been solved and required no further attention, what would Olivia Chow, Rob Ford, David Soknacki, Karen Stintz and John Tory do with a million dollars? They could spend this hypothetical million on anything they desired for the city, but they would have to use the full amount. Here’s what they told us.

David Soknacki would develop an “innovation delivery unit.” During a phone interview, he said:

“I would hire a small core team of people who have built up entrepreneurial businesses outside of city hall. I would bring them into a structure in the mayor’s office. Their goal would be to see how we, as both a city organization and as a city, can best foster an entrepreneurial and innovative climate. They would look for bottlenecks, look for strengths, look for ways to make the bringing forward of new ideas easier—both inside the city and in our public ecosystem. It’s critical, because not only is there the human tendency to live in silos, but now we’ve added layers of accountability and paperwork and administration. I want people to feel they can innovate.”

The Score:

Achievability for a Million Dollars or Less: 10/10
Ambitiousness: 10/10
Creativity: 9/10
Overall Beneficence: 7/10


Olivia Chow would give kids things to do after school. In an email, she writes:

“I’d put [the million dollars] to after-school recreation programs for kids. I helped create this program when on city council and it’s a proven, cost-effective way to help working parents and help keep kids out of trouble. While it’s not a ‘fantasy’ expenditure, it would make a real difference for many families. I also think we can do more to beautify our city through public art. I have proposed setting up a Mayor’s Foundation for Public Art which would raise funds from citizens and companies to commission pieces to be donated to the city. It’s modelled on one in Wellington, New Zealand, and would be a worthy recipient of private funds.”

The Score:

Achievability for a Million Dollars or Less: 7/10
Family Friendliess: 8/10
Creativity: 5/10
Overall Beneficence: 6/10


Karen Stintz would invest in parks and mentorship. She writes:

“As mayor, two of my key priorities will be ensuring that all of our neighbourhoods have access to high-quality parks and green space, and helping our at-risk neighbourhoods develop a new class of entrepreneurs. I would use the $1 million to upgrade parks in areas that would not otherwise benefit from private-sector development funds, and improve mentorship programs in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas.”

The Score:

Achievability for a Million Dollars or Less: 4/10
Community-Building Potential: 5/10
Creativity: 4/10
Overall Beneficence: 6/10


John Tory would also spend the money on parks, and on programs for getting people more involved in them. He writes:

“Challenge the non-governmental sector in different parts of the city to match the million dollars and make the greatest impact. Then build on our city’s strong foundation of public funding for parks and target the ten most ‘in need’ spaces and refurbish them with top-notch play spaces, athletic facilities and community programs. Also, implement programs that will get communities involved in maintaining, greening and making the most of their local parks. A shining example of these types of programs is Black Creek Community Farm, where the community has planted and maintained more than 40 kinds of vegetable plots that provide fresh food to hundreds of Jane and Finch residents.”

The Score:

Achievability for a Million Dollars or Less: 6/10
Community-Building Potential: 8/10
Creativity: 4/10
Overall Beneficence: 7/10


And Rob Ford would place the money in a reserve fund, and also thinks the premise of our question is misguided. He writes:

“This question shows a fundamental error in thinking that my opponents, and many on council, continue to show. ‘Pet Projects’ have cost the taxpayers of Toronto millions upon millions of hard-earned tax dollars. Any time we manage to save money, people are lining up with ideas on how they can spend it elsewhere on novel ideas. The City of Toronto has a number of pressing problems, and I don’t believe there is any ‘magic bullet’ that can eliminate all of them in the near future. This $1 million should be allocated as per the city’s surplus policy. 75 per cent should go to the reserve fund to finance capital projects, with the remainder going to other underfunded liabilities, and/or reserve funds.”

The Score:

Achievability for a Million Dollars or Less: 10/10
Fordiness: 10/10
Creativity: 0/10
Overall Beneficence: 2/10

(Images: Stintz: Karen Stintz/Facebook; Tory: John Tory/Facebook; Chow: Olivia Chow/Facebook; Ford: Christopher Drost; Soknacki: David Soknacki/Facebook)