If you are unaware that there have been two ongoing Toronto District School Board (TDSB) by-elections in this city, you could hardly be blamed. You aren’t the only one. The by-elections in TDSB Ward 17 (Don Valley East) and TDSB Ward 20 (Scarborough-Agincourt) have largely managed to fly under the radar in a city that has so recently faced three general elections, a federal by-election, and constant political strife at City Hall between the Mayor and his political adversaries.
The two seats became vacant when Liberals Michael Coteau and Soo Wong were elected during the previous October’s Ontario general election in Don Valley East and Scarborough-Agincourt, respectively. While both have become key members of Premier McGuinty’s Toronto team of MPPs, their old seats at the TDSB have become the focal points of two of the most hotly contested by-elections in the school board's history. Boasting an impressive thirty-one candidates between the two wards; it would be needlessly complicated to break down the platform for each and every single candidate. That said; there are a few who have managed to break ahead of the pack.
In Ward 17, Sam Ghose, who finished third to Michael Coteau in October 2010, is running again. He’s basing his campaign on his experience as a businessman and resident who has raised two children in the ward. Running on a fiscally conservative platform, Ghose is promising to utilize public funds with the express purpose of helping children succeed.
Also running is Ken Lister. His website immediately identifies him as a Liberal partisan who will find common ground with the current trustees in an attempt to deliver the best education for students in Ward 17. Boasting years of experience in government and a long list of endorsements, he has chosen to centre his campaign on special and physical education. He appears to be the ‘one to beat’ here.
Just a little southwest, Ward 20 has managed to mimic the formula put forth by Ward 17; that of a small number of candidates managing to stand up above the crowd. Chief among them is Monica Batac. Attracting far more media attention than any other candidate in either race, Batac is running on her experience as a teacher with the TDSB and a researcher with the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education. She has built her campaign around prioritizing English as a second language education. However, the most interesting piece of her platform may be her commitment to study the feasibility of opening a trilingual school in Toronto.
Batac’s primary competition is Sam Sotiropoulos. He is a former teacher and since 2004 an aide to Jim Karigiannis, the Liberal MP for the corresponding riding. After finishing second to Soo Wong, he is hoping for things to be different this time around. Billing himself as the “technology trustee,” Sotiropoulos is pledging to incorporate further ‘electronic education’ into the TDSB. Achieving this at the school board level may or may not be possible, as curriculums are set by the provincial Ministry of Education.
Whomever you choose to vote for come election day, be sure to vote. Coming off a municipal election in which only 43.65% of eligible voters voted, it is now more important than ever that Torontonians elect the kind of representation that they want to make decisions for them and their children at the school board level. The By-elections have been called for 27 February 2012. To locate your voting facility please visit the following website: http://www.toronto.ca/elections/by-election-2012/tdsb-17-20/index.htm.
[Originally posted at WomensPost.ca]