Gay lawyer and Jewish advocate Martin Gladstone is throwing his hat into the Toronto city council race as a candidate in Ward 32 Beaches-East York but not, he says, for the reason you might think.
As the creator of Reclaiming Our Pride, a documentary film condemning the parade’s inclusion of protest group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Gladstone led the charge against Pride Toronto, backed by mayoral candidates Rob Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti.
The issue was punted back and forth all summer before Pride Toronto allowed QuAIA to march, resulting in a massive turnout by Jewish advocacy group Kulanu and a new city council directive that Pride funding now be conditional and paid after the fact.
Gladstone decided to run in July, he says, but not so he could vote on Pride funding. “No, no, I’m running on local issues down here,” he insists, feeling that his advocacy on the QuAIA issue can rest.
“I’m optimistic that the community is in a healing phase,” Gladstone says. “I understand that [Pride Toronto] has a few community leaders like Brent Hawkes and Doug Elliott stepping up to the plate, and I’m very confident they’ll find some community-based solutions. I think we all have an interest in making sure our Pride is successful and works for everybody… preserving all the gains we’ve made over the years.”
The lone dissenting vote in the 35-1 city council vote placing caveats on Pride funding was from Ward 32 councillor Sandra Bussin. But again, Gladstone says he’s not running against her because of her politics but because of her attitude.
Without ever referring to Bussin by name, Gladstone explains, “There’s a lot of unhappiness down here with the current councillor. A lot of people are feeling alienated and angry.”
Indeed, Bussin has come under criticism in recent months for her decision to tender a 20-year contract with a Beaches boardwalk restaurant without hearing any other bids (a “fiasco,” says Gladstone) and for her decision to prevent a couple from rebuilding their home to make it wheelchair accessible.
“That’s a classic example of no consultation,” Gladstone says. “The house was not a heritage home. These people had every right — they did their research, they bought the house. It was a huge failing on [Bussin’s] part not to consult with the community.”
In the wake of these Beaches controversies, a planned two-hour “information session” for her constituents on June 3 devolved into a screaming match as residents tore into Bussin. She ended the meeting after only 70 minutes.
“The current councillor seems to be the poster girl for what’s wrong with city hall,” he says. “Waste, high taxes, a democratic deficit, lack of participation from community groups.”
Whether he means it or not, however, Gladstone is sounding a lot like Rob Ford.
“Ford is absolutely right,” says Gladstone. “His message is resonating because voters are angry at the waste. I’m going door-to-door, and I’ve never seen people so angry at the waste and the lack of accountability.”
Calling his Beaches neighbourhood “Church Street East,” Gladstone says, “I’ve lived down here for many years, and I’ve been encouraged by many people to challenge the ‘Queen of the Beach.’ There’s really nobody else down here who’s qualified in law or business or advocacy to challenge this current incumbent.”
But it would be inaccurate, he says, to label him a conservative.
“No, I’m fiscally responsible and socially progressive. Before the Pride advocacy, I worked with the David Suzuki Foundation and I’ve been fighting for environmental stuff for years. I’m a vegetarian, I walk to work — people tend to think of me of leftwing. I don’t think I’m closer to the conservative side, but in the sense that I run my own business and don’t believe in running huge deficits, then that is true.”
Now he’s sounding like Sarah Thompson.
“She’s socially progressive. I can relate to that,” says Gladstone, who won’t be endorsing a mayoral candidate anytime soon. “It’s pretty early in the game and I’m just as torn as everybody else is.”
Despite Ford’s commanding lead in the polls, Gladstone says,”in the last election at this point, Barbara Hall was at 60 percent or something, and she sunk like a stone, so who knows? If I had a crystal ball, I’d tell you,” he laughs.
The point, Gladstone insists, is that Toronto city council is “dysfunctional.”
“Left or right, it will have to function. Do you know we pay more in interest on our city debt than we do to service our fire department?”
He wants better for the Beaches, he says.
“There’s rainbow flags throughout the neighbourhood, we have social get-togethers and it’s beautiful. It’s a great testimonial to how far we’ve come into being accepted by the mainstream.”