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Ward 27 candidates canvass for student votes

Wong-Tam says students more engaged in 2014 than in 2010

Benjamin Dichter, city council candidate for Ward 27, canvasses for votes outside Ryerson’s Pitman Hall residence. Credit: HG Watson

Every vote counts in Ward 27 — even the youngest ones.

On Sept 16, three local city council candidates — Benjamin Dichter, Megan McIver and incumbent Kristyn Wong-Tam — camped out at Ryerson University’s Pitman Hall residence, trying to catch students to chat with as they made their way out of a nearby dining hall.

There’s a decidedly different vibe among young voters this year, Wong-Tam says. When she canvassed through Ryerson in 2010, students were aware that there was an election but weren’t sure if they would vote. “There’s more students that are now more engaged,” she says. “They recognize that this is a very important municipal election.”

Mobilizing Active Political Students (MAPS), which was responsible for the event, have been organizing candidate meet-and-greets for students since the new school year began.

“As students there are not enough open spaces for us to just get involved and to actually have that one-on-one time with councillors or politicians in general,” says Carly Bowie, one of the executive members of MAPS.

And for the candidates, it was also a chance to get to know what students want for Ward 27. Just over 38,000 students attend Ryerson, and their actions have a significant impact on the ward.

McIver, a former provincial Liberal policy adviser, brought a basket full of Halloween candy to her canvassing table. When asked what issue students were raising the most she said — after taking a beat — transit.

There was also a lot of talk about neighbourhood revitalization. Dichter, an entrepreneur who owns a print shop on Ryerson’s campus, told one passing student that he wants Church Street to have a Miami Beach feel.

Wong-Tam’s canvassing table came complete with renderings for a revitalization of Yonge Street that her office has been working on since 2011. Environmental assessments for the proposed plan could begin as early as 2015, at which point Wong-Tam hopes that more concrete visioning of what Yonge Street will look like will take place.

Dichter says students are most concerned about where they are going to live — he believes there aren’t enough residences on Ryerson’s campus.