Protesters at a downtown rally for tenants right are hoping this Thursday's provincial election will bring change to what they see as a bleak situation for Toronto's tenants.
A few dozen protesters gathered Monday afternoon in front of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in Toronto for the global celebration of tenants rights.The rally wrapped up a month-long campaign to raise awareness about issues faced by Toronto tenants.
Many of the protesters see the upcoming provincial election as an opportunity for change. “Tenants make up one third of the houses in Ontario and the misconception is that tenants don't vote,” said Yutaka Dirks, an advocacy and outreach coordinator for the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (A.C.T.O.). “That is obviously not true. Politicians have the perception that we don't vote based on our concern for housing and we should make a more political stance than we do.”
Josephine Grey, a speaker at the event and the Founding Director of Low Income Families Together (L.I.F.T.) echoed the importance of the election. “We really need to push to bring a party into power that will fight for our human right for housing,” she said. “There is no excuse for anyone to be living in some of the conditions that they are forced to live in. Let's try to return to the days when housing was a serious priority for politicians.”
Michael Shapcott, the director of housing and innovation at the Wellesley Institute said Torontonians should see the election as an opportunity. “Things are bad now and things are going to get worse,” he said. “But we want to be hopeful as well as home-full. We have some hope in moving forward with the coming provincial election.”
Geordie Dent, executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations (F.M.T.A.) said although the day has been observed internationally for 25 years, this is the first time Toronto has participated.
“It's a day to try to bring attention to tenant rights in both Ontario and Toronto,” he said. “F.M.T.A. wants to focus specifically on three things: rent, repairs, and bedbugs.”
Dent said the vacancy rate in Toronto is 1.6 per cent while the norm for the rest of Canada is around three to four per cent.
“Toronto is beginning to be like Vancouver when it comes to a lack of vacancy,” he said. “I used to live there and I remember when I was looking for a place to live, I would show up and there would already be ten people there, money in hand, ready to sign on the dotted line.”
Dent also said that they hope to contain the recent outbreak of bedbugs in the city. “We feel there should be a war declared on the little vampires, and until there is the problem will only get worse,” he said. “The funding in place now is just a drop in the bucket of what's needed.”
James Wood, 72, decided to participate to represent seniors on fixed-incomes. “I'm angry at the injustice of it,” he said. “I'm pissed off that politicians don't give a damn about seniors on fixed incomes. Nobody is speaking for seniors -- it hasn’t been mentioned at all in the election campaigns.”