il Peñalosa is a primary contender in the current mayoral election in Toronto on Monday, October 24.

His history in policy focuses primarily on socio-economic equality across the board for all citizens, while also focusing on stable city-wide infrastructure. These two platforms operating in tandem are the foundation on which he plans to build the city’s future — a future he hopes will be shared by many Torontonians this election season.

The Hoser was able to reach out to Penalosa in order to discuss his history in both urban framework and political policy.

The Hoser: Have you experienced any cross-contamination in terms of municipal attitudes towards outdoor incentives between here and Bogota? If so, can you elaborate on the steps you took to ensure harmony among city policymakers?

Peñalosa: What I have been sharing with people in Toronto — and around the world — is the power of infrastructure to influence culture. Public spaces are a great equalizer. When we built new parks and bikeways and trails in low-income neighbourhoods in Bogotá, we made them high quality and beautiful. These spaces were used by many people of all backgrounds and they offered social connection and dignity to people from all backgrounds. When we created Ciclovia, the largest open streets program in the world, one in four people in Bogotá cycled, walked or wheeled together on Sundays. It was beautiful. Toronto has done wonderful things with open streets and the ravines are a gem, but they are not loved and embraced as part of our City in the same way, yet. Part of the joy in my campaign is inspiring people to reimagine what parks and public spaces can be. It’s not just about how we get around, it’s about social cohesion and quality of life. My supporters see that we could have a different Toronto if we invest in our parks and public spaces!

The Hoser: A large aspect of your political resume is your engagement with outdoor incentives and making urban spaces more accessible. Given the large population of unhoused individuals in Toronto, how does your policy aim to make the city more accessible for them? 

Peñalosa: Streets and parks are public spaces and that means they need to work for and serve everyone. We saw in the pandemic that people started to realize the value of their parks and outdoor places to socialize and gather. Whether you live in a wealthy neighbourhood or are unhoused, public spaces should be designed for you. They should have benches and working washrooms and offer places for recreation and contemplation. There are 7000 people who are in housed in Toronto, many of whom live in hotels and shelters. We have to work with social workers to invest in permanent housing for people who need it. A home is not just a place to sleep. It is where we live and connect with others. Our public spaces are the places where we build our culture together.

The Hoser: You have worked in an advisor capacity for over 350 cities across the globe — what makes Toronto so special? 

Peñalosa: I have worked on projects in over 350 cities around the world, advising mayors and governors on building greener, more walkable, livable cities. 23 years ago I came to Canada for two years to give my children the opportunity to learn English and I fell in love with it. Toronto is the most diverse city in the world. The ravines are spectacular. Toronto is a wonderful city with so much potential. It needs more affordable housing, safer streets and public services that actually work. It needs vision and action. Toronto is good, but it could be great! My hope is that we build a Toronto for everyone.

Oct 23, 2022
Local News
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