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Ward 29 profile: ‘Plain Jane’ seeks return
Jane Pitfield, who was bested by Mayor David Miller in 2006, is one of six candidates running for councillor in Ward 29
Daniel Kaszor September 23, 2010 – 7:00 am
In the first in an occasional series, Peter Kuitenbrouwer looks at some of the most interesting candidates for Toronto city council. Today, former councillor and mayoral contender Jane Pitfield tries to make a comeback.
She has been Trustee Pitfield, Councillor Pitfield, and Jane Pitfield, mayoral candidate.
Now she’s just plain Jane, a slight blonde in a bright-yellow trench coat, bested by Mayor David Miller in 2006 (she won 32% of the vote), returning from four years off to seek more punishment at City Hall.
When I met Ms. Pitfield for coffee at Timothy’s in the Carrot Common on Danforth Avenue on Wednesday, I had to stop myself from calling her “councillor.”
After serving as an East York school trustee in 1994-97, in 1998 she won a byelection for a seat in East York; from 2000-2006 she served as councillor for Ward 26, which includes Leaside and the apartments along Don Mills Road. Today, though she lives in Lawrence Park, Ms. Pitfield is not taking on the man who filled her old seat, Councillor John Parker. Instead she is one of six candidates in Ward 29, vacated by retiring Councillor Case Ootes, the historically Greek neighbourhood which runs from the Don River to Coxwell Avenue, between Danforth Avenue and O’Connor Drive.
On the Timothy’s terrace Dimitrios Schinas and George Tchaknis sat chatting in Greek; the sweet aroma of black Syrian tobacco from Mr. Tchaknis’s pipe filled the air. Plain Jane launched into her stump speech.
“I will work hard for you,” she told them. “I am not aligned with a mayoralty candidate. Whoever it is, I will work with them.”
Mr. Schinas told Ms. Pitfield, “My office is right next to Jennifer Wood [another candidate in the race]. I don’t want to be negative, but she told me exactly what you did.”
“I was a councillor for eight years,” Ms. Pitfield replied. “Today I can solve all of your problems. I know who to call.”
After four years out of politics, she looks composed; almost mellow. The mother of four, married to a Scotiabank executive, spent time restoring an 1873 farmhouse she owns in Caledon, and also bought a house in the struggling outport of Gaultois, Nfld. She wants to bring tourists to the Rock, and was on CBC in Gander and St. John’s this week talking about a federal/provincial grant she obtained, totalling $381,000, to train 15 Gaultois “older workers” in heritage carpentry and frontline hospitality.
In short, Jane gets results.
“I have had a break,” she says. “I have researched the best practises and successes of other cities and I have done a lot of listening.”
She sounds like Rob Ford: she wants to abolish the land transfer and vehicle registration taxes, and scrap Mr. Miller’s light-rail plans in favour of subways. But she differs on other points: she supports bike lanes on arterial roads. She helped bring in the pesticide bylaw and close a snow dump along the Don River. When a woman named Kathy at Timothy’s agreed to take a lawn sign, Ms. Pitfield assured her: “I am using a biodegradable bag on recycled wires.”
Ms. Pitfield has an achilles heel: her carpetbagger status. Her two most well-organized and well-funded opponents, Jennifer Wood and Mary Fragedakis, both live in the ward.
“I don’t think you can have as strong a stake in the community if you don’t live here,” said Ms. Wood, whom I met as she knocked on doors yesterday on a stretch of humble postwar cottages on Greenwood Avenue. Ms. Wood is a lawyer in mergers and acquisitions for the Royal Bank but says, “I don’t find it satisfying on a personal level,” so she seeks a council seat. Even though it would mean a 50% pay cut, “I want to use my business skill and give back to the community,” she says. She confesses that Mr. Ootes pleaded with her not to run, so as not to split the right-wing vote.
Federally and provincially, this is NDP territory; NDP leader Jack Layton, the local MP, and Michael Prue, the NDP’s local MPP here, have both endorsed Ms. Fragedakis, a lifelong resident of the area. She wants more parks in the ward and to use vacant school space for youth and senior programs.
“I am a positive voice for change,” she says, calling Ms. Pitfield “part of the same-old same-old.”
So what are the chances for a fiscal conservative from north of Eglinton? Ms. Pitfield sees Mr. Ford’s momentum as auspicious for her own race.
“We need service and care, rather than enforcement, bureaucracy and taxation,” she says.
Boundaries: Don River to Coxwell Avenue, between Danforth Avenue and O’Connor Drive
- Chris Caldwell
- Mary Fragedakis
- Jane Pitfield
- Mike Restivo
- John Richardson
- Jennifer Wood