Former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders is running on a campaign that focusses squarely on public safety. And why not? He is, after all, the only candidate who ran the Toronto Police Service.
Saunders retired in 2020, took his first stab at politics running for the Progressive Conservatives in the 2022 provincial election. He lost the Don Valley West riding to Liberal MPP Stephanie Bowman.
Born in 1962 in England to Jamaican parents, Saunders and his family settled in the GTA when he was a child, and eventually he graduated from the University of Guelph-Humber and began work in the Toronto Police Service.
Here is what Saunders has to say
What was your first job?
Farm hand – hardest job i’ve had.
What’s the worst piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
I always believed I could achieve my goals – regardless of what the peanut gallery said.
What do you love most about Toronto?
Diversity of our people.
What do you most dislike?
Right now, that we’re normalizing things like homelessness, addiction and crime on the TTC
Where is the first place you send visitors?
Raptors game if the schedule allows.
Where is the best view in the city?
Coming back to the city from the Island by boat in the early evening
What is your favourite special occasion restaurant?
Queen’s Pasta Cafe.
What is the last show you saw in Toronto?
When is the last time you took public transit in Toronto?
Have you ever commuted by bicycle in the city?
Where is your favourite place to get away from it all?
Walking my dog in the Scarborough Bluffs.
Gardiner Expressway — continue with hybrid option, yes or no?
We have to move forward with the plan in place. Enough talking about it.
Do you support the Ontario Place Thermé Spa project?
What is Mark Saunders’ definition of affordable housing?
Housing means different things to different people. There’s an element for housing homeless people, there’s affordable housing for low income, There’s housing for families who are struggling to pay rent, there’s housing for people looking to buy into the market, there’s multi-generational housing. All of these matter.
What more can the city do to help those experiencing homeless in Toronto?
Everyone has the right to live in dignity in safe and secure housing. I will aggressively pursue opportunities to expand the TCHC model where city land is provided to builders in return for including rent-geared-to-income, deeply affordable and affordable housing in their market projects, and where the City gets a share of the profits from condo sales. I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks.
Does the city have a public safety problem?
If so, what’s your solution? Every person in Toronto has the fundamental right to be safe. I dont’ think doing things like decriminalizing drugs, like every other candidate wants to do will add to our city’s safety. I also think that the culture of safety on the TTC needs to improve. I will increase the number of Special Constables to at least 200 and have them visible in the system, and prevent loitering and other disturbances by enforcing existing by-laws. I will introduce new ‘assist buttons’ on subways, buses and streetcars to identify emerging incidents, and make streetcar and bus stops safer by creating a minimum lighting standard. Over the longer term, I will install more live high-quality, camera feeds on subways and at every bus and streetcar stop.
Are Toronto residents going to have to pay more in taxes to improve quality of life in the city? If not, what’s the answer?
Toronto cannot tax its way out of financial pressures or rely on other orders of government to fill all the gaps. As police chief, I managed billion dollar budgets for five years – including two with zero increases. As Mayor I will review every line of the City’s budget and ask hard questions to see where we can better align services, find any efficiencies, and make adjustments where required. I will also ensure the budget process is 100 percent transparent and all voices are listened to, not just the loudest voices. Before we expect the province or federal government to bail us out, we need to do the hard work of understanding where and how our money is actually being spent.
Is Doug Ford’s interference in the city causing a problem, yes or no?
Just as I did as Chief of Police of Canada’s largest municipal police service, as Toronto’s mayor I will continue to forge and maintain strong and mutually respectful relationships with the federal and provincial governments, offering partnerships and innovative solutions that meet all of our objectives. There is always room for negotiation but no place for angry confrontation – this helps no one and accomplishes nothing.
What would you say is Toronto’s most iconic food?
Maybe not iconic, but I’m partial to Ackee Saltfish with Fried Dumplings
If you were to support a car-free zone in the city where would it be?
You can’t answer that in isolation of considering a full picture, factoring in movement of people, first responders and other safety factors.
Is the city doing enough to battle the climate crisis? If not, what would you do differently?
I think the city is doing a lot already and we can continue finding a balance between climate initiatives and other priorities at City Hall.
What should be done regarding public transit, the cuts and the low ridership?
Restore public safety on the TTC. People are afraid right now.