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article imageMeeting the Toronto mayoral candidates: Rocco Achampong Special

By Andrew Moran     Aug 28, 2010 in Politics
Toronto - On Saturday, had the opportunity to catch up with Toronto mayoral candidate Rocco Ashampong to get his views on how the campaigns are shaping up, on the core issues facing Toronto and which past mayor of Toronto he admires most.
The Toronto municipal election is only two months away and the mayoral candidates are campaigning hard to get their messages heard. Digital Journal first speaks with Rocco Kusi Achampong, a lawyer who seeks real solutions through the means of intellectual dialogue and intense analysis.
Who is Rocco Achampong?
“Sometimes I strike myself as a bit of a mystery. How is it that I am able to do all that I do? I take comfort in the fact that, you know, what destiny has brought, I take no issue with it, show up and play my part.”
The 31-year-old Ghana-born lawyer says he came to the city of Toronto at the age of 9 with his family, who are both ordained ministers, and studied at Trinity College, University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School.
“I like to see somebody say, ‘Where were you born?’ That to me, is one of those ostracizing questions because the minute you say you’re not born in Toronto it kinds of says that ‘he’s not one of us.’” He added that all he is is Torontonian but “at what point can I say this is my spiritual birthplace, this is my intellectually birthplace?”
Achampong concluded by saying he is an average guy who works hard and thinks he can do great things for the city of Toronto: “I think that I am better than everybody running in the mayoral race now and that's why I'm in the race."
Why do you want to run for mayor?
In 2003, the former University of Toronto student council president was working as a John Tory youth representative and was surprised that incumbent mayor David Miller won because he was only polling at 4 percent.
“The ship was steady, he wasn't rocking the boat and all is well. Some time in his second-term, he became arrogant and disingenuous with his logic and his conclusions, even on issues such as the summer of the gun in 2005-2006; when gun violence was such an issue, and you can tell that he became a politician and I didn’t really judge him as such during his first term.”
Achampong explains that the mayor’s proposals to deal with gun violence, such as banning illegal guns from the United States, were “foolhardy” because the issue was the guns already in Toronto and not the U.S. border. Later, Achampong says, Miller pushed off the issue of the U.S.-Canada border instead of “taking hold of the issue and owning it and as a leader saying ‘I will be the responsible one.’”
“The age old recourse of tossing money at the issue, gives you some plausible, some cover for having done something, if you have done anything.”
Achampong provided the analogy to explain the government’s solution to problems and how they deal with things: Two exhausted parents come home from work and the child bothers them to play, so the parents give the child a dollar to buy ice cream in the hopes that when the child comes back, he or she doesn’t want to play anymore.
“On any issue, I have better proposals that are consistent with our traditions in our participatory democracy than other candidate out there. I truly do believe that. Going forward, hopefully I get to flesh out that message.”
Do you agree with Mr. Rob Ford's assessment that City Council is corrupt, and if so why?
“I think that his speech is callous. He’s not a thinker, he’s a demagogue. He speaks in vacuous polemics. He gets your attention. He grabs the headlines. Congratulations, we have a clown in the centre of the ring leading the circus.”
The mayoral candidate went onto explain that it would be extremely difficult for Ford, if he was elected, to work with 44 councilors after calling City Council corrupt. He added that Ford wouldn’t be able to even find 23 councilors to work with to pass any piece of legislation.
Achampong noted that he has worked with 54 students, carried motions where some have lost and some have called for him to resign but “I’ve worked in that cooperative environment knowing that you are one of many voices.” He added that Ford doesn’t appreciate that and calling government corrupt “is stupid.”
If elected mayor, what would be the first initiative put forth?
Achampong immediately answered the question by explaining he would set up a retreat for him and the councillors in order to get an understanding of their priorities because they have chairs and votes that are just as powerful as the mayor’s.
In terms of issues, he would work on the collective bargaining agreement because Achampong believes that is the single largest issue before the city even discusses on expanding the services.
“How much we pay to deliver those services. Do I pay you $80,000 to water a garden? Or is that the actual value of your employ? Is it appreciated that you don’t water gardens 8 hours a day. Now how much are you really paid? I would try to get a consensus on that too.”
Achampong added that all new spending would be halted in half: “Let’s start trimming some fat, let’s start looking inwards and start contracting before any talk of future expansion because we will have expansion. The city is expanding whether or not we decide it’s going to expand or not.”
By sacrificing and looking inward, Achampong would also want everyone to pledge to have their salaries frozen: “The mayor makes $167,000 per year, which is less than most mayors in the Greater Toronto Area. I’m okay with $167,000.”
The Toronto Transit Commission is an important issue for most Torontonians. Where do you stand in regards to the TTC? What kinds of things would you urge the TTC to do?
“Freeze salaries and non-collective bargaining benefits will be cut. They have to be. It is – I said it in my press conference in the National Post, Globe and Mail and the Toronto Sun – that austerity is the watch word for all economies around the world. Be it Greek, be it English, be it American, they are all tightening their belts because they have to. In the absence of that belt tightening, we’re borrowing and getting into debt to fund our deficits. You know who gets rich? All the bankers we don’t like.”
What would you like voters to know about yourself?
“I am with you my friend. I understand what you’re going through, that is why I will not come at you for more money to fund our auscultations.”
Who has been the best of mayor of Toronto, and why?
Achampong noted that it’s hard to choose a mayor because there are a variety of categories and each mayor had different issues or implemented variety of initiatives, such as the mayor who decided to make the TTC public, which he states was a terrific thing for Torontonians.
However, Achampong did name several previous mayors as good mayors of Toronto, including the 45th mayor William D. Robbins, 52nd mayor Nathan Phillips, William Peyton Hubbard, 56th mayor David Crombie and 62nd mayor Mel Lastman.
Rocco Achampong will appear at the Heritage Toronto debate at the St. Lawrence Hall in the downtown core. He will appear alongside Rob Ford, George Smitherman, Sarah Thomson, Joe Pantalone and Rocco Rossi.
For more information on Achampong, please visit his campaign website here.
More about Rocco achampong, Toronto, Municipal election
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