TORONTO — Howard Moscoe’s reign in Toronto Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence is no more. After three decades in municipal politics on North York and Toronto city councils, the veteran politician is stepping down.
His announcement last Monday came as a surprise, as he had left his name on the list of candidates for the Oct. 25 municipal election.
Speaking to The CJN last week from Iqaluit, Nunavut, where he was attending board meetings of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Moscoe, 70, said he has no regrets about retiring at this juncture.
“I’ve been on the job for 31 years. It’s time to move on,” he said, adding that he’s now looking forward to spending more time travelling and being with his family.
Asked about his future plans, he would only say that he has “some interesting offers” on the table.
His retirement comes after another longtime councillor, Ward 10, York Centre’s Mike Feldman, 82, announced in July that he’s also calling it quits.
Moscoe’s departure from the race leaves five remaining candidates – Josh Colle, Rob Davis, Giussepe Pede, William Reitsma and Ron Singer – vying for his seat on council. He said he’s endorsing Colle, son of Eglinton-Lawrence Liberal MPP Mike Colle.
Moscoe said he’s happy to have left many projects “with a solid foundation” on the go in his ward for his successor to complete.
One of them is the controversial re-vitalization of Lawrence Heights. He said “replacing this area with a mixed-income community” is essential.
“The planners made a lot of mistakes in the 1930s and 1940s when they thought that simply buying new housing for low-income people was the solution to all their problems. This was false. [Residents] were disadvantaged more by being gathered in ghettos.”
The proposed redevelopment of the public housing section of the neighbourhood has angered some local residents, many of whom are afraid of increased traffic congestion and poor city planning to properly integrate the nearby Allen Road artery.
Moscoe, who is Jewish, said he’s also proud that one of his last acts on council was successfully passing a motion in council two weeks ago to create a museum celebrating “Jewish immigration at the turn of the century.”
There’s a “forgotten” Jewish history of Toronto that needs to be remembered, he said.
The museum will be housed in City Hall when it’s completed in about three years, he added.
“I’m proud to be leaving this as my legacy,” he said.
Moscoe, whose grandmother came to the city in 1912, noted that much of Toronto’s Jewish immigrant population originally settled in an area called “The Ward,” located between University Avenue on the west side and Trawley Street (now Bay Street) to the east, and between Queen Street to the south and College Street on the north end.
“It was a Jewish immigrant slum, much like that of New York’s Lower East Side, in the shadow of City Hall. And in fact, New [Toronto] City Hall was built on top of it,” as was hospital row on University, he said.
Moscoe admitted to having mixed feelings about leaving council.
“I love my job. It’s exciting, but the memories are bittersweet. But I think I’ll be remembered most for the little things that affected people’s lives,” such as pushing through a bylaw to put an end to the city’s apartment buildings charging for visitor parking, he said.
Another was his motion to force retail stores to allow public access to restrooms.
“My reputation has been as a fighter. In politics you can sit back and get re-elected, or you can do things and rub people the wrong way and make enemies. My 31 years have been controversial, but I can now sit back and say to my grandchildren that I did some things, and here’s what I did,” he said.
Moscoe said that he wants voters in his ward to “look for the candidate that is intelligent and cares about people.”
Regarding the city’s mayoral race, Moscoe said “it’s anybody’s guess” as to who will win, although he’s backing Coun. Joe Pantalone, because “he understands the art of compromise.”
Asked whether he ruled out a return to politics down the road, Moscoe said it’s “the furthest thing” from his mind.