Sylvia Watson

Sylvia Watson

Sylvia Watson is a Canadian politician. She was a Toronto City Councillor for ward 14, part of the riding of Parkdale-High Park from 2003 to 2006 and the candidate for the Liberal Party of Ontario in the 2006 by-election and in the 2007 general election.

Life before Politics

Watson and her family immigrated to Canada when she was a child as displaced person from Austria following World War II. The family settled in Toronto, but had difficulty finding secure employment and housing.

Wellesley Hospital in-house legal counsel

In 1986 Watson was hired as the head of in-house legal services for Wellesley Hospital in Toronto. This was the first time in Canada that a hospital had retained its own in-house legal counsel. During this period, the Ontario health care system faced with important new issues, such as the introduction of Ontario Health Care Consent Act and Ontario Substitute Decisions Act laws and the emergence of HIV AIDS.

Consent and capacity law was enacted by the Ontario Liberal government under David Peterson to protect the rights of patients by giving them the right to refuse treatment or, if they were found to be unable to make decisions for themselves, that a legitimate decision-maker would be appointed. Watson was tasked with interpreting and teaching consent and capacity law to physicians and nurses, and other hospital staff. In this role, Watson established hospital policy that a patient must consent to their treatment and that physicians have an obligation to inform their patients of the potential benefits and risks of this treatment.

Watson also sat on the ethics committee that created policies for handling the emerging crisis of HIV AIDS. Watson’s role on this committee was to provide ethical and legal advice regarding the issues of mandatory testing and disclosure of positive findings. Through this committee the hospital became one of the first to enact a formal policy against mandatory testing for the disease. The committee also directed the hospital to enact a policy that prohibited the notification of a patient’s sexual partner following a positive test for the disease without the patient’s consent. Instead, the committee adopted a policy to promote public awareness, including how HIV AIDS is transmitted, of safe sex techniques and of the benefits of regular testing. Wellesley hospital was one of the first public institutions to take this approach to HIV AIDS, though it is now widely accepted.

City Solicitor, City of Toronto

In 1991 Watson left Wellesley hospital to become a litigator for the City of Toronto. She was then promoted to Director of Litigation and then was appointed to the position of City Solicitor – the head of legal services for the municipal government. Watson was the first woman to be act as City Solicitor in Toronto’s history.

As City Solicitor, Watson oversaw municipal government operations from the perspective of maintaining compliance with laws and best practices. This included rigorous reviews of contracts signed by and on behalf of the city. Watson required her staff to be exacting in examining city business and to report any suspected problems.

Watson also had the responsibility of advising City Council on all bills and reports. Specifically, Watson was required to certify the legal writing and legal writing of these documents. It is standard practice for a City Solicitor to reviews bills and reports in order to ensure that they follow proper legal form, but Watson’s policy of also requiring the certification of content was uncommon, neither practiced by her predecessor or successor, or by many other City Solicitors in other jurisdictions. By certifying a bill or report’s contents, Watson personally reviewed its likelihood of being invalidated by the Courts or leading to lawsuits against the city.

During this time Watson was involved in numerous important city government decisions, such as the creation of the megacity, the new amalgamated City of Toronto government. Watson played a central role facilitating the transition from 6 distinct city governments into one much larger organization.

As City Solicitor, Watson also was involved in the attempted conversion of two apartment buildings at 104 and 105 Westlodge Ave. into co-ops. These two buildings were put into receivership by the municipal government, which Watson oversaw. The buildings were re-purchased by the original owners, who were able to present the highest bid for them, and so a community based plan to convert them into co-ops did not occur. However, the owners were required to meet new conditions by the city that significantly upgraded the buildings’ facilities.

City Council, City of Toronto

After leaving her post with the municipal government, Watson made the unusual decision to seek election to public office instead of finding more lucrative employment in a private sector law firm. She was elected in the 2003 municipal election replacing the long serving Chris Korwin-Kuczynski who retired from politics. [cite news
last =Byers
first =Jim
coauthors =
title =Diverse ward a tale of two parks
work =
pages =
language =English
publisher =The Toronto Star
date =2003-11-04
url =http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/thestar/access/648558041.html?dids=648558041:648558041&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Nov+4%2C+2003&author=Jim+Byers&pub=Toronto+Star&edition=&startpage=B.02&desc=Diverse+ward+a+tale+of+two+parks+
accessdate = 2007-08-12
] She handily beat a field of seven other candidates. [cite news
last =
first =
coauthors =
title =GTA Votes:Toronto Results
work =
pages =B2
language =English
publisher =The Toronto Star
date =2003-11-11
url =http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/thestar/access/648572461.html?dids=648572461:648572461&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Nov+11%2C+2003&author=&pub=Toronto+Star&edition=&startpage=B.02&desc=GTA+Votes%3AToronto+Results
accessdate = 2007-08-12
] Watson handily beat a field of seven other candidates, with a total of 53% of the vote, more than double her closest rival. [2]

Once elected, Watson opened the first constituency office in Parkdale in 25 years and held a record number of community meetings: over 60 during her 30 months as a City Councillor. Watson also published a popular weekly newsletter that informed citizens about city politics and government programmes.

Accomplishments

Watson's voting record established her as independently-minded. On many positions she was left-leaning, supporting mayor David Miller's initiatives. At other times, Watson was willing to go against the mayor if she did not endorse his policies. In voting on the Council and in the other activities she undertook, Watson was outspoken in following her own beliefs about what was good public policy and what was in her constituency’s interests and chose not to align herself with any particular block of Councillors.

During her tenure, Watson accomplished several important policy goals that had been desired from her constituents for many years.

Watson was able to have the city install a traffic light at the corner of Jameson Ave. and Queen St. This intersection does not align with the and Lansdowne Ave. (link) intersection that is half a block to its East and continues North. Since Jameson Ave. flows North off of the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard, it experiences heavy North-South traffic and had been the cause of serious congestion and safety concerns for many years.

Watson led the expropriation of a long-abandoned building on Queen Street, east of Dunn Ave.. This expropriation of property was a first by the municipal government and was viewed negatively by people who saw property rights as unlimited. However, community members argued that the building, which had been abandoned for years and was in a state of disrepair, promoted crime. This region of Parkdale had not experienced the same level of gentrification as other areas and

Watson also pushed the municipal government to revoke the liquor licenses of two bars on Queen St. that were associated with narcotics use and trafficking (link). In following Watson’s direction, the city took exceptional action. The closing-down of these businesses was even more unusual because it took place in Parkdale, which for years had been associated with narcotics and related criminal activities. Following the closing of these bars retail businesses have opened in these locations.

The park at the corner of Sorauren and Wabash Ave.s had been at the center of a long-running dispute between former Councillor Korwin-Kuczynski and the owner of a building beside it. The owner had sold the building to the city, which planned to turn it into a recreation centre. When these plans appeared to stall because of a lack of money, Watson was able to get the city to clean the environment around the building and renovate a smaller building also on the property so that it could be turned into a field house for the park. The recreation centre has still not been built, but the park is uncontaminated and has better resources for the surrounding community.However, in 2004 Watson voted against a citywide pesticide ban, despite the recommendation of the city's medical officer of health, to the dismay of many who considered this a progressive policy. [cite news
last =
first =
coauthors =
title =Part (1) of motion (b) by Councillor Filion, in Clause No. 1 of Joint Report No. 1 of the Economic Development and Parks Committee and the Works Committee, headed "Implementation of the City's Pesticide By-law".
work =Minutes of the Council of the City of Toronto May 18, 19 and 20, 2004
pages =
language =English
publisher = City of Toronto
date =May 20, 2004
url =http://www.votetoronto.ca/pesticides2.html
accessdate = 2007-08-12
]

Another decision that was highly controversial was Watson’s support for the creation of a parking lot on the median of Lakeshore Boulevard in order to service the Palais Royale. Watson’s supporters argued that without a parking lot the historic landmark, which had recently been condemned, would be torn down. On the other hand, her detractors argued that it was anti-environmental to pave-over grass and up-root trees. Watson took the stand that even if it was controversial she believed it was for the long-term benefit of the community and she would support it. Ultimately, because a parking lot was promised by the city, a new tenant was found for the heritage site who invested approximately $3.5 million dollars to renovate it and paid for landscaping of the parking lot, thereby avoiding the loss of a single tree, the planting of new vegetation and also avoiding the use of pavement. A stoplight was also added to Lakeshore Boulevard at the entrance of the parking lot, which is also a dangerous curve with a hidden u-turn point.

Provincial By-election, 2006

In June 2006, Watson withdrew her candidacy for re-election to city council in order to run unsuccessfully as an Ontario Liberal Party candidate to succeed Gerard Kennedy in the Parkdale—High Park by-election. The Liberals fully supported her candidacy, with eleven ministers making visits to her riding, including Premier Dalton McGuinty who made three trips there. Kennedy, who had resigned to contest the federal Liberal leadership, and Bob Rae, a long-time resident of the riding, who had represented it before in the provincial legislature as the Premier of the NDP government, and was now also running for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party, also made campaign stops in the riding.cite news
last =Howlett
first =Karen
coauthors =ARMINA LIGAYA
title =NDP thumps Liberals in vicious by-election
work =
pages =
language =English
publisher =The Globe and Mail
date =2006-09-15
url =http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060915.BYELEXNSB15/TPStory/TPNational/Ontario/
accessdate = 2007-08-12
]

Some saw the election as indicating a differential between the Liberals' popularity and Kennedy's personal popularity. Kennedy's work as food bank director and education minister appealed to the many NDP voters in the riding. However, by-elections are typically understood to be a test of government’s approval rather than of a newly selected candidate’s popularity. Indeed, Watson was apparently unable to tap into Kennedy’s popularity. Pushed into defending the McGuinty government's record of education and health care, her opponents targeted numerous Liberal broken promises, including delaying the replacement of coal-fired power plants, and the addition of the $2.4-billion health premium after campaigning on a pledge to not raise taxes. As a result, Watson was largely unable to inform constituents outside of Parkdale of her record as a City Councillor and what she had accomplished before this.In the last week of the election, falling behind in polls, her campaign released a number of controversial press releases attacking NDP candidate Cheri DiNovo. These releases made reference to DiNovo's LSD use at a younger age and alleged that she endorsed the church ordination of pedophiles and axe murderers in "Qu(e)erying Evangelism". They also claimed that DiNovo had made past comments in which she compared Canadian murderer Karla Homolka to a Christ-like figure. Education minister Sandra Pupatello said "DiNovo's comments do not reflect the views of any candidate who should be running for office". Both NDP and Conservative candidates for the riding denounced the press releases as mudslinging, saying that DiNovo's comments were taken out of context. The backlash extended to the Premier himself, with NDP MPPs accusing him of condoning and even orchestrating the smear attacks. McGuinty himself claimed that he was unaware of the press releases. [cite news
last =Canadian Press
first =
coauthors =
title =NDP claims candidate smeared in T.O. byelection
work =CTV Toronto Website
pages =
language =English
publisher =CTV
date =2006-09-12
url =http://www.toronto.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20060912/liberal_homolka_060912?hub=TorontoHome
accessdate = 2007-08-12
] cite news
last =Howlett
first =Karen
coauthors =
title =Mud flies in west-end by-election
work =
pages =
language =English
publisher =The Globe and Mail
date =2006-09-12
url =http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060912.ELECTION12/TPStory/TPNational/Ontario/
accessdate = 2007-08-12
]

Provincial General Election, 2007

On May 11, 2007, the Liberals nominated Watson to stand again as their candidate in Parkdale—High Park for the 2007 Ontario election. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =Parkdale-High Park: Sylvia Watson
work =Candidate Details
publisher =Liberal Party of Ontario
date =2007-05-11
url =http://ontarioliberal.ca/en/Riding2007/Details.aspx/068
format =HTML
doi =
accessdate = 2007-08-12
] She was again defeated by DiNovo by an increased margin. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =Parkdale-High Park: Election 2007
work = Results
publisher =CTV
date =2007-10-11
url =http://www.ctv.ca/mini/ontarioElection2007/hub/hubRiding.html?68+
format =HTML
doi =
accessdate = 2007-10-11
]

References and notes

External links

* [http://www.toronto.ca/councillors/watson1.htm City biography]
* [http://www.sylviawatson.ca/ Personal website]
* [http://www.sylviawatson.com/ Campaign website]


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