Tag

city councillor

Browsing

Woman of the Week: Susan Swail

With rising housing costs and developers vying for land to build on, ensuring the safety of Ontario’s Greenbelt is no easy feat. Principal of Lloyd Swail Consulting, Susan Swail, is one of the women leading the fight to keep this preservation of farmland protected for years to come.

Swail launched her own consulting firm in 2008, which has enabled her to work on several environmental policy projects at once. “I’ve been doing policy analysis, facilitation and strategic communications in the planning field for the last 10 years. I created this consulting firm so I could work on project based contracts. I can work on a number of projects on the same time,” Swail says. She is currently on contract with Environmental Defence and the Greenbelt Foundation.

Swail works for Environmental Defence as the Smart Growth Program Consultant of the Greenbelt and is also working on a review that focuses on the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) review. During the OMB review, over 5000 letters were submitted to the province to obtain funding for citizens and citizen groups, and upholding provincial and municipal plans. Swail conducted a literature review and interviewed many stakeholders, including planners, ratepayers and lawyers to develop a policy position for Environmental Defence.

Swail and the non-profit await the new OMB legislation to see if the recent changes are a success. “[Environmental Defence] didn’t get everything we asked for. We’re still waiting to see what happens. We wanted opportunities to have legal support and advice for ratepayer groups who are launching appeals and we don’t know if the legal advice is intended to be free,” Swail says. “The province is also looking at a joint board hearing that would refer environmental planning matters to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) rather than being heard by just a OMB chair. The provincial announcement suggests they are considering joint ERT, and OMB board hearings. It is important have an environmental lens when making land policy decisions that effect groundwater, and natural heritage features like forests and wetlands.” Originally, Environmental Defence asked the OMB to refer environmental matters directly to ERT, but instead the legislation suggests having a joint board with the OMB and the ERT.

Swail was also a city councillor for the King Township for three years from 2000 to 2003, which helped foster her passion for policy and giving citizens a voice. “It was an exciting time to be on council because Oak Ridges Conservation Plan was being created at that time,” Swail says. When asked about the most important lessons she took from being a councillor, she explained that giving citizens a voice is so vital and being able to negotiate solutions between stakeholders and citizens is what really counts.

“When I was councillor, there was a situation with a developer who wanted to build on 107 acres in the headwaters of the Humber River.  The citizens were adamantly against it. We negotiated between the ratepayers, the Region of York, the Conservation Authority, Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust and the City of Toronto,” Swail says. “In the end, the developer agreed to make a gift of the land and recieved a donation receipt. Today the tableland is part of the York Region Forest.”

After Swail lost the next election, she moved to the Oak Ridges Land Trust,and eventually became the Program and Outreach Manager of the Greenbelt Foundation. Swail returned to York University in 2008 to do a master’s degree in land use planning and launched her own consulting company from there. At York, she was awarded the MITACS Research Award for the research project, Building Sustainable Communities in South Simcoe.

Swail believes the most prevelant environmental issue today is climate change for land use conservation projects. She has dedicated many years to sustainable planning, helping the environment and trying to mitigate the impacts of climate change through supporting and implementing conservation land use projects over the years. She has served as the executive of many charitable organizations for the last 20 years.

Her passion for the environment began in 1990 when she and her husband moved to Nobleton in 1990 from High Park because house prices in Toronto were too high. “I got involved in my new community right away in the Parks Committee and then co-founded a local ratepayer group,” Swail says. “They were going to put in a larger sewer system in around Nobleton, which would traveled over 17 km of farmland to serve 3000 people, not economically or environmentally sustainable.   Instead, we got a local sewer system put into our town and Nobleton is still a complete community today.”

Swail is also an advocate for women who are passionate about the environment. “I mentor women whenever I can. When I was working at Environmental Defence, I had a call at least once a month from women who wanted to get involved in the environment,” Swail says. “I took at least a dozen of people out for coffee and helped them out to understand what it takes to get involved in the environment, emphasizing the importance of volunteering and networking.” Swail also noted that being a considerate woman in the business world can go a long way to helping other women in the industry.

When Swail isn’t at the frontlines protecting the Greenbelt, she is an avid reader. Currently, she is reading Walking Home by Kent Greenberg and Dark Age Ahead By Jane Jacobs. She also enjoys visiting with her six-month-old granddaughter, hiking with her husband and three sons on the Oak Ridges Moraine, cooking and gardening.

 

Do you enjoy reading profiles about amazingly talented women in Canada? If so, sign up for our weekly e-newsletter! 

Woman of the Week: Ana Bailão

Ana Bailão moved to Canada, specifically to the Davenport area in Toronto, from Portugal at the age of 15 — and she hasn’t left. In fact, she now represents the ward as a city councilor.

“It’s a part of the city that feels like home,” she said during an interview at city hall.

Her office is tidy and clean, with the perfect eastern view to capture the sunlight. Her desk, however, is full of papers, reports, and documents in file folders —organization is key when you’ve got one of the largest files in the city to date: affordable housing. While the conversation moves from her teenage interests to her current responsibilities within city politics, Bailão speaks with poise and passion. She gets excited about the possibility of change, especially in her own neighbourhood.

“I know what the community has gone through. At the same time, I was like so many that worked in the neighbourhood: I had family. I was a young professional. I could relate to both,” she said. “People are always very scared of gentrification and I always say changes happen. It’s how you manage it that makes the difference.”

Bailão didn’t always want to go into politics. While studying sociology and European studies at the University of Toronto, her plan was to pursue social work. “Sociology was really my passion,” she said. “I always felt very interested in how things affect society: how one area of society has such an impact on another and how you are able to affect change.”

It wasn’t until her local councillor took notice of the work she was doing within the community and invited her to participate in a project that Bailão considered jumping into the political realm.

“At first I said no, but then I thought – most of my classes are at night, maybe I can coordinate this. I called them back and said I could do it if he accommodated my school schedule. I got started as a part-time and it turned into a full-time five-year position. I fell in love with the work you can have at city hall.”

Ana PhotoSince then, Bailão has been focused on public service. When she lost the municipal election in 2003, she fell back on the private sector, working with banks and IT healthcare, always in a marketing or communications role. “But, I always kept involved in local organizations, because there was a need to come back to other types of work.”

When the opportunity presented itself in 2010, she ran for office a second time and won. In her first term she was asked to chair the Affordable Housing Committee and when she was re-elected in 2014, Bailão was offered the position as Toronto’s Housing Advocate. Since then, she has been fighting for a better understanding of what affordable housing means for the city, something she says has improved in the last few years.

“I think what we’ve been able to get is more attention to the issue, and I’m happy to say that,” said Bailão. “I’m happy to see the three levels of government talking about this issue.”

Housing is becoming a large file at city hall, with Mayor John Tory’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing included in the 2016 budget. The Task Force spoke with over 1,000 tenants and community members, 100 different stakeholder groups, officials from the city, province, and federal governments, as well as international housing experts, and made 29 recommendations to improve and strengthen the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC).

“I think that it’s bold,” said Bailão. “It goes outside the typical recommendations. For me, what’s really exciting is this concept of using TCHC to strengthen our non-profit housing sector.”

Bailão has been an advocate for the merging of the private and public sectors to aide affordable housing. In Toronto, she said, we have the second largest landlord in North America and the units are based on an average income of $15,000. “That’s not healthy financially for the corporation, but also socially.”

Her suggestion: let not-for-profits and the private sector help.

“Once the buildings are repaired, it’s about more than the bricks. It’s about the people who live there and so how do we turn into a more resident-friendly and resident-focus approach. The non-profit sector can really help us with that.”

Her hope over the next year is that the city focuses on implementation. What will make this new Task Force different from the many reports already presented to council will be the results.

“The devil is always in the details,” she said. “Let’s hope we can do something substantially different from what has happened before.”

Suffice to say, Bailão has a lot of work to do. So much so that she finds it difficult to make time for herself, a fact that is reiterated by the pile of unread books she bought around Christmas. She does do a little bit of travelling, mostly to visit family and friends in Portugal. She started running in the summer and has continued it during the winter.