A Forum for Challengers

October 11, 2018 in




The 2018 Toronto municipal election has attracted enormous attention, providing the perfect opportunity to challenge the status quo and debate what issues should be made top priorities.

The Urban Policy Lab has partnered with the Munk School’s Gender, Diversity and Public Policy Initiative to inspire students to develop a priority agenda for the incoming city council. Our vision is to connect students with several candidates in the upcoming Toronto election who are challenging long-time incumbents, particularly new voices who are running to challenge the status quo at City Hall.


Confirmed attendees:

Sarah Climenhaga, Candidate for Mayor

Sarah Climenhaga is a community advocate and former Executive Director of the Black Creek Transportation Management Association (which later became Smart Commute). During that time she implemented a ride-sharing program, improved bicycle infrastructure at York University, publicized the economic benefits of decreasing reliance on the personal automobile, and being part of the movement that successfully fought to bring the eastern stub of the Gardiner Expressway down.

Saron Gebresellassi, Candidate for Mayor

Saron Gebresellassi is a nationally recognized multi-lingual lawyer, scholar, and activist, with an extensive track record in advocating for the people of Toronto. She is a human rights and litigation lawyer and founder of the People’s Firm, a law firm located in her childhood neighbourhood of York Square. She took the skills she gained at a prominent Bay Street law firm and applied it to her passion for working within the community. Saron continues to provide her time to pro bono cases and public interest legal clinics so that she can contribute her expertise to individuals and community organizations.

Reza Khoshdel, Candidate for Ward 25 Scarborough—Rouge Park

Reza Khoshdel is business executive and former political advisor & community organizer. During his tenure at Queen’s Park, he served as Legislative Assistant and MPP Liaison to the Minister of Research and Innovation. Upon leaving the public service, he returned to the private sector and currently serves as a senior operations executive for an education firm that specializes in math enrichment programs for high performing and gifted students.

Saman Tabasinejad, Candidate for Ward 28 Willowdale

Saman is a community newspaper editor, refugee housing advocate, policy chair for the Iranian-Canadian Congress, a former language instructor for new immigrants, and a proud progressive. She studied hard in the evenings at the North York Central Library, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Carleton and McGill. For the past two years she has been on the executive of Roofs for Refugees, an organization that pairs newly arrived refugees with homes with reasonable rents. She has also served as a policy associate for the Iranian Canadian Congress since January.

Kevin Vuong, Candidate for Ward 10 Spadina—Fort York

As the Canadian-born son of refugees from the Vietnam War, Kevin lives by values of hard work and perseverance and is dedicated to celebrating the diversity of Toronto. A former banker and University of Toronto law school graduate, Kevin is currently a Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine’s Translational Research Program at his alma mater, and serves as an Officer in Her Majesty’s Royal Canadian Navy.

Urban Policy Lab launches Council Scorecard, partners on Vote Compass Toronto

October 4, 2018 in Projects


The Urban Policy Lab is excited to partner with Vox Pop Labs and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to enhance the Toronto municipal election edition of Vote Compass, an award-winning application that informs voters on how their views align with those of the candidates running for election.

Utilizing data from our newly launched Council Scorecard project, Vote Compass users can now learn not only what mayoral and council candidates promise to do if elected, but also how these promises compare to the actual voting records of council incumbents.

The Urban Policy Lab developed the Council Scorecard in collaboration with municipal affairs analyst and columnist Matt Elliott, who created the original Scorecard in 2011 to track votes at Toronto City Council. It soon became a frequently used resource for city staff, politicians, activists, and engaged residents to understand councillor voting patterns.

In Summer 2018, the Urban Policy Lab teamed up with Elliott to expand and enhance the Council Scorecard as a civic education and democratic accountability tool to help the public keep tabs on their local elected representatives and provide a resource for researchers to compare voting behaviour in different municipalities.

The goal of the Council Scorecard is to present municipal voting records in compelling and accessible formats to make it easier for people to learn how their local representatives voted on issues that matter to them, their community, and the city as a whole. Our partnership with Vox Pox Labs and the CBC on Vote Compass is our first effort toward these ends, with more creative applications to come.

Learn more about the Lab’s contribution to the Vote Compass project here, and be sure to try Vote Compass for yourself to learn about all candidates for Toronto City Council and the voting records of current councillors.

Visit Vote Compass