Volunteer Eric Morse continues his explorations of the archives of Seven News, a weekly local newspaper in Toronto 40 years ago for what was then Ward 7, including Cabbagetown.
Rent and municipal politics were the big items in the first two June issues of Seven News.
Tenants of the Barbara Apartments in St. James Town were protesting major rent increases of up to 20 per cent amid allegations that landlord Meridian Properties had been manipulating paperwork and claiming expenses that had not been incurred.
The Page One piece for the June 3 issue went on to note that the building, which had been designated low-income and had been built with low-cost government loans, had seen rents double over the course of 17 years, that tenants had been embroiled in rental disputes continuously since 1976, and that the current rent increases amounted to 20 per cent.
The theme continued on Page Four of the issue, with a major piece by regulars Thom Corbett and Ulli Diemer, criticizing the apparent intentions of the Bill Davis Government to lift rent controls. The heart of the debate is a familiar one: are controls a disincentive to the construction of new rental housing? Seven clearly had little sympathy for this: the article concludes that “a million [Toronto tenants] committed to the proposition that good affordable housing is a right, not a privilege that depends on someone making a high enough profit from it, could be a potent political force.”
But the big political news came in the headline of the June 17 issue: John Sewell had declared his candidacy for Mayor in the elections to be held November 13, 1978. The Ward 7 Alderman (and founder of Seven News as an alternative to the major dailies) had broken onto the municipal stage nearly a decade before as a reformer, and felt that now was the time to seek the top job, which had been vacated by ‘Tiny Perfect” Mayor David Crombie, then seeking the Federal nomination in Rosedale riding. Notwithstanding its origins, Seven News expressed concern that Sewell might be co-opted by the conservative interests on Council, as (in the paper’s view) had been Crombie and his predecessor Mayor William Dennison. Sewell noted that if elected, he hoped to build a coalition of reform-minded councillors.
The other big political news was that Gordon Cressy, the former Chair of the Board of Education, would run for Ward 7 Alderman in an attempt to succeed Sewell. According to the article, his major concerns were to fight the growing trend in rent increases for low-income housing, and rising unemployment in Toronto. Cressy had run provincially as an NDP candidate in the 1977 provincial election and had lost to Margaret Scrivener. He stated that although he felt that party politics had no place in municipal elections, he hoped to gain NDP endorsement for his candidacy.
Identity issues were alive and well in the education system; correspondent Frances Watman notes that South Asian advocacy groups had called for the elimination of 14 texts on the Ministry of Education approved list contained racist terminology and should be removed from the list.
And finally in sports, the young talent at the Cabbagetown Boxing and Youth Centre shines again in the tune-up matches for the All-Ontario Juniors in Oshawa that month. In the line-up: future (1984) Olympian Shawn O’Sullivan. Club Member Andy Williams, 12 years old, contributes a poem.