TORONTO - A candidate with Italian roots for the most "Italian" city of the GTA: Steven Del Duca (in the pic above, from his Twitter profile), 49 years old, is a first-generation Canadian, born to an Italian father (his paternal grandfather immigrated to Canada from Italy in 1951) and a Scottish mother. He is married to Utilia Amaral and they live with their two daughters in Woodbridge, the new "Little Italy".
He represented the riding of Vaughan in the Ontario Legislative Assembly from 2012 to 2018 and he served in the provincial cabinet from 2014 to 2018, first as the Minister of Transportation and then as the Minister of Economic Development. During the 2018 election, Del Duca ran for the Ontario Liberal Party in the provincial election for Vaughan–Woodbridge and he lost but in 2020 he won the election for the Ontario Liberal Party leadership with 58.8 per cent of the ballot vote. He ran again in the riding of Vaughan-Woodbridge in the 2022 Ontario general election: after failing to win the seat, Del Duca announced his resignation as party leader. But he's already on the run: the new goal is to become Mayor of Vaughan.
Del Duca, how is the election campaign going?
"I feel like it's going really well: at this point in time we've been campaigning since the middle of August and we do have a great deal of support and I think there's a recognition that, given my experience and given the work that I've done as a Minister and as an MPP for this community, I am the best option for delivering continue to stability. I see a lot of people supporting me".
And it's also a very "Italian" campaign, in Vaughan...
"Oh yes, it is. The Italian community which I'm a part of here in Vaughan is obviously very large and very vibrant, one of the biggest and the most successful communities that we have in Vaughan, so yes, I'm blessed that I have a great support from the Italian people but in addition to that I have also the support from multiple communities: people who recognize that Vaughan is a wonderful community in which to live, to work and to raise a family. I've lived here for 35 years, my wife and I are raising our young daughters here, this is a beautiful community and I want to make sure that it continues to remain that way".
Can you tell us three points of your program?
"The number one: the traffic. When i'm talking to residents of Vaughan, the greatest concearn is relating to traffic on our roads and I think that that's largely because we've had so much growth in the past three decades, it's been really hard to keep up but I think we can find a way, creatively, to build out the public transit and the road connection on existing roads and build our communities in a way so that the transportation network is built at the same time as the growth of the city".
"Number two: this is a tough time for a lot of families in Vaughan and beyond with the inflation and the cost of everything going up. It is so, so important, particularly for our seniors and other vulnerable residents, that we keep the property taxes low, to find ways to provide relief. I think of my parent who live here in Woodbridge, they're in their 80s now and they worked their whole life to own the home that they live in: they'd like to stay in their home for the rest of their life as many seniors would like to do but you know, despite the best efforts sometimes the cost of everything going in the wrong direction makes it tough, and I think leaders at all levels, including the City Hall, need to do everything possible to help support people and realize the affordability challenge to keep property taxes low".
"The third thing: we are very blessed here in the city of Vaughan, because we are one of the safest large communities in all of Ontario. The statistics on community safety and crime are very positive but in the last few months we've started to see a little bit of growing in gun crime, home robberies... and I think the important thing to the next Mayor is to make sure working closely with the Regional Police. They are doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe, so I think the next Mayor needs to take it seriously and continue to find ways to keep community safety top of mind".
What the agreement with outgoing Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua provides?
"First of all, I've known Maurizio Bevilacqua for a really long time. When I was MPP for Vaughan, I had the pleasure of working very closely with him, delivering the hospital, opening up our subway; so, it's a very strong partnership. Also, there was a time in the city of Vaughan prior to 2010 when it was a little chaotic at our city council, like things weren't going very well, and I think in the last twelve years Maurizio with his leadership and his experience really has helped to deliver stability and professionalism, bringing his experience from Ottawa as an MPP to the task of City Hall to guide the city in the right kind of way. During this campaign we've been talking a lot and when he told me that he wanted to endorse my campaign I was honored and I still am: we spent time working together on this accord, looking at all of the things that are on their way, the things that Maurizio built in our city, making sure they will continue to go in the right way like the University, the medical school and other important project for our community".
Del Duca, why should voters choose you as Mayor?
"Thanks to my experience as a Minister and as an MPP, I represent the best option. And my experience, my skills, my talent are exactly what this city needs. I will continue Bevilacqua's work and I will go on, following the same way, to make Vaughan a great place to live".