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WALLACE: Toronto loses one of its best with passing of Gordon Chong
James Wallace
More from James Wallace
Published:
July 13, 2018
Updated:
July 13, 2018 7:59 PM EDT
Veteran Toronto politician, businessman and public servant Gordon Chong takes a stroll in Chinatown.Michael Peake, Toronto Sun
After proposing changes to Gordon Chong’s column not so long ago, he replied with a fair bit of dander that “unilateral spineless meddling” in his copy was “getting a bit tiresome.”
He was probably right, as he was on so many issues over the course of great, well-lived and meaningful life.
Chong, a dear friend and frequent columnist to the Toronto Sun, has passed away. He was 74.
Toronto was different when Gord grew up in the 1950s in old Chinatown on Elizabeth St. between Dundas and Queen streets. Anti-immigrant and racial discrimination was naked and visceral.
During our occasional jousting over his columns, Gord would tell stories about Chinatown in those days, how rough and tumble and in a way innocent things were. But also how close people were.
Veteran Toronto politician, businessman and public servant Gordon Chong takes a stroll in Chinatown. Michael Peake, Toronto Sun
The son of a white mother whose family disowned her when she married a Chinese man, Gord embarked on what at the time must have seemed for many in his neighbourhood an unlikely path – dentistry school at the University of Toronto, founding director of the Federation of Chinese Canadian Professionals and a long and distinguished political career.
He was a councillor on the old Metro council, a North York councillor, a director or chairman on numerous city boards and agencies including GO Transit and the Metro Toronto Housing Corporation, a member of the late Mayor Rob Ford’s transition team and the final chair of the Greater Toronto Services Board, created following the amalgamation of the City of Toronto.
Paul Godfrey, executive chairman and chief executive officer of Postmedia, has been a friend and colleague of Gord’s since those Metro council days.
“Gord gave up dentistry, a very profitable dentistry practice to serve the public because he loved everything about Toronto,” Godfrey said. “He was a real community builder.”
“He always talked about improving the quality of life,” Godfrey said. “He also fought for underdog because he was an underdog.”
“His kids and my kids grew up together. We spent lots of time together. I considered him a great pal, someone I’m going to miss terribly.”
Gord met his match, Shirley Hoy, at the Mon Sheong Foundation and Home for the Aged. Shirley is one of Toronto’s most respected public servants, a social worker who went on to serve in senior positions on Metro Council and later as Assistant Deputy Minister in three provincial ministries before returning to serve as Toronto’s City Manager.
Shirley Hoy and Social Housing Services Corp. CEO and vice-chairman of GO transit Gordon Chong pose for a photo outside of City Hall on May 5, 2006. Ernest Doroszuk, Toronto Sun
Over the past few years, Gord’s heart troubles grew serious and complications made a transplant impossible. He’d moved recently from Toronto General into palliative care.
I interviewed Gord many times over the years, about race stats and gridlock and transit. When Toronto amalgamated, he warned downloaded long-term care costs would skyrocket. He was right. He called for Regent Park to be bulldozed and replaced with a mix of high-density social housing and private-sector condominiums years before that happened.
In a 2014 column in the National Post on what needs to happen to get Toronto moving, he wrote:
“Over the last few decades, all of the efforts aimed at improving Toronto’s congested road and transit networks have been informed primarily by short-term electoral interests. What’s needed is something different: big, far-sighted investment that proceeds according to a 100-year time horizon.”
“It will be expensive, and not for the faint of heart.”
He was right again, and was never faint of heart.
“Too many of us are afraid of our own shadows & of offending people that we “pussyfoot” around to the detriment of informing the public,” he wrote in an email congratulating fellow Sun columnist Mark Bonokoski on his induction into the Newspaper Hall of Fame. “Don’t stop!”
Gord never took his foot off the gas.
It was a hell of a ride.
jawallace@postmedia.com
http://torontosun.com/news/local-new...f-gordon-chong