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5 things you didn't know about David Soknacki

Posted by Chris Bateman / August 5, 2014

David SoknackiIn January, David Soknacki became the first of the major candidates to officially put his name forward to replace Rob Ford, a decision that in itself marked a change of heart. Eight years earlier, the popular small-"c" conservative and acclaimed budget chief quit municipal politics to devote more time to his herb and spice business. "I'm not the type of person that would pick up my marbles and go home," he told the Toronto Star, denying the departure was acrimonious.

The "eternal optimist," as he has been called, became involved in politics in the early 1990s during a neighbourhood dispute over a park at Markham Rd. and Lawrence Ave. Plans to install new lighting and additional baseball diamonds without public consultation didn't sit well with the some members of the community, leading Soknacki to form the Densgrove Park Community Association.

In office, Soknacki championed the appointment of Dennis Lee as the city's first poet laureate, successfully stopped councillors employing their own family members, suggested contracting our certain city services, and in 2000 voted in favour of making a bid for the 2008 Olympics. Later, he was in charge of the city's $6.5 billion budget during David Miller's first term as mayor.

The fiscal conservative, known this election period for his thoughtful, info-heavy, and "geeky" policy papers, isn't scared of sticking to his guns, it appears. "Will there be tough decisions? Of course. But you have them in life, don't you," he said in 2004 shortly after becoming budget chief.

He can read and write in Egyptian hieroglyphs

According to Supriya Dwivedi, Soknacki's press secretary, the mayoral candidate learned how to read and write in ancient Egyptian symbols during his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. "He took a couple of Near Eastern studies classes during his undergrad and picked it up," she says. The use of hieroglyphs peaked in ancient Egypt around the 7th century BC.

He presented a late-night talk show on Scarborough cable TV in 1985

The first mention of David Soknacki's name in the newspaper archives appears in a TV guide from 1985. Before becoming a councillor, Soknacki presented a late-night program on called "At Your Service" on Metro Cable, a Toronto local access station. He describes it as "sort of like LeDrew's show on CP24, without the bow tie."

Has twice been elected in by-elections triggered by former Scarborough mayor Frank Faubert

When Frank Faubert left his Scarborough city council seat to mount what would become a successful bid for mayor of the pre-amalgamation city, Soknacki entered the resulting by-election, along with current Toronto city councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker. Soknacki won the vote and remained on Scarborough city council until it was abolished in 1998. Soknacki lost to Faubert for a seat on the newly-formed Toronto city council, but later won in another by-election, this one triggered by Faubert's death in 1999.

During his first term, Soknacki--"a good natured Boy Scout," according to The Star--was applauded for successfully banning councillors from hiring their own family members as office assistants. During this time, he was praised for spending just $6,294, all of it paid out-of-pocket. He was later criticized by The Star for paying $1,500 to an executive headhunting firm in the search for an executive assistant. He eventually hired Paul Ainslie, now a city councillor himself, who had recently quit Cllr. Ron Moeser's office.

toronto david soknackiHeld senior budget positions under Mel Lastman and David Miller

Despite voting for John Tory in 2003, new mayor David Miller appointed Soknacki as chair of the city's budget committee, a promotion from his deputy role under Mel Lastman. Facing a $344 million shortfall, fellow councillor Brian Ashton likened the challenge of balancing the city's books to "asking a bank manager to take over during a robbery." Soknacki and Miller delivered consecutive 3 percent property tax increases, though as The Star notes, "Soknacki would have preferred to hold the line at zero."

"Retired" from politics in 2006

Not all retirements stick. Soknacki quit politics in 2006, saying he wanted to devote more time to his herb and spice company, Ecom Food Industries. Soknacki founded the business in 1986 after selling bulk batches of mustard seed for a British trading company. "I was such a dreadful employee, I had to start my own business," he told The Star in 2004. Soknacki denied rumours his decision not to seek re-election was due to a conflict with David Miller.


Next week: 5 things you didn't know about Karen Stintz

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.



Rob Ford / August 5, 2014 at 02:38 am
Ders no Sock in his name? FIM!
Remove The Frauds / August 5, 2014 at 05:18 am
David could do a much better job than crackhead Rob even in his sleep.
David is himself / August 5, 2014 at 08:47 am
David has NOT promised a ridiculous hand gun ban and David did NOT dress up in a costume for Caribana to try and fit in.
W. K. Lis / August 5, 2014 at 09:00 am
On a ranked ballot, David Soknacki would be my #2.
George / August 5, 2014 at 10:16 am
He is the only candidate to bring up the bloated budget/pay of police and emergency services. For that he has my vote.
Sam / August 5, 2014 at 11:18 am
Real shame that the most logical, coherent candidate who says factual things even if they're unpopular just doesn't stand a real chance when the other candidates are telling people what they want to hear, trashing each other or running a popularity contest.
Reg replying to a comment from Iron Sheik / August 5, 2014 at 12:35 pm
She's trying too hard to fit in. Is wearing the cultural attire and headresses of a group your not part of respectful or disresctful? Can one not show support to a group without having to dress up to look the same? We don't care about visual appearance its about mindset. Look at her twitter account, Olivia has been photo opting all over the place in different attire.

Christopher King / August 5, 2014 at 01:06 pm
IMHO Soknacki is the only candidate running who actually deserves to be mayor. He's done all his homework and costed it, and is running an actual platform as opposed to just using name recognition and a few choice slogans.
Anton Bee / August 5, 2014 at 02:06 pm
I don't see him as anything great. He is from Scarborough, so obviously he knows about the transport issues in the area. However he disagrees with Andy Byford, and says that there should be no subways, just RTs for the area. Scarbs has no north-south thruways, it has 25% of Toronto's population but has just 3 subway stops (if you include Vic Park). Traffic is becoming really terrible as people travel up the roads into Markham. Something has to change with mass transit, and RTs will never address the need for long distance travel in our huge city and its greater area. Tory at least has a better solution with converting the rail lines to 2-way.
Malcolm replying to a comment from Christopher King / August 5, 2014 at 02:14 pm
Not just in your HO
My Hero David / August 5, 2014 at 04:21 pm
He's the best candidate, by far. Honest & straightforward to a fault. I'm going to volunteer for him. Do the right thing & vote for him.
realityCheck / August 5, 2014 at 05:26 pm
I realize that this candidate has a certain appeal to many on this site. However, in my view,someone who wants to be mayor of Toronto, yet situated his business just across municipal boundaries in Markham to likely take advantage of lower corporate tax rates, is lacking a certain amount of integrity.
Sad / August 5, 2014 at 05:52 pm
I think he's the best candidate. And I think Toronto is way too f'ing stupid these days to elect him.
Spicy Garage / August 6, 2014 at 01:25 am
@Anton Bee

1) Byford says that subways are the best transit mode _when money is no object_. Back in the real world, the 3-stop, gold-plated subway would cost Toronto $910 million, but that's just the start — add $500 million for the interest on the 30-year loan, PLUS $100 million in LRT cancellation charges, PLUS about $1.5 billion in cost overruns, PLUS all yearly operations in perpetuity, PLUS all yearly maintenance in perpetuity.

That's several billions which could serve Toronto (including Scarborough) much better if invested in _more_ transit elsewhere. Heck, the subway costs could pay for the Scarborough LRT _plus a second_ line, the Malvern LRT. That's 19 km of rapid transit instead of 7.

People who support the subway don't actually want to help Scarborough.

2) Subways are not warranted by population, but by density. Your argument that "Scarborough has X number of people" is invalid. (Otherwise, you could make the argument that Newfoundland and Labrador, with a population similar to Scarborough, should be covered by subways. Hopefully, you can see the problem with attributing subways by raw population.)
j-rock / August 6, 2014 at 01:14 pm
Hopefully he's able to gain some more traction next time around. If he were remotely competitive at this point, I would consider voting for him, but I can't afford to "waste" my vote, because Ford's merry band of idiots guarantee him at least 20%, and getting rid of him is job #1 in October.
here / September 1, 2014 at 05:06 pm
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