Michael Del Grande has returned to the Toronto Catholic District School Board as trustee after years as a councillor at city hall.

Del Grande back in his ‘true vocation’

  • November 7, 2014

TORONTO - Michael Del Grande has come full circle, reclaiming his old seat as a trustee with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, and plans to use his connections to tap into funds that are there for the asking.

Taking a rare turn in politics, Toronto’s former assistant deputy mayor and budget chief has turned his back on city hall and returned to what he calls his true vocation as a Catholic school trustee. Now back at the school board Del Grande looks to bolster new and broaden existing relationships he’s made with the various levels of government — specifically City Hall now under the reins of Mayor John Tory with whom Del Grande says he shares a positive relationship.

“What I told people was that I was the right person at the right time with respect to having greater working relationships with the city that the pubic board enjoys that we (the Catholic board) don’t,” he said. “Many (city) councillors are from the public board so those relationships are there. I’ve seen it motion after motion after motion that money goes to the public board.

“It is a nice well that they have, almost an exclusive well, and we basically sit by and watch that happen.”

Del Grande wants to change that by tapping into the city’s $220 million budget for community benefits — which the former budget chief for the city predicts will be increasing.

“Those are funds that are available to improve neighbourhood situations where high density construction is going on,” said Del Grande.

“If the board just got one per cent of that they’d be getting $2.2 million a year to improve playgrounds and general facilities that would be available to the Toronto public at large.”

To tap into the fund effectively Del Grande has already put forward a proposal seeking appointment as chair of the board.

“The iron is hot right now so I’ve proposed to them that they should allow me to speak on behalf of the board,” he said. “I really don’t want to be chair ... (but) if I am just a regular trustee I can’t accomplish as much as I can if I were speaking on behalf of the board as the chair.”

Though Del Grande is seeking to unseat her as chair, Jo-Ann Davis sees the positives Del Grande can bring to the board.

“Del Grande’s experience as a city councillor will help us achieve goals which require municipal support which will be of value and will enhance the work already being done by the returning trustees to nurture those relationships locally,” said Davis. “Having a diversity of experience around the horseshoe, including Mr. Del Grande’s past professional experience as an accountant, can only be a good thing for our students in our policy and budget deliberations.”

And that is what Del Grande hopes other trustees will recognize in him.

“I hope that some of the partisanship that is on the board will do the right thing for the students in recognizing that I have made a sacrifice to come back,” he said. “I have a lot of experience and connections that they don’t have. (I’m here) to make sure the Catholic system provides a difference compared to the public system otherwise people will be asking for its abolishment.

“I still am committed to defend the Catholic education system.”

Del Grande recaptured his former Ward 7 seat, which he held from 1994 to 2003, with about 65 per cent of the ballots cast in the Oct. 27 election. His son John Del Grande, who decided not to run this year, held the Scarborough-North York seat prior to his father’s return.

“I left the Catholic school board because I imposed a self term limit of three terms,” said Del Grande. “Then I went into the city and I also imposed a self limit as a city councillor. Yes I could have moved provincially or federally, I was asked umpteen times, but my love has always been Catholic education.” 

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Humility, it appears, is not one of his many gifts.

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