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U of T students, alums dominate City Idol competition: Scarborough student among trio running as candidates for city council

Amarjeet Chhabra. Image: Melissa Goldstein

The slate of candidates for this fall’s Toronto municipal election will have a U of T flavour, thanks to the recent City Idol competition.

U of T students Amarjeet Chhabra and Bahar Aminvaziri and alumnus Arthur Roszak will all be running for office with help from the non-profit group Who Runs This Town? This is the prize for victory in the civics competition based loosely on the popular Canadian Idol television series.

City Idol is the brainchild Dave Meslin of Who Runs This Town? It was billed as a competition of ideas for a better city and served as a way of engaging more people in the political process. Competitors put their ideas for improving Toronto to the test of an audience vote and the least impressive were “voted off the island.” Chhabra, Aminvaziri and Roszak were the last candidates standing in their regional competitions. These three victors, along with fellow regional winner Desmond Cole, will now receive support in running a political campaign for a seat on Toronto city council. They have already filed nomination papers -- Chhabra for a seat in Scarborough, Aminvaziri for North York and Roszak for Etobicoke York.Chhabra, a political science and life science student at U of T at Scarborough, is a member of the Toronto Youth Cabinet executive. She has been an active participant in volunteer activities since coming to Canada from India as a high school student. When contest organizer Meslin pitched the city idol idea at a youth cabinet meeting, she jumped at the chance to participate.

“I always wanted to run for political office, I just didn’t think it would happen so soon,” said Chhabra, 24. “Obviously, I want to win, but if I don’t, I’ll run again in four years. My main goal for this election is to at least raise the awareness among youth about getting involved. It’s your city, you have to step up.”Aminvaziri is finishing her master’s degree in engineering while working for the Ministry of the Environment as an environmental engineer. A native of Iran, she came to Canada at the age of 20 and she wants to give something back to her new country.

“I love Toronto very much and always tried to get involved with the community,” she said. “I want to give something back. When I came to Canada, I really appreciated the gift of democracy you have here and decided to vote in every election. Everyone should be aware that not every country has a great system and it’s our responsibility to make our voices heard.”Roszak ran track for the Varsity Blues and graduated from U of T with an honours BA. He went on to earn an MBA at the University of Windsor and currently works as a business development manager. As a longtime community volunteer, Roszak had previously considered running for office and said the City Idol competition afforded the perfect opportunity. “City Idol looked like a very good concept that will allow new people an opportunity to get involved directly with municipal politics,” he said.

“My community involvement has ranged from volunteering as a high school track coach to organizing pre-elections meetings in the last federal elections. I am eager to dedicate my skills, educational background and community work experience to the residents of my ward.”

City Idol founder Meslin is delighted with the outcome of the competition. “The whole project was a crazy experiment and I wasn’t sure if anyone would want to run but we’re trying to address the current political culture in Toronto and the lack of engagement,” he said. “Democracy only works if people are involved and we’re hoping these four wards in the city where City Idol winners are running have the highest voter turnout.”

Follow the progress of these three candidates as they navigate their way through a political campaign. Visit www.amarjeet.to, www.bahar.to and www.arthurroszak.ca for more information.




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