2019 Young Alumni Inspiration Award nominee: Brad Bradford
Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about Brad Bradford: He nailed the double axel in figure skating, climbed the CN tower’s 1,776 stairs in under 12 minutes for United Way, and founded an inclusive cycling team, Toronto Hustle. First and foremost, Brad Bradford is about building community – and politics provides him with a platform to affect real change.
Brad Bradford graduated from Waterloo in 2012 with a master’s in Planning. While studying in the School of Planning, his research focused on district energy initiatives, future-proofing cities, resilience planning, and local economic development. Since then, he has spent his career making a difference by planning more sustainable and more inclusive neighbourhoods, addressing local issues, and amplifying the voices of those typically left out of the city building conversation – pillars evident in his political work.
Brad’s career has taken him from the private sector, working on transportation projects across Canada, to the non-profit sector in Boston, MA working on community energy plans. More recently, he led stakeholder engagement projects through the Office of the Chief Planner at the City of Toronto. This experience allowed him to see firsthand, the challenges and opportunities facing local government.
It was during his time as one of CivicAction’s DiverseCity Fellows that the idea of running for local office started to crystalize. “Many of us feel frustrated with government, the overly-partisan politics, and the inability to get things done. For me, it got to a point where I decided to stop complaining about it, put up my hand, and try to make things better.”
Brad decided he could create real community change by running for City Council in his neighbourhood of Beaches-East York. He took an unpaid leave from his position in City Planning to run for Toronto’s City Council in the 2018 election. The election was historic as the Provincial government changed the ward boundaries in the middle of the campaign. As a non-card-carrying individual, he was able to show that he would bring a pragmatic, non-partisan approach to local government with a commitment to community-led change. On his unique political approach, Brad says that “staying non-partisan allows me to represent my diverse community, issue by issue. As a planner, I have a strong inclination to consult. It doesn’t matter if good ideas come from the ‘left’ or the ‘right’ – we just need to move them forward.” He finds this approach gives him an advantage when speaking with people in the community. “They see me working for what's best in our neighbourhood rather than the party. This makes working at City Hall more rewarding and, I think, more impactful for my community.”
At just 32 years of age, Brad was able to organize, support and encourage a team of over 120 volunteers who shared his vision for a better Toronto and a more positive type of politics. Now successfully elected, he has put forward motions such as mandatory term limits to keep government diverse, pushing for complete streets that include cycling networks and bike lanes on Danforth, and opening up the infamous ‘yellowbelt’ zoning to make room for the missing middle housing.
“These are the projects and issues I always wanted to move forward as a civil servant but didn’t have the opportunity to drive. Now as an elected official, with the support of my community, I’m driving change at City Hall. Together, we’re bringing the change that we want to see.”