A walk with Ward 18 candidate Parthi Kandavel
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Kandavel is a teacher himself, third generation in his family, and says he wants schools to increase physical education and address bullying more directly.

"People sometimes think I'm a real estate agent asking if they want to sell their house," says as he canvasses houses around Blantyre Park near Kingston Rd. and Victoria Park Ave. Kandavel is running for Toronto District School Board Trustee in Ward 18, Scarborough Southwest. "I think they're relieved that I'm not a council candidate."

The trustee races run parallel to the council and mayoral election, though trustee wards consist of two city council wards put together, in this case Wards 35 and 36, a massive territory to cover. Scarborough Southwest is triangular in shape, bounded by Victoria Park, Eglinton Ave., and the lake to the south, with an erratic eastern point near Scarborough Golf Club Rd. These big wards are a lot of ground to cover for trustee candidates.

Kandavel explains his ward ranges from working class neighbourhoods to multi-million dollar homes south of Kingston Rd. atop the Scarborough Bluffs. "At the door I can get a sense of how many seconds I have to give my spiel," he says. That spiel includes telling residents he's a teacher himself, third generation in his family, and that he wants schools to increase physical education and address bullying more directly. Then there are the test scores.

"16 of 22 schools in this ward are below provincial average," he says, though he's quick to point out scores are only a small part of a good education, but as they do affect property values, people without kids may feel compelled to look closely at who they're voting for, apart from a general interest in the wellbeing of future generations.

As Kandavel knocked on Scarborough doors, people who answered were generally engaged, one man telling him something needs to be done about the teacher unions, another woman saying she's glad one of the Ford brothers has dropped out of the race so more time can be spent on issues like the schools.

Most laugh at Kandavel's joke about getting kids exercising and off their iPads. Others have a voter's natural skepticism when somebody shows up at the door.

"Ninety-eight percent of people are very friendly," says Kandavel. "I think people respect on a fundamental level that I'm out here on the street."

We took a detour onto the lush grounds of the Scarborough Hunt Club, a private golf course atop the bluffs. The view is fantastic but it's hard to canvass golfers, so we leave, but not before Kandavel shares some Scarborough trivia: the year he moved to Scarborough with his parents at age 6 in 1988, Prime Minister Mulroney hosted the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan here during a G7 summit.

Further along the bluffs, by the Rosetta McClain Gardens, Kandavel knocked on doors in a Toronto Community Housing high-rise. Few opened their door but one woman yelled, "Come in". Once he peaked his head past the threshold, she told Kandavel to leave his pamphlet by the door and not come in. "It's the bedbugs," she yelled from a wheelchair in her living room. After we left the building we crossed the street and walked a steep ravine path down to the beach under the bluffs. Some of Toronto's must daunting problems are often hidden right by its most beautiful spots.

"There's so much you can do in the role of trustee," says Kandavel. "You can help create a sense of community, neighbourhood, and connect with parents". He's also optimistic about the downtown-suburban divide too. "This is just Toronto coming of age. We'll reconcile our seemingly deep differences, but it'll take some time. It'll take some work."

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