Our Sector

Remembering Pam McConnell

Joint Statement on the Death of Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell – July 7, 2017

The Co-op Housing Federation of Canada (CHF Canada) and the Co-op Housing Federation of Toronto (CHFT) mourn the loss of our Deputy Mayor, our co-op housing champion, our friend.

Pam McConnell has been a force for good in thousands of people’s lives. She was admired and respected by multiple communities and organizations. But for the co-op housing sector, she was one of us. We have lost one of our own, and our hearts are broken.

Pam raised her family in the Spruce Court Housing Co-op (pictured). She has served as President of CHFT. And as a Toronto Councillor and as Deputy Mayor, she has always advocated for the well-being of housing co-ops and their members, and for affordable housing for all.

To her husband Jim, and her daughters Heather Ann and Madelyn, we offer the thoughts and prayers of Pam’s co-op housing friends across Canada.

“Pam is a true hero – a co-op activist long before becoming a politician. She is a champion of the people.” – Tom Clement, Executive Director, CHFT

“Pam tirelessly advocated to ensure everyone has a decent affordable place to call home. She served as a role model to us all.” – Harvey Cooper, Managing Director, CHF Canada Ontario Region

Harvey Cooper | Tom Clement

City Councillor Pam McConnell – Long-time Co-op Champion and Social Justice Advocate

City Councillor, co-op champion and social justice advocate Pam McConnell passed away on July 7.

Pam had deep roots in the co-op housing community. Pam lived with her family in Spruce Court Co-op for close to 40 years. She was a delegate to CHFT, a board member and then the president. Pam’s time on the board was a period of growth in co-op housing. New co-ops were opening and the government worked in partnership with the sector. It was also when member services for existing co-ops became a priority for CHFT. Pam was elected three times to the CHFT board. She served for 12 years on the Toronto board of education. She also managed two co-ops.

Pam was elected to Toronto City Council in 1994 when Barbara Hall was elected mayor. At City Hall Pam was a persistent advocate for poverty reduction. She was an effective and strategic politician who patiently worked for the greater good. In total she won fourteen consecutive elections.

City Council Bridge Builder

As a municipal politician, she brought the women councillors together regardless of their political allegiance. In the famous Jane Doe case, Pam moved the motion to have City Council apologize to Jane Doe. Every woman on council seconded the motion. The motion passed 51 to 1.

Pam was a councillor who served with five mayors. She developed the City’s anti-poverty strategy. She did an amazing job in pulling together the community centre at Sherbourne and Wellesley which includes one of the top three circulation libraries in North American. She played a major role in the Regent Park redevelopment. When the Trump Hotel was being built, Pam took on Trump and won! She made sure that he made a significant financial commitment to building an aquatic centre in Regent Park.

Pam had a variety of roles with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. She took the lead in promoting women’s participation at the municipal level across Canada. Through a mentoring program that Pam helped create, she mentored a number of young women.

John Tory appointed her a deputy mayor but for so many she really was the people’s mayor.

Co-ops Were Always Close to Her Heart

Through everything, she kept co-ops close to her heart. When it seemed all levels of government had abandoned the low income members of housing co-ops, Pam stepped in. Some co-ops had already come out of their agreements but there were no subsidies for low income members. Pam worked behind the scenes at City Hall to get the City to provide temporary subsidies. At an absolutely packed rally at City Hall made the announcement. She never forgot about those in need. No amount of red tape could tie her up.

Pam always found time for co-ops. She overcame countless obstacles to make sure that Local 75 Co-op on Richmond Street East was built. She attended countless events at CHFT. When CHFT wanted to show people from Atkinson Co-op what a co-op was like, we met with Pam at Spruce Court Co-op. She inspired them. Pam was in the crowd when the Randy Padmore Park was officially opened. Pam loved our scholarship program. She was an honorary CHFT Board member. Pam and her husband Jim received the Century of Co-operation Award in 2010. There is no doubt that Pam packed several centuries of co-operation into her life.