On Monday, October 22, 2018, Torontonians will be electing a new city council. Even though incumbent mayor John Tory faces no high-profile challengers, the municipal election is very important. Council — not the mayor — holds most of the power. Changes to ward boundaries and newly open council races will make this an interesting election. It is my hope that citizens will take notice of these local races and turn out to make an informed choice. City council decisions impact the lives of every single city resident, everything from policing, libraries, and the fate of multi-billion dollar transit projects and road conditions. The mayor only holds one vote.
When the new council is formed on December 1, 2018, there will be 47 wards, up from 44. As I mentioned previously, Downtown Toronto will gain three new seats, and North York will gain one, but one seat is lost in Toronto’s west end, in an area currently represented by Wards 14, 17, and 18. Only seven wards remain unchanged.
Several city councillors have announced that they will not be running for another term in 2018. Janet Davis (Ward 31), John Filion (Ward 23), and Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32) will not be seeking re-election, while Shelley Carroll (Ward 33) and Chin Lee (Ward 41) resigned their council seats to run for the Liberals in the recent provincial election. Ron Moeser (Ward 44) and Pam McConnell (Ward 28) died in office and were replaced by appointed caretakers who are not supposed to stand for election.
This means that at least ten new councillors will be elected this term.
Also adding to the intrigue: two west end incumbents — Cesar Palacio (existing Ward 17) and Ana Bailão (existing Ward 18) will be facing off against each other in the new Ward 16.
The deadline for candidates to file nomination papers or withdraw from the election is Friday July 27, a mere five weeks from now. As of June 20, 2018, there are 11 candidates for mayor and 118 candidates for city council. Four of the new wards do not yet have nominated candidates (Ward 2, Ward 8, Ward 19, and Ward 26).
Ten city councillors — Josh Colle, Justin Di Ciano, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Michael Ford, Mark Grimes, Mike Layton, Josh Matlow, Denzil Minnan-Wong, Neethan Shan, and David Shiner — have yet to register for re-election.
Map of the new 47 wards and registered candidates in each
As I go through the list of candidates, what worries me are several crowded fields of challengers against ineffective or divisive councillors running for re-election.
In the old Ward 16 in 2014, a long list of candidates allowed Christin Carmichael-Greb, one of Toronto’s most invisible and least-working municipal officials, to win with only 3949 votes, 17.4% of all ballots cast. Carmichael-Greb had name recognition (the daughter of the local Conservative MP at the time) and support from John Tory’s campaign. In 2018, there are already four challengers in new Ward 14 against Councillor Carmichael-Greb, making her re-election bid much easier than it should be. There are nine candidates against Scarborough Councillor Michelle Holland-Berardinetti.
And in Ward 7, represented by repugnant six-term councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, Tiffany Ford and Keegan Henry-Mathieu will likely split the vote allowing Mammoliti’s re-election. Ford, currently a TDSB trustee, is probably the stronger candidate; Henry-Mathieu came in a distant sixth place in 2014.
Ranked ballots — which would allow voters to chose first, second, and third-choice candidates could negate this problem. But another scandal-ridden councillor, Justin Di Ciano (who is currently under OPP investigation), moved a motion at council in 2015 to not ask the provincial government to permit the city to institute this democratic change. Unfortunately, a majority of councillors — including Mammoliti, Carmichael-Greb, and Holland-Berardinetti — voted with Di Ciano.
Incumbents — especially mediocre ones — know that they have the advantage in municipal elections, especially when voter turnout is low, there are no party labels and name recognition is a huge asset. A crowded field of challengers is even better for them.
I admire the courage and hard work necessary to run for office. But I wish there was a better way of electing good local representatives and holding our politicians to account.