On Monday, July 25, residents of Ward 2 (Etobicoke North) went to the polls to elect a new councillor to replace the late Rob Ford, who was elected as councillor in the 2014 general election after a disastrous four years as mayor.
After Rob Ford’s death in March 2016, it was widely expected that the Ford family would field a candidate; it would either be former Ward 2 councillor Doug Ford or Rob and Doug’s nephew Michael Ford (née Stirpe).
Michael Ford, then 20 years old, ran for councillor in the 2014 general election. He withdrew in September 2014 to run for the local Toronto District School Board trustee position, so that Rob Ford could run for councillor instead, abandoning his bid for re-election as Mayor of Toronto due to his poor health. Doug Ford, who originally wasn’t going to run again for municipal office, ran for mayor in Rob’s place, coming in a strong second to John Tory. I mapped those results in a previous post.
Right away, Michael Ford was the clear favourite to win the by-election. The Ford name is famous in north Etobicoke; Doug Ford Senior was a Progressive Conservative MPP from 1995 to 1999; Rob Ford represented Ward 2 from 2000 through 2010 before running for mayor, and winning against George Smitherman. But Michael Ford, only 22, claimed to be his own person; his brief tenure on the TDSB board has been without the buffoonery or intolerance that Rob and Doug exhibited; Michael attended the 2016 Pride Parade in 2016, something the other Fords made a point of avoiding. But Michael Ford campaigned on a platform of “customer service” — the same philosophy that made Rob Ford popular in his ward.
There were eleven candidates running against Michael Ford. They included:
- Entrepreneur Justin Canning, a right-of-centre candidate who made a point of saying that Michael isn’t like Rob and Doug Ford when quoted in the Toronto Star;
- Christopher Strain, a New Democrat who managed Russ Ford’s campaign for councillor in Ward 6 in the 2014 election;
- Chloe-Marie Brown, a volunteer and City Hall intern who sought to represent her community and bring attention to the needs of lower income residents of North Etobicoke.
Voter turnout was low, as they often are for municipal by-elections. Only 9391 residents voted in 2016, less than half the 19,793 votes for councillor that were cast in 2014. And to no one’s surprise, Michael Ford won, with 70.0%of the vote. Justin Canning came in a very distant second, with 20.4%, Chris Strain had only 3.8% of the vote, Chloe-Marie Brown only got 1.6%.
Michael Ford came in first place in all by two polls by wide margins, as shown in the map above. Only two polls, 020 and 024, chose Justin Canning. Poll 020 represents two condo towers on Islington Avenue at Dixon Road, while Poll 024 represents a seniors’ residence on Lawrence Avenue. Both polls voted for Rob Ford for council in 2014, but for John Tory for mayor over Doug Ford.
Even though I am willing to give Michael Ford a chance to prove himself as city councillor (and we will see how different he truly is from his uncles), the low voter turnout and the inevitability of Ford’s win still troubles me. Perhaps the low turnout was partly due to the assumption that Ford would win this by-election; holding it in the middle of summer wouldn’t have helped either. But there was a solid choice of alternative, qualified candidates that deserved voters’ consideration. Ward 2 deserved a real contest, not another coronation.