Toronto’s municipal election will take place in a few days, on Monday, October 22. A few months ago, I was energized by the possibilities a 47 ward council would bring, with several open races where new voices could be elected. I was looking forward to seeing Dan Fox win on his second try in North York, after an impressive run in 2014 against long-time incumbent David Shiner. I was excited to see Tiffany Ford’s campaign take on Giorgio Mammoliti. Downtown, three new wards would make room for new faces like Chris Moise. Meanwhile, several incumbents, including Janet Davis, Mary-Margaret McMahon, and John Filion were planning to retire.
The mayoral race was going to be a snooze, with John Tory sleepwalking his way to a second term but at least the council races would be interesting.
So much for that.
This municipal election is a sham. When Premier Doug Ford suddenly announced that he was going to introduce legislation to reduce Toronto’s council size from 47 to 25 — in the middle of the election campaign — it threw everything into chaos. Candidates who signed up to run in wards with a population of 50,000 to 60,000 were now forced to decide whether to run in a ward with nearly twice the population and against new opponents. Incumbents were now running against each other. Candidates had run in good faith, raised money, appealed to volunteers, and printed materials. It was no way to run a fair election.
Though a court ruling overturning the result briefly provided relief and elation, Ford’s threat of using the Notwithstanding Clause to re-introduce legislation, and an appeal court’s ruling ensured that Toronto would run a compromised election with only 25 wards. Good people like Fox, Moise, Kyle Ashley, and Ausma Malik understandably dropped out of the council race. Others, like Tiffany Ford, Lanrick Bennett, Kevin Vuong, and Lekan Olawoye decided to continue what they started, even if it meant running in a tougher race. Meanwhile, John Filion jumped back into the race, while Josh Colle dropped out. His father, former MPP Mike Colle, jumped in.
Doug Ford’s vindictive meddling sucked the energy out of the election; turnout at advance polls is down significantly from the last election despite the same number of days. About 124,000 voters cast a ballot in the advance polls held between Wednesday, October 10 and Sunday October 14, down from 161,000 who voted in advance in 2014.
It’s depressing, but it’s still important to vote. There are lots of good people worth supporting even though it sometimes means picking one of several worthy candidates in a single ward. There is also the opportunity to remove some of Toronto’s worst councillors. And at least there’s a higher profile mayoral race, now with former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat challenging Tory.
Here are several candidates worth supporting:
Kristyn Wong-Tam: In her first two terms, Wong-Tam has proven to be one of council’s hardest workers, balancing constituency work with social activism. She represents the east side of Toronto’s downtown core, including the financial district, Moss Park, Yorkville, and Church-Wellesley Village, all fast-growing areas with lots of new development planned or underway.
Under the old 47-ward model, Wong-Tam’s re-election would have been guaranteed, but now she is running against former provincial cabinet minister and mayoral candidate George Smitherman and appointed councillor Lucy Troisi. There are 19 candidates in total running in Ward 13, Toronto Centre.
Troisi, who replaced the late Pam McConnell in 2017, was backed by council’s right wing and has proven to be a reliable Tory ally on council. Last summer, when Premier Doug Ford moved to cut Toronto Council to 25 wards, Troisi wasn’t willing to fight. Like all council appointees, Troisi promised not to run for election if appointed, but has since reneged on that promise. Meanwhile, George Smitherman, who lost to Rob Ford in 2010, has drawn controversy for running a negative campaign, including targeting an affordable housing complex on Sherbourne.
Lekan Olawoye: Running in Ward 5, York South-Weston, Olawoye has proven to be a great community leader. In 2014, he ran in the old Ward 12 against Frank Di Giorgio, getting over 20% of the vote. I met Olawoye and his team after a mayoral debate in 2014, and I came away impressed. This time, Olawoye, an executive at MaRS, will be running against incumbents Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata. Di Giorgio and Nunziata are both long-time conservative councillors and allies of Mayors Doug Ford and John Tory. Neither have represented the lower-income area effectively over their many years in office.
Shelley Carroll: I was hoping that Shelley Carroll would be elected MPP in the new riding of Don Valley North. She resigned her council seat to run in the June election, leaving a vacancy on council. She is a progressive Liberal with lots of municipal experience, including a stint as former mayor David Miller’s budget chief. Carroll would have been a valuable member of the Liberal caucus, especially if the party needed to rebuild after the 2018 election. Happily, she will be running for council again in Ward 17, Don Valley North.
There are also several awful councillors who might be turfed this year.
Giorgio Mammoliti: First elected to municipal politics in 1995 after serving one term as MPP, Mammoliti has been best known for his attention-grabbing stunts, his outrageous statements, and his disregard for many of his constituents. He barely even shows up to work. Earlier this year, The Toronto Star reported that Mammoliti missed nearly half of all council votes in 2018, the worst record among all 44 councillors. During the 2014-2018 term, he missed 43.1 percent of all votes.
Mammoliti has been in trouble several times for campaign finance violations, and has been under police investigation twice. Once for olding an illegal $80,000 fundraiser last year attended by lobbyists, developers and other businesspeople, the other for his involvement in a dubious land deal.
Under the 47 ward model, there was a promising challenger who looked like she could beat City Council’s resident troll: Tiffany Ford. Ford, elected in 2014 as a TDSB trustee, is a local resident, entrepreneur, and community activist. She is still running in the 25 ward election, but is also now against left-leaning incumbent Anthony Perruzza, and Deanna Sgro, the daughter of Liberal MP Judy Sgro. Deanna ran into trouble with the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2013 for questionable debt collection practices. While Perruzza would certainly be an improvement to Mammoliti, I prefer Tiffany Ford.
Mark Grimes: First elected to council in 2003, Grimes has been known for improperly backing developers in his ward, getting in trouble with the city’s integrity commissioner. Grimes has voted in favour of cuts to transit, the library system, and road safety improvements. Infrastructure has not kept up with massive growth in the Humber Bay Shores neighbourhood. In 2014, John Tory’s campaign supported Grimes’ re-election bid, despite the councillor’s poor record. But he’s been a reliable vote for the mayor on council. Grimes’ friend and ally Justin Di Ciano decided against running in 2018; the two would have otherwise faced off against each other.
Luckily, Amber Morley, who has been very active in the community, working at a community health centre and at city hall, is running to beat Grimes. Pamela Gough, currently a TDSB trustee, would be another solid choice to replace Grimes.
With Mammoliti and Grimes defeated, Toronto will be better off.
Unfortunately, without ranked ballots, it is more difficult to defeat long time incumbents or even underperforming rookies such as Christin Carmichael Greb. In 2018, Carmichael Greb will be running in Ward 8, Eglinton Lawrence against Mike Colle, Dyanoosh Youssefi (who came in
second third place to Carmichael Greb in 2014), and Beth Levy. In Ward 7, the anti-Mammoliti vote could be split between several candidates, which could allow him to win with less than 30% of ballots cast.
The reduced wards has resulted in some very difficult and unfortunate choices as well. In Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul’s, long-time progressive councillor Joe Mihevc is facing off against centrist Josh Matlow, both great councillors despite their differences. Mayor Tory endorsed Mihevc, probably because Matlow has been Tory’s harshest critic on council, largely because of the Scarborough subway extension. Either councillor, each very hard working and attentive to their constituents, will be missed. Another difficult decision is in Ward 14, Toronto-Danforth, where incumbents Paula Fletcher and Mary Fragedakis are running against each other, with worthy challengers such as Lanrick Bennett having to compete for attention and votes.
This election has felt anti-climatic thanks to Doug Ford’s meddling. Many good people were shut out of the election, or have a much greater challenge running in a 25 ward election. But I remain inspired by some of the people who decided to continue to run, and at least there are worthy people — veterans and fresh faces — worth voting for on Monday October 22.
Correction: Dyanoosh Youssefi came in third, not second place in Ward 16 in 2014.