Election Politics Toronto

Mapping the council race in Ward 25, Scarborough-Rouge Park


I start my analysis of the 25 council races with Ward 25, Scarborough–Rouge Park, where Neethan Shan, the incumbent councillor for old Ward 42, lost in a very tight race to Jennifer McKelvie, who was elected to public office for the first time. Both candidates originally ran in different areas under the approved 47 wards (Shan in Ward 45, McKelvie in Ward 47), but Bill 5, Premier Doug Ford’s legislation that reduced Toronto City Council to just 25 wards, changed everything.

Ward 25 was an interesting race for several reasons. It was one of only two contests in which an incumbent councillor lost to a non-incumbent challenger (the other was Ward 8 Eglinton–Lawrence, where Mike Colle defeated Christin Carmichael Greb). It was also the closest of the 25 council races. McKelvie won with 11,624 votes (40.2 percent), just 154 more votes than Shan. The win margin was just 0.53 percent. There were eleven candidates in total.

The new ward boundaries imposed by the provincial government likely helped McKelvie win. The western part of old Ward 42, areas where Shan would have enjoyed the incumbency advantage, shifted to new Ward 23. Meanwhile, almost the entirety of old Ward 44, where McKelvie made a strong showing in the 2014 election, was incorporated in the new ward. The map above shows that Shan came in first place in every poll that formerly in Ward 42, while McKelvie placed first in nearly every poll south of Highway 401.

Ward 25 Scarborough-Rouge Park
Candidate Total Votes Percentage
Amanda Cain 831 2.9
Paul Cookson 1897 6.6
Daniel Cubellis 527 1.8
Jasper Ghori 337 1.2
Reza Khoshdel 548 1.9
Cheryl Lewis-Thurab 638 2.2
Dave Madder 151 0.5
Jennifer McKelvie 11624 40.2
Christopher Riley 456 1.6
Neethan Shan 11470 39.7
Joseph Thomas 428 1.5

Neethan Shan, former president of the Ontario NDP and York Region District School Board trustee, ran several times for elected office before finally succeeding in a by-election in 2017. He first ran for council in 2010, where he came in second place to incumbent Raymond Cho. In 2014, he ran a second time against Cho, and again came in second place, getting 31.1 percent of the vote to Cho’s 49.5 percent.

In January 2016, Shan was elected Toronto District School Board trustee in a by-election after the previous trustee, Shaun Chen, was elected Member of Parliament in the 2015 federal election. While trustee, Shan ran for the NDP in a provincial by-election in Scarborough-Rouge River held in September 2016 after Liberal MPP Bas Balkissoon resigned. Cho ran for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, and won. But Cho’s win provincially vacated the council seat, which Shan was finally able to win.

Twenty-nine candidates ran in the Ward 42 by-election held February 13, 2017. Only 10,418 votes were cast, compared to 23,793 votes for councillor in the 2014 general election, and there were 29 candidates. Shan won that by-election with 4765 votes, or 45.7 percent of the vote. Second-place candidate, Zuhair Syed, got 13.9 percent. Neethan Shan became the first Tamil-Canadian elected to Toronto City Council. With this win, it appeared that his political career was finally set; his incumbency likely meant a long  and productive career at Toronto City Council. In 2017, no one could expected Doug Ford becoming Ontario PC leader, never mind Bill 5. With the approved new 47 wards, Shan registered in the new Ward 45, whose boundaries were similar to, though smaller than, the old Ward 42.

Meanwhile, in Ward 44, long-time councillor Ron Moeser died after a long illness in April 2017. Instead of holding a by-election, Toronto City Council appointed Jim Hart to fill the vacant seat in June. As an appointee, Hart promised not to run in the 2018 general election.

In the 2014 election, Moeser barely won. His closest competitor was Jennifer McKelvie, an environmental scientist and adjunct professor at Ryerson University. In that election,  in a crowded field of 15 candidates, Moeser won just 25.7 percent of the vote in the 2014 election, while McKelvie took 23.4 percent.

Since 2014, McKelvie became president of the Scarborough Community Renewal Organization and an outspoken proponent of the Scarborough subway extension. Her strong showing in 2014 certainly helped her win in her second attempt; the organization she developed and the name recognition from her first run all contributed to her later success. McKelvie first registered in Ward 47, which had similar boundaries to the old Ward 44. McKelvie and Shan both registered to run in the new Ward 25.

Shan lost much of Ward 42 hat elected him in 2017, while McKelvie lost none of the territory she ran in 2014.

It is worth noting, though that the southern half of Ward 25 is more affluent than Shan’s northern turf. The part of Ward 25 north of Highway 401 also has a higher percentage of visible minorities, especially those who identify as South Asian, than the south half of the ward. According to the 2016 census, 92 percent of the population of old Ward 42 identified as a visible minority (45.4% as South Asian), while in old Ward 44, 60 percent of the population identified as a visibile minority (23.4% as South Asian). The median household income in Ward 42 was $70,764, while in Ward 44, it is $91,360.

3 replies on “Mapping the council race in Ward 25, Scarborough-Rouge Park”

One thing that might have swayed the race was a Forum Research poll that gave McKelvie an almost 2:1 lead–while the actual result was much closer, one might assume that word of mouth on the poll swayed some voters to back a perceived winner. (Polls can have that unfortunate “push” effect.)

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