Ward 8, Eglinton-Lawrence, was one of only two Toronto city council races in which an incumbent councillor was defeated by a non-incumbent challenger (the other being Ward 25). In the 2018 municipal election, Mike Colle defeated Christin Carmichael Greb and eight other candidates. It wasn’t a surprising win, given the name recognition Mike Colle, and his son, Josh Colle, have in the ward, but the dynamics were interesting, if not a bit discouraging.
Ward 8, Eglinton-Lawrence, encompasses three former ward boundaries: the entirety of old Ward 16, represented by Councillor Carmichael Greb, most of old Ward 15, represented by centrist and TTC chair Josh Colle, and a small portion of old Ward 21, represented by Joe Mihevc.
In 2014, Carmichael Greb won with only 17.4 percent of the vote in old Ward 16, whose boundaries were between Yonge and Bathurst Streets, north to Highway 401 and south to Eglinton Avenue. In a race featuring 16 candidates, Carmichael Greb was helped by her conservative credentials (she is the daughter of former Conservative MP John Carmichael) and by John Tory’s endorsement and robocalls. She registered to run again in 2018, first under the approved 47-ward model, then in the new 25-ward model imposed by the province. Dyanoosh Youssefi, who came in third in 2014, also registered. Other challengers included Jennifer Arp, a TDSB trustee, and Beth Levy, a teacher and assistant to local Liberal MP Marco Mendicino.
With several strong challengers against her, it looked likely that Councillor Carmichael Greb, who didn’t have a reputation as a responsive or hard-working representative, would be re-elected in the new 47-ward model.
Josh Colle was also seeking re-election under the 47-ward model in the new Ward 13, which extended west from Bathurst Street west to the GO Transit Barrie Line. In 2014, Colle won re-election with 75.2 percent of the vote. In 2018, Colle’s most prominent challenger in Ward 13 was going to be Rocco Achampong. Achampong, a Conservative and a respected lawyer, ran for mayor in 2010.
But just two days before nominations were set to close, on Wednesday, July 25, Josh Colle suddenly announced that he was retiring from municipal politics, instead looking to work in the private sector. His father, 73-year old Mike Colle, would run instead. The elder Colle was Liberal MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence from 1995 through 2018, when he was defeated by the Ontario PCs. Before 1995, Colle was a North York and Metro councillor. The sudden, last minute father-son swap was a surprising and a rather cynical move. But that wasn’t the only shock that week.
On Friday July 27, the same day as deadline for council nominations, the provincial government announced Bill 5, reducing the number of Toronto city councillors from the approved 47 to just 25. Achampong was one of the first to challenge Bill 5 in court, but unfortunately, he and the other applicants were not successful. Achampong and six other candidates who signed up under the 47-ward council chose not to run in the new Ward 8 and withdrew their nominations.
Unsurprisingly, Mike Colle won, with 41.3 percent of the vote. He had the advantage of name recognition as the former MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence, as well as his son’s record as councillor for the western half of the new ward. Christin Carmichael Greb ran into controversy during the final days of the campaign, declaring herself the “John Tory candidate” despite not netting an endorsement in 2018. Despite coming in a distant second, she increased her vote share from 2014, netting 21.7 percent of all ballots cast in Ward 8.
Had the 47-ward model prevailed, it’s quite likely Carmichael Greb would have won despite her unimpressive first term. Incumbency and name recognition form a huge advantage in municipal elections, especially without political parties or ranked ballots. But Mike Colle was able to get the most votes even in old Ward 16 — 31.7 percent to Carmichael Greb’s 25.6 percent.
Mike Colle’s win is unique to Toronto municipal politics. There are many current or past city councillors who followed their parents on city council — including Mike Layton, Joe Cressy, and Stephen Holyday, who were re-elected in 2018 — but Mike Colle might be the first to follow in his son’s footsteps.
|Ward 8 Eglinton-Lawrence|
|Christin Carmichael Greb||7395||21.7|