Etobicoke-Lakeshore represents the southern third of Etobicoke, stretching from Dundas Street in the north to Lake Ontario in the south, encompassing the historic villages of Islington, Long Branch, New Toronto, and Mimico, as well as sprawling industrial areas and post-war subdivisions. It also includes the rapidly growing high-rise communities of Humber Bay Shores and Six Points.
In 2014, Etobicoke-Lakeshore elected two city councillors, veteran Mark Grimes in Ward 6, south of the Gardiner Expressway, and a new councilor, Justin Di Ciano, in the north half. The pair are friends and were close allies on council prior to the 2018 election.
For many years, Ward 5, located north of the Gardiner Expressway, was represented by Peter Milczyn. Milczyn, an architect by training, was a thoughtful centrist on Toronto City Council. In Spring 2014, Milczyn, a Liberal, was elected to the provincial legislature. James Maloney (elected as a Liberal MP in the 2015 federal election) was appointed by council as a caretaker representative until the Fall 2014 election, which was won by Justin Di Ciano.
Di Ciano, a real estate executive, won Ward 5 with 54.1 percent of of the vote in 2014 and placed first in all but two polls. Nobody knew it at the time, but the 2014 election was the start of Justin Di Ciano’s problems.
Meanwhile, in Ward 6, incumbent councillor Mark Grimes was re-elected in 2014 with 43.6 percent of the vote. Grimes was challenged by community leader Russ Ford (who got 34.1 percent of the vote) and former Toronto Police spokesperson Tony Vella (who got 10.5 percent of the vote). Russ Ford had a strong campaign, but Grimes’ incumbency, and John Tory’s late endorsement and robocalls, gave the sitting councillor the advantage.
During the last term of council, both Di Ciano and Grimes came under increasing scrutiny by the press and the Ontario Provincial Police. Both councillors backed a controversial residential development adjoining GO Transit’s Willowbrook yards and maintenance centre despite Metrolinx’s objections.
Under mayors Ford and Tory, Mark Grimes was the appointed chair of Exhibition Place, the board that controls the city-owned waterfront land where the Canadian National Exhibition is held. The CNE, a separate entity, is a tenant of Exhibition Place. Other important tenants include a hotel, two convention centres (Beanfield Centre and Enercare Centre), Medieval Times, and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Three MLSE teams — the Toronto Argonauts, Toronto FC, and the Marlies play at Exhibition Place, while the Raptors (also a MLSE property) have their training centre on the lands. Exhibition Place is also the home of Muzik, a controversial nightclub supported by Grimes and fellow councillor Giorgio Mammoliti.
Workers represented by the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) had been locked out by Exhibition Place for months. Last week, IATSE members, who provide technical and staging work for all Exhibition Place events and venues, agreed to a long-overdue contract from the city and are finally going back to work. The union had to take concessions, and claims the lockout was a “union-busting attempt.”
Councillor Di Ciano was found to have close ties to that development’s proponent, Dunpar Homes. Meanwhile, Councillor Grimes got into trouble for improperly promoting specific condominium developments in his ward, including the defunct “On the GO Condos” at Mimico Station.
Di Ciano also became notable as council’s most vocal opponent of ranked ballots, getting city council to vote against adopting them in future elections. Di Ciano also strongly opposed the new 47 ward boundaries, decided after years of planning and consultation; he became a major cheerleader for Doug Ford’s Bill 5.
In the end, though, Councillor Di Ciano decided not to run for re-election. His executive assistant, Mary Campbell, registered in Ward 5 instead. Also running in Ward 5 was Pamela Gough, a long-time local Toronto District School Board trustee. As a school trustee, Gough was especially concerned with traffic and road safety.
In Ward 6, challengers to Mark Grimes included Amber Morley and Iain Davis. Morley, like Russ Ford, worked at the LAMP Community Heath Centre and in Ward 4 Councillor John Campbell’s office. Iain Davis is the son of former TDSB chair Bruce Davis; he ran on a centre-right platform.
With the 25 wards confirmed, Grimes, Morley, Gough, and Davis re-registered in Ward 3. Mary Campbell withdrew her nomination, perhaps to avoid a vote split with Grimes.
The Toronto Star, Progress Toronto and the Toronto and District Labour Council backed Morley. Not only did Morley offer the most progressive platform, she also had the best chance of defeating Grimes. It would have been great to see another younger woman of colour elected to a council that is disproportionately white and male.
But yet again, Mayor Tory endorsed Grimes and robocalled on his behalf, citing Grimes’ “determination and experience”. It didn’t matter that Grimes was called out by Toronto’s integrity commissioner or that he was under OPP investigation. It was clear that Tory wanted Grimes back on council.
Thanks partly to Tory’s support, Grimes won, with 40.9 percent of the vote. Morley came in second with 27.2 percent and Gough placed third, with 18.1 percent. Grimes placed first in both former Wards 5 and 6, though with a larger percentage of the vote in the old Ward 5, south of the Gardiner Expressway.
Morley did the best in the southern most part of Ward 3, south of the GO Transit railway in New Toronto and Mimico. She also did well in Humber Bay Shores and the Six Points area. Grimes did best in Alderwood and in polls in the exclusive Palace Pier condos at the mouth of the Humber River. Pamela Gough placed first in six polls, all near the Bloor Street and Royal York Road intersection.
On November 15, 2018, less than a month after the election, the OPP charged Di Ciano and Grimes with campaign finance violations. It is alleged that Grimes and Di Ciano benefited from research and polling work paid for by Dunpar during the 2014 election. If convicted, Di Ciano and Grimes could face a fine up to $25,000, and could also be forced from office or barred from running in future municipal elections.
What’s puzzling is why Tory endorsed Grimes, whose reputation was well known among City Hall watchers. Perhaps it had something to do with the Exhibition Place lockout. Or maybe Tory just wanted a reliable right-wing vote on a smaller council.
Meanwhile, I hope Amber Morley considers another run. She was a great candidate and was able to prove her determination. With name recognition from her first run, she has a strong chance to finally take out Mark Grimes in 2022.
|Ward 3 Etobicoke-Lakeshore|