In this post, I take a look at the council race in Ward 5, York South-Weston. The area, which encompasses neighbourhoods such as Weston, Mount Dennis, Amesbury, and Keelesdale, is one of Toronto’s least affluent. In 2015, York South-Weston’s average household income was $67,954, compared to the city-wide average of $102,721. The area straddles the divide between Toronto’s inner city and its postwar suburbs. Mount Dennis will be the western terminus of the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT line, which may bring new development — and gentrification — to the area.
Before Bill 5 was introduced, reducing Toronto City Council to just 25 councillors, the area was made up of two wards, represented by right-leaning council veterans Frances Nunziata and Frank Di Giorgio.
Frances Nunziata has had a long career in city politics. She was first elected to York City Council in 1988 and became mayor of the City of York in 1994, known then for standing up to corruption. When the City of Toronto was amalgamated in 1998, she was one of five former mayors to sit on the new “megacity” council (she was joined by Scarborough’s Frank Faubert, East York’s Michael Prue, Etobicoke’s Doug Holyday, and, of course, Mel Lastman). Nunziata is the last pre-amalgamation mayor still active in Toronto’s government.
While Nunziata supported Barbara Hall’s mayoral campaign in 1997, she backed Rob Ford’s campaign for mayor in 2010. She has served as Council Speaker under mayors Ford and Tory. While I was critical of her role as speaker under Ford’s mayoralty, she has since improved over the last four years. She also known for working very hard for her local constituency. In 2014, Frances Nunziata won Ward 11 with 71.3 percent of the vote and placed first in every poll. Only two candidates ran against her that year.
Meanwhile, Frank Di Giorgio, who represented Ward 12, was elected to North York City Council in 1985, and has been a municipal politician ever since. He was once Rob Ford’s budget chief, but has since served quietly in recent years.
Ward 12 was one of the most interesting local races of the 2014 election, a bonafide four-way race between Di Giorgio, returning challenger and former city staffer Nick Dominelli, former Liberal/Independent MP John Nunziata (Frances’ brother) and Lekan Olawoye, a Nigerian-Canadian immigrant, local community organizer, and talent executive at MaRS. Though Di Giorgio won, only 238 votes separated the incumbent from second-place John Nunziata. Remarkably, all four candidates had the support of over 20 percent of the electorate.
Under the new 47-ward model, there was little change in the boundaries to either Wards 11 or 12. Olawoye had registered to run again in Ward 12 against Di Giorgio. In Ward 11, Nunizata’s re-election bid was challenged by Chiara Padovani, a community activist and social worker. Padovani’s platform sought to address housing affordability, poverty and a lack of community services. The race was marked by bitter disputes between the Nunziatas and Padovani.
When city council was slashed to 25 wards, former Ward 11 and Ward 12 were combined into the new Ward 5. Most candidates, including Nunziata, Di Giorgio, Olawoye, and Padovani, ran in the new larger area. Unlike other wards where two incumbents faced off against each other, neither Nunziata nor Di Giorgio lost any part of their former constituencies. Nunziata still had the advantage, however, as there were more polls and voters in former Ward 11 than in old Ward 12.
Progress Toronto endorsed both Padovani and Olawoye, while Olawoye got the endorsement of the Toronto Star and the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. The Toronto Sun endorsed Nunizata.
Results of the council race in Ward 5
Nunziata won Ward 5, taking 32.2 percent of the vote, while Di Giorgio placed second, netting 21.7 percent. Padovani came in a close third, with 20.5 percent, while Olawoye took 14.9 percent. Both incumbents placed first in their old wards. Padovani got over 25 percent of the vote in old Ward 11, where she originally registered, coming in second there.
Combined, the two progressive candidates got over 9,000 votes, more than Nunziata’s winning total of 8425. Change may yet come to York South-Weston in 2022.
|Ward 5 York South-Weston|
|Frank Di Giorgio||5,674||21.7|
Note: I corrected the name of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council