In this post, I take a look at the council races in Ward 15 Don Valley West and Ward 16 Don Valley East. The new two wards, introduced under Bill 5, encompass most of what used to be Wards 25, 26, and 34.
Ward 25, Toronto’s most affluent under the 44 ward model, was represented by Jaye Robinson, a centre-right councillor. First elected in 2010, she served on both Rob Ford and John Tory’s executive committees. In 2014, she was appointed chair of the powerful Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, whose responsibility includes roads and transportation. Robinson was roundly criticized by road safety advocates (including Walk Toronto, of which I am a co-founder) for a weak “Vision Zero” plan to reduce traffic deaths in Toronto, especially pedestrians and cyclists. 2018 has turned out to be an especially deadly year on Toronto’s streets.
Ward 26 was represented by Jon Burnside, a former Toronto Police officer. In 2014, Burnside defeated incumbent councillor John Parker — the only council race in which a sitting councillor was defeated by a challenger that year. Parker was a Progressive Conservative MPP in Mike Harris’ government, but came to be one of the most effective opponents of the Ford Brothers’ plans for Toronto’s waterfront, and brought a dry wit that was much needed at the time. In the 2014 election, John Tory endorsed Burnside, and Parker was defeated. Burnside had the support of the wealthier Leaside neighbourhood and condo towers off Wynford Drive, while the lower-income Flemingdon and Thorncliffe Park neighbourhoods supported Parker or Ishrath Velshi.
Since the 2014 election, Burnside has proven himself as a thoughtful, moderate conservative.
Meanwhile, Ward 34 was represented by Denzil Minnan-Wong, probably city council’s staunchest and most effective conservative.
Minnan-Wong has been a municipal politician since 1994, when he was appointed to North York City Council. Since 1997, he has sat on Toronto City Council. He’s an advocate of contracting out city services, such as waste collection. Though he supported separated bicycle lanes on Sherbourne, Harbord, Richmond and Adelaide Streets, he quickly moved to scrub bike lanes on Jarvis Street downtown and Pharmacy and Birchmount Avenues in Scarborough. He has been especially powerful during the mayoralties of Rob Ford and John Tory, serving as Tory’s deputy mayor.
In June 2018, Minnan-Wong was nominated by local Progressive Conservatives and ran in the June provincial election. He lost narrowly to the Liberal incumbent, Michael Coteau. Unlike council colleagues Shelley Carroll and Chin Lee, Minnan-Wong did not resign his seat to run provincially.
Under the 47 ward model approved by City Council, each of the three incumbents were poised to run in wards similar to the ones they represented. Only one candidate registered to run against Jaye Robinson in new Ward 27 — Kyle Ashley, a former parking enforcement officer who made a name for himself on Twitter ticketing and shaming motorists blocking Toronto’s bike lanes. He ran against Robinson because of a perceived lack of leadership on Vision Zero. In new Ward 33, Burnside faced a few opponents, but was looking to cruise to re-election.
Meanwhile, Minnan-Wong was challenged by former Liberal MPP and provincial minister David Caplan in new Ward 32. After leaving provincial politics, Caplan served as chair of the Infrastructure Lab and vice-chair of Global Public Affairs Toronto. It would be the first time in many years that Minnan-Wong would face a high-profile opponent.
But then the new 25 wards were imposed on the city.
Ward 15, the provincial/federal riding of Don Valley West, is represented by Liberals both provincially and federally: former premier Kathleen Wynne continues to serve the community, while Rob Oliphant is the Liberal MP.
The new ward boundary, severely disadvantaged Burnside: a significant chunk of old Ward 26, including Flemingdon Park, was now part of Don Valley East. A small part of old Ward 22, between Mount Pleasant Road and Bayview Avenue, was added. Meanwhile, Robinson did not lose any of her old ward. Several candidates, including Ashley, dropped out of the new race.
Burnside placed first in former Ward 26, getting 68 percent of the vote there, and won all three polls in former Ward 22, though by a small margin over Robinson. In Thorncliffe Park, however, Tanweer Khan got over 30 percent of the vote and placed first in four polls. Khan, a local business owner, was an organizer against the updated provincial health and sex-ed curriculum. Khan also ran for the nomination for the provincial Progressive Conservatives PC nomination in Don Valley West, but lost. Khan only got 4.0 percent of the vote ward-wide, but it helped Robinson win.
Robinson took 67 percent of the vote in her former ward. She won Ward 15 overall with 49.2 percent of the vote, to Burnside’s 43.8 percent. Though Robinson will not be part of the Tory’s executive committee this term, she was recently appointed Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission.
What bothers me mostly is not the result, but of the geographic isolation of Thorncliffe Park under the new 25 ward model. It is now a geographically isolated corner of a mostly affluent ward. I fear it, and neighbourhoods like it, will be ignored under a much smaller council.
Poll results in Ward 15
David Caplan was no match for Denzil Minnan-Wong. Caplan was able to get over 30 percent of the vote, but he placed first in just five polls. The combination of Minnan-Wong’s name recognition and incumbency, Caplan’s long absence from provincial politics and his involvement in the eHealth boondoggle (he resigned as Minister of Health in 2009 and did not run in the 2011 provincial election) probably also played a part as well. Caplan did best in Flemingdon Park, a low-income neighbourhood with a large immigrant population that was previously part of Ward 26.
Self-described “pragmatist” Stephen Ksiazek, a local business owner and board member of the Don Mills who sits on the Don Mills Residents Association, placed third with 7.1 percent of the vote, coming first in one poll.
Minnan-Wong will serve a second term as Tory’s primary deputy mayor, and will once again set an agenda of low taxes and austerity at City Hall.
Ward 16 poll results
|Ward 15 – Don Valley West|
|Ward 16 – Don Valley East|