At the end of 2014, despite some disappointing results in that year’s municipal election, I was feeling optimistic about 2018. In 2014, there were a number of great candidates running for city council, and I expected many would try again in 2018. After council finally approved the recommended 47 ward model for the 2018 election, I was excited. Downtown, which was badly underrepresented under the 44 ward model, would get three additional wards. Vacancies left by departing councillors, including Mary-Margaret McMahon and John Filion, would further improve the chance for fresh new voices to join city council. At least eight wards across Toronto would not have an incumbent running.
Of course, we all know what happened to that dream.
Downtown tends to elect some of Toronto’s hardest-working and most progressive councillors. They’re hard-working out of necessity: old Ward 27 had the largest population in the city, and all four old downtown wards struggled with pressures caused by massive new development and social concerns, especially as older, affordable housing stock is replaced by new condominiums. (Similar pressures exist in North York Centre and Midtown.)
The last council term
In 2014, four councillors were elected downtown. Mike Layton was re-elected in Ward 19, which ran from Dovercourt Road in the west to Bathurst Street in the east, including Exhibition Place, Fort York, and the Mirvish Village redevelopment site at Bathurst and Bloor. Layton was first elected to council in 2010. Layton is the son of respected long-time councillor and federal NDP leader Jack Layton.
Joe Cressy was elected in old Ward 20, which was located between Bathurst Street and University Avenue, and included the Annex, University of Toronto, the Entertainment District, City Place, and much of the waterfront. The previous elected councillor in Ward 20 was Adam Vaughan, who resigned in 2014 to run in a federal by-election in Spadina-Fort York. He is now the Liberal MP for Spadina-Fort York. A long-time political activist, Cressy is the son of former city councillors Gordon Cressy and Joanne Campbell.
Kristyn Wong-Tam was re-elected in Ward 27, which included Rosedale, Yorkville, the Church-Wellesley Village, Ryerson University, and Moss Park. A local business owner and an advocate for both LGBTQ and Asian-Canadian community issues, Wong-Tam was first elected in 2010.
Pam McConnell was re-elected in Ward 28, which included Cabbagetown, Regent Park, the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood, much of the Financial District, and the Distillery District. She was first elected as a Metro councillor in 1994. She is credited for many local improvements, including the Regent Park redevelopment and the revitalized Berczy Park. Sadly, McConnell died in 2017. She was replaced by council appointee Lucy Troisi in a controversial vote.
The promise of new representation
At the beginning of 2018, with three new wards, each of the seven downtown races were starting to shape up.
Mike Layton planned to run for re-election in Ward 19, whose boundaries were similar to the ward he was first elected to in 2010. Joe Cressy planned to run in new Ward 24, and Kristyn Wong-Tam planned to run in Ward 22. Despite her promise not to run for election after her appointment, Lucy Troisi registered to run in Ward 23, against former Liberal provincial cabinet minister and 2010 mayoral candidate George Smitherman. Also running in Ward 23 were Megan Willson, an entrepreneur and community organizer; Khuram Aftab, a local convenience store owner; and Walied Khogali Ali, a progressive community activist in Regent Park and St. Jamestown.
Ward 20 had an especially crowded field of candidates, with eleven council hopefuls. Among the most prominent was local TDSB trustee Ausma Malik, a rising political star. Malik, like other Muslim women and men, faced targeted attacks during the 2014 municipal election. Her win was one of a few bright spots in a nasty campaign season. Malik was backed by many progressives, including Layton and Cressy.
Other high-profile candidates included businessman, transit advocate, and naval reserve officer Kevin Vuong; lawyer April Engelberg; former television journalist and Conservative Karlene Nation; disgruntled restaurateur Al Carbone; second-time candidate Dean Maher, founder of two local neighbourhood associations; and Sabrina Zuniga, federal Conservative candidate for Spadina-Fort York in the 2015 election. Late to register was Han Dong, a local Liberal MPP defeated in the June provincial election. Dong’s entry into the race was supported by former councillor and Liberal MP Adam Vaughan.
Candidates in Ward 21, which encompassed Corktown, the Distillery District, and St. Lawrence Market, included Jennifer Hollett, a former broadcaster and provincial NDP candidate in University-Rosedale; and Suzanne Kavanagh, past president of the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association and advocate for local public spaces, including Toronto’s waterfront.
In Ward 25, which included the Yorkville and Church-Wellesley neighbourhoods, there were several well-known candidates, featuring several activists within the local LGBTQ movement. These included Chris Moise, a local Toronto District School Board trustee; Niki Ward, director of the 519 Community Centre; and Ryan Lester, a director of development with the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, and former director at Egale Canada.
Downtown voters were spoiled by choice, and there were many worthy and qualified candidates.
But then, of course, Doug Ford seized control of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and won the provincial election in June. One of his first acts was to unilaterally cut Toronto City Council to just 25 wards, with the promise to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to get it past any legal challenge.
Seven downtown wards were reduced to just three. Councillor Joe Cressy decided to run in Spadina Fort-York, while Mike Layton registered in University-Rosedale. Kristyn Wong-Tam ran in Toronto Centre, along with appointed councillor Lucy Troisi.
Many allied progressive candidates, including Ausma Malik and Jennifer Hollett, withdrew their candidacies. Chris Moise decided to run for re-election as TDSB trustee, which he won. Other candidates who withdrew included Han Dong,
There were 14 candidates running in Ward 10, Fort York-Spadina, including Joe Cressy, April Engelberg, and Kevin Vuong. Cressy won with 55.8 percent of the vote, with Engelberg coming in second place with 11.6 percent and and Vuong with 10.5 percent. Cressy placed first in all but seven polls, most of which were condominium buildings in the Harbourfront and Liberty Village neighbourhoods. The top three candidates all supported the King Street Pilot, while Al Carbone got a mere 1.8 percent of the vote.
Poll results in Ward 10
The new Ward 11 was a very different ward from the one in which Mike Layton had run in 2010 and 2014. Only a fraction of old Ward 19 was included in University-Rosedale, which includes neighbourhoods such as the Annex, Yorkville and Rosedale, areas previously represented by Councillors Cressy and Wong-Tam. Layton was challenged by Niki Ward and by latecomer candidate Joyce Rowlands, an occupational health nurse, writer, and policy consultant, and the daughter of former City of Toronto mayor June Rowlands.
Despite the change in ward boundaries, Layton won easily with 69.6 percent of the vote, while Rowlands placed second with 13.2 percent, and Ward in third with 9.1 percent. Layton came first in every poll, but Rowlands did best in Rosedale, almost winning Polls 027 and 029. This was the same area in which Wong-Tam had the least support in 2014.
Poll results in Ward 11
The new Ward 13, Toronto Centre, had much more of former Ward 28 than Councillor Wong-Tam’s old Ward 27. The Rosedale and Yorkville sections of Ward 27 became part of new Ward 11. While Ward 13 is geographically smaller than old Ward 27 (the only instance of this happening under the 25-ward model), it still has a larger population, and has many different challenges than the old ward, as it now includes St. Jamestown, where hundreds remain displaced after a fire, and Regent Park, which is still undergoing redevelopment.
Wong-Tam won with 50.3 percent of the vote, with other high-profile candidates doing quite poorly. George Smitherman got just 15.2 percent of the vote, while Lucy Troisi, the Ward 28 incumbent, got just 8.6 percent. Wong-Tam placed first in all but seven polls, while Troisi didn’t place first anywhere. It’s clear by the poll results map below that Wong-Tam’s support was lowest in St. Jamestown and in the Regent Park neighbourhoods while strongest in old Ward 27 and the area south of Queen Street.
This speaks to the challenges for many councillors elected to new, larger wards. At least Kristyn Wong-Tam is one of Toronto’s most effective and hardest-working councillors, so Ward 13 is in good hands.
Poll results in Ward 13
Downtown Toronto is fortunate to have experienced, dedicated, and hard-working councillors, but concentrating all the work in just three wards is unfortunate. Not only is the population of central Toronto growing faster than most other parts of the city, it has additional needs: an increasing share of the city’s employment that requires additional infrastructure such as a Relief Line Subway, and pressing social needs especially as new development downtown squeezes out affordable rental housing and the institutions that support marginalized people.
I also think of all the great people running for council who never got a fair shot at running for council. Though re-electing Councillors Cressy, Layton, and Wong-Tam is the best result especially considering the circumstances, I was excited by many of the new voices who put their names forward in good faith earlier in 2018. Hopefully, they remain active in the community and get a fair chance in the future.
|Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York|
|Ward 11 University-Rosedale|
|Ward 13 Toronto Centre|
|Walied Khogali Ali||1,408||4.5|