Ontario municipal 2010

Municipal elections were held throughout Ontario on October 25. Though I don’t often cover municipal elections – especially nonpartisan ones – these ones are close to home and I can offer a decent analysis and rundown of the main races with some amount of detail. This year’s electoral contests in a lot of cities were tightly contested and featured some interesting contests.

Partisan and ideological affiliations are a pain to pin-down in these nonpartisan contests, because a partisan affiliation doesn’t mean much (for example, a Conservative can vote to the left of a Liberal, and even an NDPer can become a right-winger) and candidates campaign on issues like transit, nice parks, low taxes and accountability which are hard to pin-down ideologically.

In Toronto, incumbent mayor David Miller (close to the NDP) was retiring after being in office since 2003. He was rather unpopular and the city council was attacked for its tax and spending policies, something which opened the field for right-wing councillor Rob Ford, who has made racist comments in the past and could be considered Canada’s equivalent of a tea-bagger. Rob Ford seized on public discontent with high taxes and council’s spending to build a right-wing populist campaign. The centre and left was originally split, but in the end after two high-profile candidates (Rocco Rossi and Adam Giambrone) the two main other candidates were former MPP George Smitherman (a Liberal, and former deputy premier in the McGuinty cabinet) and councillor Joe Pantalone (NDP). Smitherman had a very hard time finding his voice in the campaign and botched his campaign, even if some people rallied to him late in the game to stop Rob Ford. Pantalone was endorsed by David Miller, but the incumbent is quite unpopular. Some people thought Smitherman could emerge late as the anti-Ford candidate and some polling showed that he had narrowed the gap, but in the end Rob Ford won, and not because of voter apathy: turnout was 53%.

Rob Ford 47.11%
George Smitherman 35.61%
Joe Pantalone 11.73%

I am not a specialist on the politics of Toronto City Council and other sources will tell you more, but there does not seem to have been a major shift to the right in the makeup of the new council. Here are a few key results of interest:

  • Rob Ford’s brother Doug Ford has held his brother’s seat in north Etobicoke.
  • Vincent Crisanti, a populist Ford conservative also picked up north Etobicoke’s other seat from a centrist incumbent.
  • Giorgio Mammoliti, a former NDPer but who has transformed into a somewhat insane populist right-winger in York West was reelected, but only with 43.8% because he faced a billion other candidates.
  • In the other York West ward, the perennial bloody contest between NDP incumbent Anthony Peruzza and former Liberal incumbent Peter Li Preti was won by Peruzza with 41.5% against 38.4% for his enemy.
  • In Parkdale-High Park, vaguely left-leaning Sarah Doucette knocked off right-wing Liberal Bill Saundercook by a big margin of around 10 points.
  • An interesting contest in an open seat in Davenport between Liberal Ana Bailão, NDPer Kevin Beaulieu and former Green Party leader Frank de Jong was won by Bailão with 43.75% against 34.23% for Beaulieu, while de Jong took a mere 6.06%.
  • Jack Layton’s son, Mike Layton, won Joe Pantalone’s open seat in Trinity-Spadina with 45.39% against 20.93% for another NDPer, Karen Sun. A more right-wing Liberal candidate, Sean McCormick took 18.16%.
  • Surprisingly, in Don Valley West, incumbent Conservative Cliff Jenkins was defeated by Jaye Robinson, who seems to be centre-right (but probably is a Liberal) as well, which isn’t a surprise in the city’s most affluent ward.
  • NDP candidate very narrowly leading in Toronto Centre, where Smitherman’s aide was expected to pick up this open seat.
  • In Beaches-East York, Mary-Margaret McMahon (who is probably right-wing) has defeated NDP incumbent Sandra Bussin by a crushing margin, taking over 65% of the vote.
  • A number of incumbents who were thought to be safe either lost or came very close to doing so, indicating an anti-incumbent mood of some sort in some areas.

In Ottawa, incumbent mayor Larry O’Brien (a Conservative) was running for re-election after winning his first term in 2006 by a sizeable margin and on record turnout. O’Brien’s popularity dwindled as a result of council’s inefficiency at doing anything, a 3-month transit strike which was badly handled by the city and the federal government, and finally a corruption case in which he was alleged to have bribed a potential mayoral candidate in 2006 to drop out. He was cleared of any wrongdoing, but he still suffered considerably from having to go to court while being in office. He was challenged by former mayor and Liberal MPP Jim Watson, an ally of Premier McGuinty; and also by two smaller candidates: councillor Clive Doucet (NDP) and former regional chair Andy Haydon (Conservative). O’Brien’s campaign was very negative on Watson, but he never had much of a chance against a popular former mayor and MPP who started his campaign very early. Andy Haydon, running to the right of O’Brien on a platform designed around opposition to light-rail, also didn’t help much. Voters generally wanted change, accountability and efficiency; something which Watson could deliver without being seen as an inexperienced novice. That being said, some have noted that since Watson supports O’Brien’s two main projects: light rail and Lansdowne Park revitalization, not much is likely to change in those areas. Turnout was around 44%, high but not as high as the record set in 2006. Here are the results:

Jim Watson 48.70%
Larry O’Brien (inc) 24.06%
Clive Doucet 14.89%
Andy Haydon 7.01%
Mike Maguire 2.45%

Turnover was rather high on the city council, a good indicator that a fair share of councillors aren’t as popular as they used to be. Incumbents haven’t lost in Ottawa since 2000 or so, but this time six of them went down to defeat. Here’s a rundown of the interesting contests:

  • In Bay Ward, incumbent councillor Alex Cullen (NDP), former mayoral contender, was defeated by Mark Taylor (Liberal), who took 37.8% to Cullen’s 30.3%. Terry Kilrea, a right-winger, who ran for mayor in 2003 (and was allegedly bribed out of doing so in 2006 by Larry), took a paltry 8.2% and finished fourth behind George Guirguis.
  • An open seat in Knoxdale-Merivale was won by Keith Egli, who seems centrist/centre-left, with 32.7%. The three other main candidates were far behind, with James O’Grady (Liberal) taking 19.3%, Rod Vanier (Liberal) taking 17.5% and right-winger James Dean with 15.8%
  • In Beacon Hill-Cyrville, incumbent councillor Michel Bellemare, who seems rather centre-left was narrowly defeated by 181 votes by Tim Tierney, a right-wing Liberal. A strong margin for Tierney in well-off Anglo suburban Beacon Hill likely helped him pull off this narrow win.
  • In the downtown ward of Rideau-Vanier, incumbent councillor Georges Bédard (left-wing Liberal) was very narrowly defeated by a young university graduate, Mathieu Fleury, who seems progressive as well. Fleury took 45.69% over Bédard’s 44.84%, a margin of only 88 votes. Perhaps Fleury’s Facebook-Twitter oriented campaign helped him in a ward which includes the University of Ottawa.
  • An open seat in Rideau-Rockcliffe was won by right-winger Peter Clark, who took 25.8%. The other candidates were also varying shades of centre-right or right, with Maurice Lamirande placing second with 17.4%. The most left-wing candidate, Sheila Perry, took 16.2% while Bruce Poulin, a former provincial PC candidate in 2007, took 16.1%.
  • Kitchissippi ward councillor Christine Leadman, a centrist or centre-leftist, narrowly lost taking 40% to Katherine Hobbs’ 44.2%. Katherine Hobbs seems to be more right-wing than the outgoing incumbent, though in municipal politics where everybody wants low taxes, it’s hard to say.
  • Another open seat in Capital, Clive Doucet’s old ward. David Chernushenko (Green) won easily in the end, with 41.3% against 19.5% for Liberal Isabel Metcalfe. Bob Brocklebank (NDP) took third with 17.1%
  • In Cumberland, Red Tory incumbent Rob Jellett was defeated by Stephen Blais, who seems to be a moderate and has been endorsed by Liberals and Tories alike. Blais took 52.4% to Jellett’s 43.5%.
  • In Rideau-Goulbourn, a rural ward, an old name in rural conservative politics, councillor Glenn Brooks was easily defeated. His main opponent, Scott Moffatt, who seems to be more left-wing than Brooks (such a thing is easy) and is pro-amalgamation took 52.6% to the incumbent’s 26.5%. A left-wing candidate, Bruce Webster, took 12.3%
  • The open seat in Kanata-South was taken by centre-right candidate Allan Hubley who won 48.8%. Aaron Helleman (NDP), supported by 2006 mayoral candidate and Kanata’s favourite sun, Alex Munter (also NDP), took 36.4%.

The overall shape of the new council has been described as being slightly centre-right, sort of Red Tory or blue Liberal, which should be generally favourable to Jim Watson. Watson’s proposal to cut council from 23 seats to 14-17 seats, however, probably won’t work given that incumbents don’t tend to vote in favour of abolishing their own seats.

In other races across Ontario, a few incumbents went down to defeat. Hamilton‘s mayoral contest, scheduled to be a rematch of the 2006 contest between Red Tory incumbent Fred Eisenberger – who was endorsed by NDP MP (and former mayor) David Christopherson in 2006 – and former mayor right-wing Liberal Larry Di Ianni on the other hand was hijacked by Bob Bratina (NDP?) running to the left of both. Bratina won easily with 37.3% against 28.4% for Di Ianni and 27.4% for Eisenberger. In London, incumbent mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best (in office since 2000) lost a rematch against former right-wing Liberal MP Joe Fontana (described by some as a teabagger) who won 47.2% against 44.8% for the incumbent. In hilarious Mississauga, 89-year old incumbent Hazel McCallion (in office since 1978) won ‘only’ 76.4%. In Greater Sudbury, NDP incumbent John Rodriguez lost to right-winger Marianne Matichuk, also described as a teabagger, who won 46.1% to the incumbent’s 36.5%. Finally, in Vaughan former Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua defeated corrupt incumbent Linda Jackson and former Liberal MPP Mario Racco. Bevilacqua took 64.2% against 14.5% for the incumbent and 14.4% for Racco.

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Posted on October 26, 2010, in Canada, Ontario, Regional and local elections. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. However, I must say that in the municipal election in Ontario, it is very difficult to pin down party affiliation and there is the ideological line is minimal, except that the vast majority of the electors don’t know very much about the voting record of their local councilors. They basically vote only for the personality of the person. For example, Ford had a big breakthrough among the immigrant community which forms almost a majority of voters in Toronto. This could maybe say something about the provincial election next year.

    And for the day-to-day basis, the formation of factions based on a person (even some Liberals or Conservatives were close to David Miller in Toronto) is more important than federal or provincial party affiliation. I am living in Ottawa and I think that there will be no big difference between O’Brien or Watson on a day-to-day basis. Also, to get the most votes as possible, candidates do not tend to put forward a party affiliation during campaign at least in a very explicit matter.

    For exemple, in the Bay Ward, all other candidates than Cullen were in some way anti-Cullen councillors, as this part of the city is not very NDP friendly provincially and federally.

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