Several new city councillors will be elected in Toronto on Monday. Here is what departing members say about what awaits them.

Toronto will see several new faces on City Council this term, but it’ll be next to impossible to replace the more than 125 combined years of public service the city will be losing, says one political strategist.

“The amount of talent that is leaving is incredible. Essentially all of the deputy mayors are gone,” Aleem Kanji told CP24.com during a recent interview.

“I’m kind of calling them the group of seven. … A lot of institutional memory will be leaving the building. It’s going to be tough to replace that.”

Seven long-standing city councillors did not seek re-election that time around.

They include:

  • Deputy Mayor Ana Bailao (Ward 9, Davenport), who is the city’s housing advocate
  • Joe Cressy (Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York), who served as chair of the Toronto Board of Health
  • John Filion (Ward 18, Willowdale); who held countless roles and helmed numerous boards and committees over his 40-year tenure
  • Michael Ford (Ward 1, Etobicoke North), a former trustee who was first elected as city councillor in a 2016 by-election when his uncle Rob died
  • Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale), a strong environmental advocate
  • Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 16, Don Valley East), a well-known fiscal conservative who chairs the Civic Appointments Committee and Striking committees and Collective Bargaining Subcommittee and serves as vice-chair of the Executive Committee
  • Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 13-Toronto Centre), a noted LGBTQ and social justice advocate

It should be noted that Cressy resigned last April to work at George Brown College while Wong-Tam and Ford both vacated their seats to run provincially in Toronto Centre and York South-Weston respectively.

On Friday, Cynthia Lai, the incumbent councillor in Ward 23 who was running for re-election, died in hospital, making the race in Scarborough North open.

Kanji said that former two-term councillor Vincent Crisanti has a good chance at being elected to replace Ford in Etobicoke North. He also said he expects that Jon Burnside, who also served one-term in North York, could become Minnan-Wong’s successor in Don Valley East.

“But they don’t have the experience of the others who are exiting,” Kanji said, adding the other five new councillors will all be rookies.

Long-time incumbent Councillors Frances Nunziata (Ward 5 -York South-Weston), Mark Grimes (Ward 3 – Etobicoke-Lakeshore), and Gary Crawford (Ward 20 – Scarborough Southwest) could also be in for tight races, he said.

Grimes is running against Amber Morley again, after defeating her by about 6,000 votes in 2018.

“These will be competitive races, but I feel the power of incumbency will get these incumbents through,” noted Kanji.

Toronto city council

Bailao said the new faces on Toronto City Council will definitely face a “learning curve.”

“There’s a lot happening, a lot of work to do. It’s going to be a lot for the new councillors coming in,” she told CP24.com, noting the budget will be one of the first major tasks city council must deal with early next year.

”I’m hopeful the outgoing councillors will help with that transition and be available to assist and provide adequate information.”

The Ward 9 councillor, who is stepping aside after a dozen years at city hall, said while some key members are not returning next term, she’s confident those who will come in will be “strong voices” who will fight and advocate for the best interest of Toronto and its residents.

Bailao said council next term will also have a lot of work to do in the next term on financing and managing Toronto’s growth, while providing essential basic services as well as public transit, and sewers and roads among other things.

Minnan-Wong didn’t mince words when reflecting on the challenges city council will face in the next term, many of them financial.

There is currently a $875 million shortfall in Toronto’s budget for 2022 that will need to be filled by the end of the fiscal year.

“The city has been avoiding its financial responsibilities for a long time. … The chickens are coming home to roost,” he said, pointing to a five per cent of more property tax increase that could come in.

“It’s going to be a difficult job (for Council), a real splash in the face with water for these new councillors.”

He also said it’s going to take some creativity for the city to pay for the operation of new public transit lines, while navigating a likely recession. Minnan-Wong also said the negotiations for the new collective agreements for the city’s inside and outside workers won’t be an easy task.

“We’re going to need some councillors that have a certain level of fiscal responsibility and they’re going to have to make some tough decisions,” he said.

“There are some difficult realities to reconcile with to run a city responsibly.”

Filion said a councillor’s role is one of duty and hard work where people with experience put their name forward to get things done, not one where people “want to see their name in lights.”

“We need people who really want to step in and get to work. … Typically we’ve had pretty strong new councillors,” he said, noting one of the biggest challenge in the next term is doing more with less money.

“Toronto is facing lots of revenues problems. It’s going to require a lot of creativity and some assistance from other levels of government, that’s for sure.”

Filion, who said he expects most wards, including the non-incumbent ones, will choose representatives who have similar values and stand up for similar issues as those in the last term, said the way the province handles the expansion of its “strong mayor powers” could also have a huge impact on the next Toronto City Council.

“A lot is going to depend on whether Doug Ford decides to help the city out or make John Tory’s life miserable,” he said.

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