Vaughan and Toronto’s Mayoral Race
Campaigns for change carried two of Ontario’s mayoral candidates to political peaks in municipal elections that pulled more people to debate floors and polls in years. The riveting races of Toronto and Vaughan’s mayoralties are perhaps two of the most captivating political dramas of this decade.
On Oct. 25th, 2010, Canada’s fastest growing city saw Linda Jackson’s controversial reign come to a heavy halt when she lost her mayoral spot by a landslide to Maurizio Bevilacqua, former Liberal MP.
Bevilacqua, who gave up his parliamentary seat after two decades to dive into Vaughan’s mayoral race late last August, is confident that his transition process, along with a mostly fresh-faced council, will be free of obstacles. “I am pretty certain it will be smooth, I’m sure people will cooperate and be very respectful with each other because there is no other way of doing it,” he says. He also crushes the idea of any potential issues of conflict-of-interest – a topic that’s been paramount in Vaughan’s election. “I’ve never had any conflicts of interest, and this is the benefit of a person who’s been in public life for 22 years and has never had conflicts; that tradition will continue in the mayor’s chair.”
An overwhelming 63.3 per cent of Vaughan residents voted for Bevilacqua’s vision of change and federal experience over Jackson’s efforts to ratify City Hall’s embattled reputation and shine a light on her accomplishments in office. “I have absolutely no regrets. I’ve enjoyed it, I have a lot to look back on, I have a lot of great memories and I move forward and that’s it. It’s very simple,” Jackson told City Life Magazine in an optimistic tone, adding that her bid for re-election came from a desire to let democracy dictate her future. “I ran again for the fact that nobody was going to tell me to go home for the exception of the people.”
Though Jackson could not comment on the charges against her under the Municipal Elections Act from her 2006 campaign, she does say that she wanted to have the opportunity to clear her name before the election. Her trial is not to be held until 2011. Though her next role is undecided, Jackson plans on spending a lot more time with family in the short-term and isn’t discounting a future in politics. “I love politics, it’s in my blood … I still love it because I know that I can still make a difference, and I’m not going to say never.”
Voter turnout was up a monumental 14 per cent in Canada’s largest city where right-wing councilor Rob Ford ran a successful campaign on fiscal responsibility to beat rival candidate and former provincial health minister George Smitherman. With the majority of Ford’s 47 per cent win coming from Toronto’s suburban demographic, the downtown core showed a clear divide from the city’s outskirts. Throughout the race, Ford ran an open door platform that focused less on arts and transportation and more on a repeated catchphrase to “Stop the gravy train” at City Hall.
His plans to abolish the land transfer tax and vehicle registration tax were pledged as top priorities, but how soon residents can expect these tax breaks is still unknown. After repeated attempts to contact Ford via phone and e-mail on the date that he agreed to an interview, he could not be reached. “I’ve obviously got some opinions about his platform,” says former mayor David Miller, “but one of the things about this council is that it’s very, very democratic. There’s lots of members of council who understand that we need to invest in high-priority neighbourhoods, who understand that we need to build public transit, who understand that we have to continue to take active steps to lower our environmental footprint, and I’m sure those kinds of programs will continue.”
Despite speculation of running for a third term, Miller opted out of this year’s municipal election to spend more time with his children. “I grew up without a father, and one of the things I said to myself was, if I have children, I’m going to be a really good dad, and all of a sudden my kids were 14 and 12 and I’d never been home. I felt I was letting them down and myself down,” says Miller emotionally, adding that he’s finally been able to see his son’s hockey games and daughter’s soccer games. “It’s been a really great year for me from that perspective.”
Miller’s new role is already lined up. While he will continue to push for heightened public transit, his next official job will be as an advisor to the World Bank on cities and the environment. As for his political forecast for Toronto’s next four years? “That’s hard to predict. Interesting,” says Miller.