The Ontario government’s imposition of a 25-ward Toronto council has convinced Sarah Doucette, a strong progressive voice on council for the past eight years, to leave local politics.
The Ward 13 Parkdale-High Park representative broke the news to her residents in a statement Wednesday, as Premier Doug Ford introduced a bill to force the council change and override a court ruling that found it unconstitutional.
“When I decided to run for office over eight years ago, it was because I wanted to make a difference in the day-to-day lives of our community. I have always been a councillor that prefers to help solve the problems on the street, rather than sit in committee rooms discussing policy,” Doucette wrote.
“As we move towards the 25-ward system, I am sad to think that the hands-on community activity must be replaced, as councillors’ roles will have to focus primarily on city wide issues, with the day-to-day operations being left to staff. With the role of councillor changing I had to decide where my heart lies …
“I have made the difficult decision not to run for re-election under the 25-ward system.”
There are currently 44 wards. Council agreed to expand to 47 wards to accommodate population growth downtown and in Willowdale, after four years of consultation and study. Ford said cutting the number of wards almost in half in mid-election is necessary to end “dysfunction” at city hall.
Doucette, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, wrote that she feels comfortable stepping away from the job knowing that Perks, should he win, “will be able to finish the important projects we have started, help grow our inclusive and exciting vision of our community, all the while standing up for the residents of our city in this time of great change.”
In an interview Wednesday Perks said, “Sarah Doucette deeply embodied the values of decency and community at city council. It’s a crime that we’re losing her.”
Originally from England and the daughter of a former mayor on the Isle of Wight, Doucette was elected in 2010 with a crop of new councillors and then-mayor Rob Ford.
An NDP member, she became part of the loose coalition of left-leaning and centrist councillors who fought the conservative austerity agenda of Ford and then-councillor Doug Ford.
While soft-spoken and unfailingly polite, Doucette helped lead opposition to the Ford administration’s efforts to cut library hours and TTC routes. As well as serving on the library board, she was a vocal advocate for tree protections as the city’s tree advocate, a post she lost this term.
Doucette was handily re-elected in 2014.
“From our first fights to save the High Park Zoo and rebuild the Jamie Bell Castle Playground, to our recent work creating safe school zones across the ward, implementing the Bloor West Avenue Study, High Park Character Study, and the upcoming Bloor West and Junction Heritage Conservation Districts we have been at our greatest when we work together to achieve what’s best for our community,” she wrote in her statement.
David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider