Facing temporary defeat and uncertainty surrounding Toronto’s legal fight, Bill 5 challenger Chris Moise is sure of one thing — the new 25-ward city council will be predominately white, middle aged and male, and will not adequately represent him or his community.
Moise, a gay Black man who was campaigning for one of the original 47 seats, said he will not run in the 25-ward election because it would mean going up against his friend and mentor Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam for Ward 13 Toronto Centre.
Wong-Tam, the only gay, female visible minority on the current council, will face George Smitherman, who was Ontario’s first openly gay cabinet minister and a 2010 mayoral candidate.
“We need more people like her, not less,” said Moise, a Toronto School Board Trustee who is part of a group of candidates fighting Bill 5 in court alongside the city.
“But the fight is not over yet. It’s just beginning.”
Now that the Court of Appeal has granted the province a stay of Justice Edward Belobaba’s ruling that Bill 5 is unconstitutional, the city can move forward with a 25-ward election — new-found certainty Mayor John Tory welcomed while expressing “very profound disagreement with how we got here.”
Tory said he doesn’t know if Toronto’s government will be less effective with only 25 councillors, adding council debates might be shorter but there must be efforts to ensure residents have access to councillors who will see ward populations almost double.
“I’m quite happy to make sure we consider ways in which we can keep the full engagement of citizens in the different parts of the city,” he said, including strengthening community councils, the four groupings of councillors with neighbouring wards who deal with the most local issues.
Asked how he will react next time Ford “bigfoots” Toronto, Tory said he’ll stand up for the city while maintaining important relationships with other governments.
“I will in my own way firmly and clearly indicate that I’m opposed to these things,” he said, repeating a past suggestion that, if re-elected, he will try to initiate a citywide referendum to see how many councillors Torontonians want representing them.
Jennifer Keesmaat, the former chief planner running against Tory, blamed the mayor for not raising the alert when Ford mentioned his planned council cut “in passing” during a private meeting July 9.
“The city is not getting the leadership it rightly deserves,” and will get steamrolled by Ford on other issues if Tory is re-elected, she said.
Following Wednesday’s stay even the most vocal opponents of Bill 5 conceded a 25-ward election will be held in a month. Many are gearing up campaigns against a long list of new candidates, including some long-time colleagues and friends.
Councillor Joe Cressy held off registering to run for Ward 10 Spadina—Fort York in the 25-ward election, but will now do so as soon as possible. He faces no incumbent.
“Unfortunately, confusion continues for far too many voters and far too many Torontonians, but that’s the order of day with Doug Ford in power,” Cressy said.
In an interview before release of the decision, Councillor Mary Fragedakis said she will run in the new Ward 14 against Paula Fletcher, a fellow New Democrat, council ally and friend.
“I’m running in the area where I live — Toronto-Danforth,” Fragedakis said. The pair have talked about the new odd phase in a working relationship that started in 2010 when together they fought then-mayor Rob Ford’s budget cuts. More recently, they consoled residents traumatized by the July mass shooting on the Danforth.
“We’ve gone through a lot in the last eight years, but we’ve really gone through a lot together in the past while,” Fragedakis said. “Nobody thought we’d go from grieving on the Danforth to the chaos that Doug Ford has plunged us into.”
Not all councillors were upset about the Court of Appeal’s stay.
Councillor John Campbell has been running his campaign for re-election under the assumption there would be a 25-ward election.
“The province made it abundantly clear, by hook or by crook, it was going to be 25 wards, and we just press on,” Campbell said. He isn’t yet registered to run in Ward 2 Etobicoke Centre against Councillor Stephen Holyday, but said he will be first in line when registration reopens.
Councillor Jim Karygiannis was overjoyed that the 25-ward model has prevailed. He faces council veteran Norm Kelly for Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt.
“Let’s go for it. I’m delighted, I’m ecstatic, let’s have an election,” said Karygiannis, who as a federal MP represented the same voters he will now be courting. “I believe that it will be equitable and good for my residents.”
Councillors not seeking re-election include Janet Davis, Sarah Doucette, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Justin Di Ciano, Mary-Margaret McMahon, David Shiner and Josh Colle, and appointed councillors Jim Hart, Migan Megardichian and Jonathan Tsao.
Former Councillor Chin Lee told the Star he is not yet sure if he will run for Ward 23 Scarborough North.
Where incumbents are running
(In cases of councillors who haven’t yet registered, their names are included below based on their stated intentions).
Ward 1 Etobicoke North: Vincent Crisanti and Michael Ford
Ward 2 Etobicoke Centre: Stephen Holyday and John Campbell
Ward 3 Etobicoke-Lakeshore: Mark Grimes
Ward 4 Parkdale—High Park: Gord Perks
Ward 5 York South—Weston: Frank Di Giorgio and Frances Nunziata
Ward 6 York Centre: Maria Augimeri and James Pasternak
Ward 7 Humber River—Black Creek: Giorgio Mammoliti and Anthony Perruzza
Ward 8 Eglinton-Lawrence: Christin Carmichael Greb
Ward 9 Davenport: Ana Bailao and Cesar Palacio
Ward 10 Spadina—Fort York: Joe Cressy
Ward 11 University-Rosedale: Mike Layton
Ward 12 Toronto—St. Paul’s: Josh Matlow and Joe Mihevc
Ward 13 Toronto Centre: Kristyn Wong-Tam and Lucy Troisi
Ward 14 Toronto-Danforth: Paula Fletcher and Mary Fragedakis
Ward 15 Don Valley West: Jon Burnside and Jaye Robinson
Ward 16 Don Valley East: Denzil Minnan-Wong
Ward 17 Don Valley North: Shelley Carroll
Ward 18 Willowdale: John Filion
Ward 19 Beaches—East York: None.
Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest: Gary Crawford and Michelle Holland
Ward 21 Scarborough Centre: Michael Thompson
Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt: Jim Karygiannis and Norm Kelly
Ward 23 Scarborough North: None
Ward 24 Scarborough-Guildwood: Paul Ainslie
Ward 25 Scarborough—Rouge Park: Neethan Shan
Samantha Beattie is a city hall reporter based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @samantha_kb
David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider