The Star identified several “Wards to Watch” in a 47-ward election. Now that new legislation has made it a 25-ward election, we have determined all of the wards are worth watching. This is one in a series of articles. The election is Oct. 22. Advance voting begins Oct. 10.
Angelo Carnevale, city council candidate for Etobicoke Centre, begrudgingly accepts that knocking off two sitting councillors, Stephen Holyday and John Campbell, will be an uphill battle Oct. 22.
“Name recognition is number one and we’re fighting two incumbents, so how do we get the name out? That’s the key,” says the married father and businessman who is on his second attempt to land at Toronto city hall.
He came third in a race against Campbell in 2014 and is one of three non-incumbent challengers in Ward 2, one of 25 newly constituted wards created by the province. With one of the highest proportions of single detached homes in the city, residents’ concerns during a municipal campaign are typically local, relating to things such as garbage, traffic and parking.
But while Carnevale must compete with the power of incumbency, he’s also hoping to capitalize on it with the backing of his long-time friend, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, the man responsible for redrawing the electoral map.
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They went to the same west-end high school and Carnevale played football with Rob Ford, the premier’s younger brother. He credits the late Toronto mayor for encouraging him to jump into politics. “He (Rob Ford) always said, ‘Ang, we always need more people like you down there’” at city hall, recalls Carnevale.
Doug Ford, along with Kinga Surma, the recently elected Tory MPP for the area, appeared at Carnevale’s campaign kickoff last month — though Ford has said the only person he is “actively supporting” is his nephew, Michael Ford, who is seeking re-election in Etobicoke North.
“Every decision we make is for the people,” Ford told the gathering in a video posted on Carnevale’s website. “We need someone like Angelo doing the same thing down at the city.” Having Carnevale on city council would be a “dream team,” added Surma.
Carnevale worked on both Surma and Ford’s election campaigns earlier this year. “You help people and you get it in return, and if you don’t you don’t get it in return,” he explains in a recent interview.
Inside Carnevale’s campaign office, located in a large rented home backing onto the prestigious Islington Golf Club, the candidate drops an election pamphlet on the table. “Conservative blue,” he states. Some of his campaign material feature photos of Ford and Surma.
“I can’t hide that, and nor do I want to hide that, we just won a majority government in this province,” says Carnevale, who sprinkles Ford’s “For the People” mantra into his answers about his platform on crime, transit and improved services for seniors.
Holyday and Campbell, both finishing their first terms as councillors, say it is a two-man race in Ward 2. Both discount the Ford factor.
They say constituents are confused and upset — even if they support a smaller council — that the province changed the boundaries, without warning, midway through the municipal election campaign.
“It is a fight between two incumbents, who both have a presence in the ward and have things that they can turn to and say ‘we did this, and we did that.’ People just need to look carefully at our track record,” says Holyday.
He is particularly proud of his role in managing airport noise, local dispute mediation and for backing city staff who recommended against speed humps on a residential street — in the face of angry opposition from a very vocal residents’ group.
Campbell includes in his successes an area specific policy for Humbertown, controlling and curbing some developments and getting some good park improvements.
Neither incumbent relishes going head to head.
“There’s no pleasure in it. It’s not fun. It’s somebody you worked with four years, and being in adjacent wards, you have to work together on things. But we are two different people, we have two different approaches,” says Holyday.
Adds Campbell: “Stephen and I get along very well, he’s a very nice guy, we vote together 80 per cent of the time.”
They slightly disagree on what the boundary shift could mean to their voter support. Most of their former wards are included in the new Ward 2, says Holyday, who suggests that makes the impact about equal. Campbell says while all of Holyday’s Ward 3 was absorbed, he lost about 1,000 homes where he had more than 40 per cent support in 2014.
While both fiscally conservative, Campbell describes his rival as “very, very conservative, he voted against ban on gun handguns, safe injection sites, we definitely differed on the bike lanes of Bloor (Street). I rode them and he drove it.”
Holyday says he and Campbell have different philosophies about government and taxation. Campbell, not Holyday, supported road tolls, before they were killed by the previous provincial Liberal government.
Holyday plays down any bad feelings about Ford and Surma backing a little known candidate. His father, Doug Holyday, was a longtime ally of the premier’s namesake father, along with being Rob Ford’s deputy mayor who endorsed Surma in her 2014 unsuccessful run for city council.
“I believe I can stand on my own record,” Holyday says. “I’ve got plenty to offer the people of Etobicoke Centre. If the premier has chosen to become involved in the election … that is a connection of provincial level politics to municipal ones that doesn’t need to be there.”
Also running in Etobicoke Centre is Erica Kelly, the self-described only progressive in the race who is willing to “stand up against the right-wing slash-and-burn government at Queen’s Park,” and candidate Bill Boersma.
Etobicoke Centre candidates: Bill Boersma, John Campbell (councillor), Angelo Carnevale, Erica Kelly and Stephen Holyday (councillor).
Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy