4 min

Sorry, Helen; Congrats, Kyle

Will the new council push a leftwing agenda?

Credit: (Nicola Betts)

The luck of the Irish apparently deserted Helen Kennedy in the municipal election on Nov 13.

Kennedy, a well-known lesbian activist and longtime assistant to former city councillor Olivia Chow, lost a hard-fought race in Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina to former city hall TV reporter Adam Vaughan.

At the Queen West pub The Blarney Stone, with the melancholy strains of Irish music as background, Kennedy conceded the race less than an hour after the polls closed. To a crowd of cheering supporters, Kennedy thanked her workers, and vowed to continue to support NDP candidates such as Chow, the riding’s current MP.

Kennedy said the race was nothing but a positive experience.

“There is not one thing I would change, other than winning.”

In fact, the election was, mostly, good for social progressives; Vaughan and Kennedy, for example, differ very little in policy. It could be said that Toronto voters sent a message to conservative politicians in Ottawa and Queen’s Park: The city is not buying into any rightwing agenda.

Toronto voters returned left-leaning mayor David Miller and a solid majority of queer-positive councillors to city hall, ensuring a continuation of the progressive agenda that has been in place, if fitfully, since the rightwing old guard was ousted three years ago.

Miller won overwhelmingly, taking 57 percent of the vote and crushing conservative challenger Jane Pitfield by almost 150,000 votes. Of the 44 councillors, about 16 were elected or reelected who are consistently progressive. The same number were elected who have generally voted, or who are expected to vote, largely in favour of progressive motions, especially on social issues.

The remaining dozen or so councillors are on the right — yes, Rob Ford is back — but are expected to remain a rather fractured and ineffective minority.

Of the returning councillors, the highlights include the expected reelection of Kyle Rae in Toronto Centre-Rosedale, which encompasses the gay village. Rae, still the only openly gay representative on council, won easily with about 9,000 votes, defeating his closest challenger, Carol Golench, by around 7,500 votes. Golench was endorsed by the antidevelopment Coalition For Municipal Change. (Rae did not return Xtra’s call for this story.)

In the adjoining ward, Pam McConnell also won handily. McConnell, the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, is probably the person most responsible for the ousting of former police chief Julian Fantino, for which she earned the lasting gratitude of Toronto queers.

Also reelected were consistently gay-positive councillors Howard Moscoe, Adam Giambrone, Joe Pantalone, Joe Mihevc, John Filion, Paula Fletcher, Janet Davis, Sandra Bussin, Glenn De Baeremaeker and Shelley Carroll.

In Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park, environmentalist Gord Perks was running against several other progressive candidates for an open seat. While Perks is known, to a large extent, as a one-issue candidate, he is expected to be solidly on the socially progressive side of council.

Vaughan, too, while running as an independent, has been consistently supportive on queer issues.

Giorgio Mammoliti, who has, at various times, supported all sides in the last council term, and who swears he’s no longer a homophobe, was reelected in York West.

The rightwing side of council lost the only unsuccessful incumbent in the election, Peter Li Preti. Li Preti was ousted by Anthony Perruzza in a race that got so dirty police were posted at every poll on election day. Perruzza is thought to be another progressive voice on council.

John Parker, a former Mike Harris Tory MPP, won Pitfield’s vacated seat in Don Valley West. Other notable rightwingers returned were Michael Thompson, the Scarborough advocate for racial profiling by the police, Karen Stintz, Denzil Minnan-Wong and, by a whisker, Case “I hate bicycle lanes” Ootes.

Disappointingly, the two true lunatics on council — Ford and Mike Del Grande — won easily in Etobicoke and Scarborough respectively. Ford’s history of homophobic and offensive behaviour is too long to list, but most recently he voted against funding Toronto’s AIDS programs because “only gay men and drug users” get AIDS. Del Grande — known for vigilante actions against houses he thinks are meth labs and for lamenting whites leaving his riding, and who may face assault charges stemming from a campaign altercation with an Asian woman working for an opponent — was the only councillor to vote with Ford.

Several gay and gay-positive candidates were defeated.

In Ward 17 Davenport, Alejandra Bravo came within 300 votes of defeating rightwing incumbent Cesar Palacio. Xtra had endorsed the straight woman because of her past activism and her support of arts funding, antihomophobia programs and safe spaces.

Unsuccessful queer candidates included Paul Ferreira, who finished second to rightwing incumbent Frances Nunziata in Ward 11 York South-Weston, John Colautti, who finished fourth to Perks, and Chris Ouellette, who finished fourth to Vaughan. Openly gay candidates Chris Reid, Gary Leroux, Cam Johnson and Rob Bezanson ended up as third, fourth, fifth and eighth respectively, against Rae. Openly trans candidate Susan Gapka came in sixth in that race.

In notable school board races, a number of public school trustees who have strongly supported antihomophobia and inclusive educational initiatives were returned to office. Those include Irene Atkinson, Sheila Cary-Meagher, Josh Matlow and board chair Sheila Ward. Also elected was Xtra contributor Nadia Bello in Scarborough.

But the trustees are split almost evenly between those who are willing to make the cuts required to balance the board budget as required under provincial legislation and those who refuse. The split means there’ll be the same bitter debate next year.

In the Catholic school board Ward 9 — which includes the gay village — Karl Clemens, the first openly gay Catholic priest in Canada, finished second.

In the wider GTA, out lesbian Nicki Ward who was running for regional councillor in Halton came in fourth.