It’s a rainy night in Paula Fletcherville (aka Leslieville) and the former head of Manitoba’s Communist party is nowhere to be seen at this, the second and last, debate of the election campaign.
Ditto for her leftist opponent, Jane Farrow, who besides this debate also boycotted her appointment as Honoured Dyke in the 2010 Gay Pride parade because Pride, in one of its few acts of rational thought, banned the use of “Israeli apartheid” and the hate group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid that year.
Daniel Trayes and Liz West are facing off against Paula Fletcher, inset, in Ward 30, where West has a real shot at unseating Fletcher. (DAVE THOMAS/Toronto Sun)
We hear during the debate that they both aren’t at this one, sponsored by the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition, because it is “too biased.”
But TV broadcaster Liz West, who nearly upset Fletcher in 2010 (losing by a mere 250 votes), isn’t fazed.
She said their absence just speaks to the problem of divisiveness at council.
“As a councillor you should be able to answer every call and deal with every issue regardless of who is at the end of the phone,” West said that night.
“I do,” she says emphatically when asked whether she thinks she can pull it off this time. “People are saying they are dying for change.”
She may get her wish, for Fletcher and Farrow are sure to split the leftist vote–and even Fletcher’s union muscle (her husband John Cartwright is head of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council) is likely not to help her this time.
I tried to reach both the 11-year incumbent Fletcher and Farrow, whose Twitter feed shows her adorned by MP Adam Vaughan on one side and a female version of Vaughan–his sister– on the other. Both did not respond to my e-mails.
Ward 30 may not be the only race to watch. There is of course Ward 5, vacated by Peter Milczyn and Ward 16, the former fiefdom of Karen Stintz, where a long list of candidates is trying to win the honours to replace the incumbents. Let’s not forget Ward 32 either, where the former Queen of the Beach, Sandra Bussin, is desperately trying to unseat the woman who humiliated her in 2010, Mary-Margaret McMahon.
Here are a few races that could go down to the wire:
* Ward 3–Battle of the Name Recognition: It’s Stephen Holyday, the eldest son of council’s retired elder statesman, Doug, against Annette Hutcheon, an Etobicoke financial services professional and ex-wife of David, a municipal politician in the pre-amalgamation days.
Holyday, who took a two-month leave of absence from his management job with Ontario’s energy ministry, says he’s knocked on thousands of doors with his dad and is just now in as good a shape as him. He says he intends to take the same approach as his dad and be “careful about spending,” as well as work on reducing traffic congestion and making things better for the residents.
Hutcheon says she’s knocked on 20,000 doors since January and some residents say they haven’t seen a municipal councillor in 20 years.
She intends to hold the lines on taxes and hopes to encourage council to invest in infrastructure so there are no sewage problems, as some constituents have experienced in their basements.
“I care about my community … I’m working hard to earn people’s votes,” she says.
* Ward 6–Call 9-1-1 This Ward Needs Emergency Help: Tony Vella, a police constable in 11 Division, was so concerned about the increase in development in the ward where he lives and the need for politicians to respect people’s tax dollars, he decided to take a two-month leave of absence and run.
When the single, 41-year-old knocks on people’s doors, they tell him they want a councillor who’s “engaged” and returns their phone calls.
Incumbent Mark Grimes –council’s point person on the already over-budget Pan Am Games and who some criticize for only being interested in sports issues– says that, despite the number of people running against him, he’s not worried.
“I’m out every day knocking on doors,” he says.
* Ward 12–The Nunziata Factor: Lawyer John Nunziata, former member of the Liberal Rat Pack and subsequently an Independent MP, decided to throw his hat into the ring at the 11th hour because he felt that strong voices are needed at City Hall.
“My kids are off to university and it’s just me and the dog,” he says. “I want to do what I love best.”
He says the reception he gets while out campaigning with sister Frances, well-loved in neighbouring Ward 11, has been phenomenal and he believes he can knock off incumbent Frank DiGiorgio.
He didn’t appear to be so convinced himself about winning this time around when I contacted him, admitting he has some “tough opponents.”
DiGiorgio said residents appear to be basically upset that things like road repairs and a community centre he promised haven’t been done. He argues that it takes time but if people don’t see “visible movement,” they don’t believe him.
* Ward 26–Call to Action: It’s unfortunate that it took the tragic death this summer of a small child at a corner of Leaside experiencing high traffic volumes–one which had been brought to the attention of incumbent John Parker.
But that seemed to bring the “discontent” with the councillor’s inaction and “non-responsiveness” to the forefront, says his opponent, Jon Burnside.
The former cop lost by a mere 500 votes in 2010 and he’s hoping this time people will really mean it when they say that it’s “time for a change.”
Parker didn’t respond to an e-mail and phone request for comment.
* Ward 27–You Don’t Need to Be Gay to Represent the Gay Village: That’s the message straight businessman Benjamin Dichter is trying to get across in his efforts to try to oust lesbian Kristyn Wong-Tam, the darling of the unions and the councillor who advocated strongly to keep the hateful Queers Against Israeli Apartheid contingent in the Pride parade over her four years in office.
Dichter has his work cut out for him with nine other opponents, although he contends some may throw in the towel to ensure he beats Wong-Tam.
He says during his canvassing of the ward, he’s heard many concerns about how Wong-Tam has spent her Section 37 funds (without input from the community impacted), how little she’s dedicated to affordable housing and how security concerns are much higher at the homeless shelters in her ward.
“Some people call her the ‘Empress of the ward,’ meaning she does whatever she wants,” he says.
Wong-Tam didn’t return phone requests to her campaign headquarters to comment.
* Ward 39–Replacing a Legend: In this ward, where budget chief Mike Del Grande has decided to call it quits, the choice is between more of the same good attention and what some would consider a political has-been.
Franco Ng, who was part of Del Grande’s team, is promising the same excellent customer service–meaning getting back to residents within 24 hours as his former boss insisted. But Ng realizes he’s up against someone with tremendous name recognition, former Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis.
Ng said that while many in the ward are not happy with his opponent’s baggage, he’s got the “connections.”
Karygiannis, who feels he still has a lot to offer the community, is cagey when I ask him about his very public opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage during his time in Ottawa. He at first claims it is not an issue at City Hall. When I suggest otherwise, he says: “Those issues are over and done with …The vote was taken and we move on.”
* Ward 44–Paging Ron Moeser, Paging Ron Moeser: He missed council for nearly a year in the middle of his term due to illness and when this Ward 44 seat-warmer returned, he refused to back a wage freeze and promptly joined a junket of 18 to a Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference in Vancouver in May 2013.
His opponent, Diana Hall, who lost by a mere 200 votes in 2010, feels it’s time for this ward in the far eastern fringes of Scarborough to have “good representation.”
She says Moeser missed 3,000 votes this past term and she feels quite rightly that the area has been “shortchanged.”
Messages left on Moeser’s City Hall and constituency office machines were not returned.
He doesn’t appear to have a campaign office.
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LEVY’S PICKS: THESE WARDS ARE UP FOR GRABS
* Ward 3 Etobicoke Centre
* Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore
* Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore
* Ward 12 York South-Weston
* Ward 16 Eglinton-Lawrence
* Ward 26 Don Valley West
* Ward 27 Toronto Centre-Rosedale
* Ward 30 Toronto-Danforth
* Ward 32 Beaches-East York
* Ward 39 Scarborough-Agincourt
* Ward 44 Scarborough East
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COUNCILLORS WHO DESERVE TO BE TURFED (BUT LIKELY WON’T BE BECAUSE OF NAME RECOGNITION OR VOTE-SPLITTING)
Maria Augimeri (Ward 9)
John Filion (Ward 23)
Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29)
Norm Kelly (Ward 40)
Gord Perks (Ward 14)
David Shiner (Ward 24)
Janet Davis (Ward 31)
Chin Lee (Ward 41)
Anthony Perruzza (Ward 8)
Joe Mihevc (Ward 21)
Pam McConnell (Ward 28)
Shelley Carroll (Ward 33)
Raymond Cho (Ward 42)