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"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thoughts on election eve

A lot of prognostication has taken place so why not one more. The analysis that follows is of what I think will happen, not necessarily what I wish will happen. In a few cases I hope to be wrong.


This race will not be nearly as close as was anticipated a couple of weeks ago when newcomer Paul Cheng seemed to be closing the gap between himself and frontrunner Matt Brown. Since then, there has been a number of all-candidates debates in which Cheng has not performed well and seems clearly unprepared for the office he hopes to take. As well, racist comments on Twitter by one of his campaign workers and Cheng’s initial attempts to suggest that they were provoked by Brown’s team have not played well. And finally there is the matter of failing to obtain rental licences for his income properties. His explanation that this was his way to protest because others were getting away with it just doesn’t cut it. Protestors protest; this was simply an attempt to get away with not meeting standards.

Nevertheless, Cheng made it a much more interesting race by entering it. He managed to tap into a lot of dissatisfaction with the current council and the “establishment”. Unfortunately he and his supporters were never able to articulate a vision that could withstand rational scrutiny nor were they able to campaign in an organized and disciplined fashion. Even Caranci’s last minute endorsement was to little effect.

The saddest part of this election was the near invisibility of Joe Swan’s support. Many would concede that he was the most articulate and intelligent candidate on the debate stage. But the baggage he carried from his championing of disgraced mayor, Joe Fontana, his obvious catering to developer interests as in the cases of PenEquity, the Southwest Area Plan and Reservoir Hill, and his disdainful treatment of colleagues and staff alike could not be overlooked. Neither was he helped by his position as executive director of Orchestra London which continues to struggle financially. It was not biased polling that undermined his bid to be mayor; people just don’t trust him.

Ward 1: James Beynen, Judy Carter, Bud Polhill, Michael Van Holst.

Bud Polhill should take this quite easily despite being one of the Fontana 8. Still Michael Van Holst has run a surprisingly strong campaign in a ward with low voter turnout.

Ward 2: Bill Armstrong, Nancy McSloy, Steve Polhill

Bud wants a dynasty and he may get one this time around. Steve Polhill, Bud’s son and Armstrong are bitter enemies; Steve has been closing the gap in the votes. McSloy is a past ally of Armstrong who has become disillusioned with his tactics and voting record. She may be the spoiler or the alternative. This one is too close to call.

Ward 3: Bill Harris, Nick Masciotra, Mohamed Salih, Garth Williams, Henry Zupanc

Look for Salih to walk away with this one. The camera loves him and so does the Twitterverse. Some racist language and behaviours by others haven’t hurt him nor have personal attacks by his competitors. He has raised the social media bar for all wannabe councillors. The next council can certainly use someone with that smile!

Ward 4: Fiona Graham, Paul \Pesach Gray, Jesse Helmer, Christina MacRae, Stephen Orser, George van der Schel

Steve Orser is the guy to beat and there is a strong likelihood that Jesse will do it especially after serious contender Sheryl Rooth bowed out in order to avoid vote-splitting. She was quickly replaced by Orser’s close friend, Fiona Graham, who jumped from her own ward 13 to 4 in an effort to draw off some anti-Orser votes. Orser was a no show at the all-candidates meeting and has been fairly quiet during the campaign, preferring putting up signs for himself and others to offering a platform. It’s hard to explain away four years of Fontana 8 membership.

Ward 5: Maureen Cassidy, Mike Fornelos, William Gordon, Steve Hogg, Stanley Koza, Kevin Labonte, Prashanth Thambipillai, Randy Warden.

Warden started his campaign early and will have considerable name recognition. Plus, he’s known around city hall for his work on the Canada Day celebrations. Kevin Labonte is articulate and reasonably well-known as a former Green party candidate. Still, my money is on Cassidy who for personal reasons entered the race somewhat late. The residents of Ward 5 have been spoiled by having had Joni Baechler as their councillor. Cassidy has a similar community activist background and Baechler’s praise of her should go far. Plus, her name is at the top of the list; that never hurts when it’s a long list!

Ward 6: Alastair Beaton, Marie Blosh, Mike Bloxam, Cynthia Ethridge, Amir Farahi, Flavio Iannialice, Phil Squire

Like ward 5, this seat is up for grabs since Nancy Branscombe, a no nonsense voice on council, is not running again. Hence, a lot of contenders are in the mix. Mike Bloxam, a young small businessperson got out early and has run a solid campaign. Phil Squire has previously held a separate school board trustee position. Amir Farahi has run an aggressive campaign although he is still a university student. Marie Blosh has a history of service on the Broughdale Community Association. Cynthia Etheridge, former partner of Steve Orser, has run twice before as mayor. I think it may be a toss-up between Phil and Mike but who knows? Anything could happen there.

Ward 7: Osama Ali, Michael Esposito, Matthew Kennedy, Josh Morgan, Donna Szpakowski

Josh Morgan was Matt Brown’s campaign manager in 2010 and it looks as if much of the support that Brown received then has gone over to Morgan. It’s his third try, having lost to Paul Hubert in 2006 and another ward in 2003 before that. Donna Szpakowski has good profile with the Hyde Park Business Improvement Association but Morgan’s lead will be hard to narrow.

Ward 8: Paul Hubert, Thomas Risley.

No contest here; Hubert by a country mile.

Ward 9: Ali Chahbar, Ed Corrigan, Doreen Gysbers, A. Eric Haidar, Anna Hopkins, Frank Minifie, Jeffrey Schiller.

Another one that has a lot of competition and not just because Dale Henderson has decided not to run again. The description of him as the Worst. Councillor. Ever. is not mine. In the interests of full disclosure, I will point out that I lost to Henderson in 2010 by 212 votes. It’s a bitter pill.

So there would have been a lot of interest in this ward even if the incumbent had decided to fight for his seat. And there is; seven contenders to be exact, four of whom are seen to be the frontrunners: Chahbar, Corrigan, Hopkins and Schiller. I’m putting my money on Hopkins, not only because I am managing her campaign, but also because she started early and has canvassed throughout the ward starting back in March. She is also well known for her activism with respect to “Save Reservoir Hill.”

Chahbar is a strong competitor, having run unsuccessfully twice before for the Provincial Conservatives who dropped him in the last provincial election. He entered the race only at the last minute. Corrigan served on council from 2000-2003 and then was defeated. He is putting up his old huge signs, often without the consent of the homeowner, we learned. Both Chahbar and Corrigan are lawyers. Schiller has a coffee business in Lambeth but lives in Delaware. Go, Anna.

Ward 10: Virginia Ridley, Bradley Robichaud, Paul VanMeerbergen

 This is the first election that PVM, also known as Dr. No, has had serious competition for the hearts and minds of Westmount residents. There has been considerable dissatisfaction with VanMeerbergen’s failure to respond to emails and phone calls from his constituents so that Ridley’s promise to return all calls within 48 hours has had some traction. As well, he was one of the Fontana 8 who attended secret meetings and then sent the bill to his constituents for his legal fees when he got in trouble with the ombudsman. Still, it will be difficult to defeat him since he manages to portray himself as the one who keeps London safe for capitalism.

Ward 11: Denise T. Brown, Patrick Copps, Clive Jenkins, Joan Martin, Menno Meijer, Stephen Turner

Denise Brown is in trouble in this ward. She switched sides too many times and, because there was illness in the family, started campaigning too late. Although her performance improved a lot over the four years that she has been on council, she is no match for Stephen Turner who has a long history with city advisory committees and the Urban League. Turner has run unsuccessfully a couple of times before but this time around he is in his element since he lives in Old South and his values and activism resonate well with this community.

Ward 12: Peter Ferguson, Jesse Haidar, Harold Usher

Mr. Sensational, as Usher describes himself, is likely to return to city council after the election although perhaps with a reduced lead. Peter Ferguson has been running seriously and aggressively in this ward. However, for personal reasons he got a late start which cut into the resources he could muster. Still, many residents are looking for someone new, someone who isn’t sporting those fuchsia coloured signs which he seems to plop down without asking for permission.

Ward 13: Kim Bardai, Chris Edgar, Elizabeth Efthymiadis, John Fyfe-Millar, Tanya Park, Gordon Saylor, David Winninger

Without Judy Bryant running, this ward too has attracted a lot of interest. Tanya Park got out early. She’s the president of the SoHo Community Association which is keenly interested in assuring that the conceptual plans for the area south of Horton and north of the river come to fruition. Her main competitor was Fyfe-Millar, a local businessman, until former councillor and lawyer, David Winninger threw his hat into the ring at the last possible moment. He’s been on the London Transit Commission and wants to make sure that transit isn’t overlooked by the new council. He’s smart and a good debater but his late entry into the race is as likely to make him the spoiler as the alternative. Still, I think that most will Park their votes.

Ward 14: Ali Hamadi, Steven Hillier, Sean M O’Connell, Allan tipping, Sandy E. White, Jared Zaifman

White won this by 116 votes in 2010 after being soundly trounced by Judy Bryant in 2006. Her term in office has not been stellar, marked as it is by membership in the Fontana 8, failure to read or understand the reports before her, and outrageous outbursts in council and in the media. Look for Jared Zaifman to win this time around. He has obtained an MBA in public administration and experience working for Stratford city hall. Hillier is also running a reasonably strong campaign, but I doubt it will be enough to let White “come up the middle”.

So there you have it. I may not be right on all of them but still I am hopeful that the next council will be less polarized and more collaborative than the last one.

Don’t forget to vote! I won’t even mind if you prove me wrong on a couple.


Kallie said...

Thanks for taking the time Gina despite all the work you are doing canvassing for Anna, to give us your ideas and thoughts. I always enjoy your blogs and am hoping you are wrong with a couple of your prognostications. I want Dr. No to go.

I would vote for Anna if I lived in ward 9.

Anonymous said...

Here is hoping that the Fontana 8 become none and we are blessed with the Brown 15.

Vicki Van Linden said...

Regarding Ward 6, in full disclosure, I have been supporting the Marie Blosh campaign be canvassing with her. Marie has a significant and impressive background in community work and has been very well received at the doors. I am confident that Marie is a strong contender for Ward 6 and is well positioned to be the next councillor for that ward.

It will be an interesting night for sure. London has a lot to look forward to as there are many high quality candidates to choose from. My fingers will be crossed all evening as I have high hopes for many of the candidates in all the wards.

Thanks for keeping us in touch with election info Gina. Hopefully, we will see your hat back in the ring someday. You were a great member of city council and served us well - in fact, you still do. Thanks.

Joe Pritchard said...

Thankyou for the refresher

The Prognosticator said...

Brown will get better than 50% of the vote.

Anonymous said...

Zaifman has an MPA (Masters of Public Administration). Known as the MBA without the finance.