Former Ontario provincial party leaders in tight municipal races

By Allison Jones

TORONTO – Two former Ontario provincial party leaders were in tight mayoral races Monday as they sought municipal paths to political redemption.

Fresh off their spring provincial losses, former NDP leader Andrea Horwath and former Liberal leader Steven Del Duca made the leap to local politics, but were not finding an easy ride.

In Hamilton, where Horwath started her political career as a city councillor in the 1990s, she was neck and neck with the former president and CEO of the city’s chamber of commerce. Horwath led the Ontario NDP for four elections, but resigned after the party failed again to form government this June.

Meanwhile, former Liberal leader Steven Del Duca was in a tight race in Vaughan with city councillor Sandra Yeung Racco. Del Duca is a former Liberal cabinet minister, but was only party leader for two years. He tried to right the formerly powerful Liberal ship following its disastrous 2018 election showing, but he resigned after leaving the party only one seat further ahead after this year’s election.

The mayors of some of Ontario’s largest cities were handily re-elected, with John Tory winning a third term as mayor of Toronto, Bonnie Crombie securing another victory in Mississauga, and Patrick Brown being re-elected as mayor of Brampton.

Brown’s main challenger, Nikki Kaur, had the backing of several experienced political players, determined to unseat him. But the man who has taken many knocks along the way in his political career prevailed.

“This is a win against the politics of negativity, of mudslinging,” he said in a victory speech.

“We ran a positive campaign. We refused to engage in the ugly side of politics and focused on what we’ve achieved for Brampton over the last four years, and what we hope to achieve in the next four.”

In Toronto, Tory said housing will be one of his key priorities.

“We’ve come so far over the past eight years, but we have unfinished business that I’m absolutely determined to see through,” he said.

“We’ve made so much progress on getting transit and housing built and growing our economy … We’re going to get housing built, much more housing, and much more affordable and supportive housing.”

Ontario recently granted the cities of Toronto and Ottawa so-called strong mayor powers, which allow the heads of those cities to overrule council votes that conflict with building housing. Tory supported the move, but Ottawa’s new mayor did not.

Former journalist Mark Sutcliffe coasted to victory over councillor Catherine McKenney to become mayor of that city. It was an open race as Jim Watson did not run again.

“You voted for positive change,” Sutcliffe said in his victory speech. “You voted for compassion and fiscal responsibility. You voted for a safer, more reliable, more affordable city.”

London was also poised to get a new mayor, with Ed Holder declining to run. Josh Morgan, a city councillor and deputy mayor, was well ahead in early results over former London-Fanshawe MP Khalil Ramal.

In nearby Woodstock, the incumbent mayor facing six sex assault charges involving two women went down in a massive defeat. Trevor Birtch garnered just 305 votes, placing fourth – well behind winner Jerry Acchione’s 3,612 votes.

Peterborough, in eastern Ontario, saw another former provincial politician move to municipal politics. Former Liberal cabinet minister Jeff Leal was ahead in the mayoral race there. But his former cabinet colleague, Kathryn McGarry, was trailing in the race to become mayor of Cambridge, despite being the incumbent.

In Barrie, former Conservative MP Alex Nuttall won the race for mayor after the city’s former leader Jeff Lehman left the post to unsuccessfully run for the Liberals in the spring provincial election.

Ken Boshcoff, a former mayor of Thunder Bay, was ahead in early results to lead that city again. In the Greater Toronto Area city of Milton, Gord Krantz, who is believed to be Canada’s longest-serving mayor, won a 14th term.