Another election has come and gone. Ontarians have voted for the second and final time this year.
Over the next few weeks, municipalities across Ontario will swear in their new councils and mayors. We are also expected to see ongoing discourse around voter turnout. What can be done better next time? Are candidates engaged enough? How do we mitigate voter fatigue? Why were there no municipal election ads at campuses across the province? These questions will dominate discussions and headlines.
With the overall election turnout hitting an all-time low in over 40 years, we wonder how elections would have turned out if people showed up in larger numbers.
Many opt out of voting because they claim they’re too busy, have limited information on the candidates, or simply just don’t care. In the age of information, it seems rather shocking that people don’t know where to read about the candidates they are voting for. Does that say something about the lack of accessibility related to municipal election information?
It’s been argued that having three elections in 13 months contributed to overall voter fatigue. As well, several jurisdictions had acclaimed elections. Early media reporting about these victories might discourage other areas from voting, for the sole reason that it may seem as though things will stay status quo—what many non-voters fear, that their vote will have no impact.
Going forward many different groups have a role to play to ensure voters are participating. Candidates need to be more proactive in engaging their voter base. Respective municipalities need to do more to advertise that there is an election and share appropriate resources. And voters need to understand the critical role they play in democracy.
Here’s a look at some of the most watched elections across Ontario.
Toronto had a 29 percent voter turnout. To many, it wasn’t a surprise that Mayor John Tory was re-elected for his third term—at the end of this term, Mayor Tory will have been Toronto’s mayor for a total of 12 years. He won 62 percent of the vote, with runner-up Gil Penalosa trailing behind with only 18 percent.
Consistent with most ward races were the tight margins of victory. New faces on City Council that more accurately reflect the demographic makeup of the city is a sure sign that voters who did head to the polls, cast their vote looking for change.
Across the city of Toronto, there were several ward race results worth noting.
- Ward 3 (Etobicoke—Lakeshore) saw newly elected Amber Morley secure a victory over the long-time incumbent, Mark Grimes.
- Ward 5 (York—South Weston) re-elected Francis Nunziata. She won the election over the runner-up, Chiara Padovani, by only 65 votes!
- Ward 9 (Davenport) elected Alejandra Bravo after their incumbent, Ana Bailäo, chose not to seek re-election.
- Ward 10 (Spadina—Fort York) elected former school board trustee, Ausma Malik to replace incumbent, Joe Cressy who chose not to seek re-election. Councillor-elect Malik will be the first ever City Councillor in Toronto to wear a hijab.
- Ward 11 (University—Rosedale) elected Dianne Saxe, who won by less than 1 percent of the vote, against school trustee Norm Di Pasquale, who was heavily endorsed by labour unions and Progress Toronto.
- Ward 13 (Toronto Centre) elected Chris Moise following the former incumbent, Kristyn Wong-Tam, winning a provincial seat in the June 2022 election.
- Ward 18 (Willowdale) saw a newly elected, Lily Cheng, who beat out Markus O’Brien Fehr (former chief of staff to former councillor, John Filion).
- Ward 23 (Scarborough North) Jamaal Myers was elected with 5,315 votes. Incumbent councillor, Cynthia Lai, passed away three days before the election, resulting in ballots cast for her not being counted as per the Municipal Election Act.
Voter turnout in Mississauga was 21.8 percent and 24.5 percent in Brampton.
Several candidates and newly elected individuals in the Mississauga and Brampton communities used their communications platforms to share that having an election held on Diwali likely played a role in the low voter turnout—especially in municipalities that have a predominately South Asian voter base. This is not the first time that an election day has fallen on days of religious observance. Primarily, this has been seen at the federal and provincial level involving Jewish days of observance. There were calls to action to ensure future elections are not held on significant religious holidays.
Unsurprisingly, Bonnie Crombie was re-elected as mayor of Mississauga with 77 percent of the vote. New faces on the Council include former Ontario Liberal Party leader candidate, Alvin Tedjo. Joe Horneck was elected; the incumbent Ron Starr was voted out following his alleged harassment of a fellow councillor last year. Martin Reid, who owns a health and wellness business, and Brad Butt, former member of Parliament for Mississauga-Streetsville, were also newly elected. Another former provincial candidate, Jill Promoli, was elected as a School Board Trustee.
Patrick Brown was re-elected as mayor of Brampton with 59 percent of the vote.
New faces on Brampton City Council include Gurpartap Singh Toor, Dennis Keenan, Navjit Kaur Brar, and Rod Power.
The overall voter turnout in Hamilton was around 35 percent.
Former New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader, Andrea Horwath is going to be the first female mayor of Hamilton. She narrowly won over runner-up Keanin Loomis by less than 2 percent.
Ottawa saw one of the highest voter turnouts in the province, but the number is still shocking with only a 44 percent turnout. Following the announcement of former mayor Jim Watson not seeking re-election, Ottawa became a highly watched race across the province. Mark Sutcliffe was elected as the new mayor of Ottawa with 51 percent of the vote.
The voter turnout in Vaughan was just about 27%.
With the ongoing theme of provincial politicians turning to municipal politics, former Ontario Liberal Party leader and member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), Steven Del Duca, is Vaughan’s new mayor. After receiving endorsements from the former incumbent and other notable individuals—everyone assumed this was a guaranteed win. However, Del Duca also saw a narrow victory with less than 2 percent over the runner-up. In addition, former MPP, Gila Martow, was elected as Ward 5 councillor defeating long-time incumbent, Alan Shefman.
Incumbent, Bill Steele, was re-elected as mayor. But it didn’t come easy. His estranged brother, Charles Steele, challenged him for the seat. Charles noted that he only entered the race so his “brother wouldn’t run unopposed.”
Bill Steele ended up winning 62% of the vote. Overall voter turnout was 32%.
Ken Boshcoff was elected mayor of Thunder Bay by fewer than 1,500 votes. Many were closely watching this race, as he had previously served as mayor from 1997 to 2003. He is also a former member of Parliament for Thunder Bay—Rainy River. Boshcoff attempted to run for mayor again in 2014 but lost to the then incumbent. Voter turnout was around 42.5%.
Well—that's a wrap on the municipal elections for now. Stay tuned for a final municipal election perspective, which will cover council committee appointments and their first orders of business.
——— Ceara Copps-Edwards is a former Manager, Corporate and Public Affairs at NATIONAL Public Relations