If you’ve noticed a lawn sign while out on a daily stroll, you may be wondering, after two consecutive federal and provincial elections in a span of nine months, “are we having another election?” The answer is yes—every municipality in Ontario is headed to the polls on October 24.
It should not come as a surprise given that municipal elections happen every four years, yet voters across the province seem to be scrambling, trying to figure out who is on the ballot, while others do not seem to be motivated to vote at all.
Municipal elections are arguably the most important level of government voters should be paying attention to. Your mayor, city councillors, and school board trustees have a direct impact on your day-to-day life in a way that provincial and federal jurisdictions do not. The roads you use to drive to work, the transit system that helps you get around the city, the parks where children play, and development projects contributing to a steady housing supply—municipal governments hold a lot more power than you think.
With the recent introduction of the “strong mayors” legislation, the cities of Toronto and Ottawa will now see an even greater increase of power with their respective mayors when it comes to fast-tracking local legislation. These new powers would allow the mayor to propose the municipal budget annually, appoint chairs and vice chairs of committees and local boards, establish new committees, and veto certain bylaws approved by Council.
Municipalities to watch leading up to the election
Toronto is expected to maintain the status quo. Despite having 30 competitors, with the “runner-up” being Gil Penalosa, who has a substantial social media presence and following—Mayor Tory is not likely to have a tough race. In Toronto, we have seen business leaders, community groups, and elected officials roll out endorsements in key open wards across the city. The seven open seats in Toronto are where most eyes will be over the next few weeks. Mayor Tory and incumbent councillors will spend most of their time and financial resources in the days prior to election day encouraging Torontonians to vote.
Mayor Crombie seems to have no major competitor that will prevent her from obtaining a third term as mayor of Mississauga. A few familiar faces from the provincial political space are entering races across the city including former Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Alvin Tedjo, former Ontario Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville candidate Jill Promoli, and former Mississauga West and Mississauga-Streetsville Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), Bob Delaney. Peel District school board trustee, Nokha Dakroub, is also taking her chances at a different type of municipal politics as she announced her candidacy for Ward 9 councillor. Due to the added complexity of a two-tier municipal and regional (Mississauga and Peel District) government system, Mississauga city council will be functioning without the ‘strong mayor’ legislation that Toronto and Ottawa will have in place. With a mix of incumbent and newly elected councillors, this lack of authority for the mayor-elect can pose as a challenge for one of Ontario’s largest municipalities.
Provincial politicians switching to municipal politics was a key theme coming out of the June 2022 provincial election. Following the PC’s landslide victory in Ontario, opposition leaders Steven Del Duca, former leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, and Andrea Horwath, former leader of the Ontario NDP, announced their mayoral candidacies for the cities of Vaughan and Hamilton respectively. With their incumbents choosing not to seek re-election, Del Duca and Horwath may have a shot at continuing to serve. The outgoing incumbent for Vaughan, former Liberal ember of Parliament (MP) and minister, Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, has provided his endorsement for Del Duca stating that, “I am voting for Steven Del Duca because he has the experience, energy, and vision to continue delivering strong, stable and accountable leadership at City Hall.” In Vaughan, a wife and husband are both seeking election, Sandra Yeung Racco as mayor, and former MPP Mario Racco as a Regional Councillor Candidate.
The City of Markham is another municipal race that many didn’t anticipate. Incumbent mayor, Frank Scarpitti, was going to sail on through to another victory until Deputy Mayor, Don Hamilton, put his name forward days before the nomination deadline. Many will have their eyes on Markham come election day.
With incumbent mayor, Jim Watson, not seeking re-election, Ottawa is another jurisdiction to look out for. Between the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Public Inquiry and a host of other municipal issues, the newly elected mayor will have to work hard to obtain the trust of the public. Many insiders believe Mark Sutcliffe will win this election—but only election day will tell. Sutcliffe has a background in journalism, and a track record of significant charitable work in the community. His primary commitments revolve around tourism in the downtown core, affordable housing, and making Ottawa’s city centre more appealing to residents. While not providing an official endorsement, current MP, Yasir Naqvi, shared a tweet with his followers stating, “Mark Sutcliffe is proposing good, pragmatic ideas to bring people back to live, work, and visit downtown Ottawa. We need our next municipal government to take leadership & engage on this issue.” Another mayoral candidate, Catherine McKenny, has captured voters’ attention as well. However, her left-leaning political ideologies may not win over the entire Ottawa voter base.
Over in Halton Region, Gary Carr, who was an elected official at both the provincial and federal level is seeking his fourth term as regional chair, a position he was first elected to in 2006. Carr is up against former Burlington MPP, Jane McKenna.
Less than three weeks till election day—use the time to make an informed vote!
Voter fatigue—a noticeable outcome in both the September 2021 federal and June 2022 provincial elections—is only one reason behind low voter turnout. With over 50 reeves already acclaimed in parts of Eastern Ontario, many races across the province are seeing a consistent pattern of strong incumbents with no real competition.
Over the next few weeks, take the time to learn more about the list of candidates running for mayor, councillor, and school board trustee so that an informed vote can be cast on election day.
For questions about how to vote in the upcoming municipal election, contact your local municipality.
——— Ceara Copps-Edwards is a former Manager, Corporate and Public Affairs at NATIONAL Public Relations