Chris Moise, one of the Toronto city council candidates who saw the electoral rug yanked from under them by Premier Doug Ford’s government in 2018, is ready to march back into the electoral fray.
The Black, openly gay Toronto District School Board trustee plans to run in this fall’s election in Ward 13 Toronto Centre, endorsed by departing three-term Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam as the best person to succeed her.
Moise describes Ford’s 2018 midelection slashing of the size of council — after Moise had moved to, and campaigned in, a new ward that suddenly no longer existed — as traumatic, as was an ensuing court battle the Ford government won.
Other 2018 candidates impacted by the switch from 47 wards to 25, including those like Moise who ended their candidacy, and others who forged ahead but lost to incumbents, also called the experience wrenching and exhausting.
Some interviewed by the Star said the window for their political candidacy has closed, or they are unsure. Moise was among them until his friend, Wong-Tam, announced she would run provincially and leave city hall, creating an open seat.
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“I don’t want to be ‘Kristyn 2.0’ but I want to continue her work and bring my own perspective,” said Moise of Wong-Tam, the only openly gay Toronto city councillor and one of few visible minority members.
“Her decision to leave opened an opportunity and I can bring that equity perspective to council,” as it addresses pandemic-exposed inequality, he said.
Here is what we heard from some other ex-candidates about whether they plan to register when nominations for council and the mayoral races open May 2:
- Jennifer Hollett, who abandoned her run in a downtown ward and participated in the court challenge against the council cut, is not running again. She quit a senior job at Twitter Canada to campaign full-time in 2018, and is now executive director of The Walrus. “I’m not over it, as a candidate or a citizen” she said of Ford’s “attack on local democracy” erasing a city council decision that had created new wards to remedy a disparity in representation. She cannot take a leave of absence to campaign full-time and is supporting Moise’s candidacy.
- Chiara Padovani, who came third in 2018 in Ward 5 York-South Weston, behind two veteran incumbents — winner Francis Nunziata and Frank DiGiorgio — is preparing to try again. The human rights and housing advocate says: “My reasons are the same as in 2018 — the neighbourhood deserves better representation, it has been neglected.” She says the council cut was “targeted to prevent progressive representation in neighbourhoods like mine but … these are the rules now and I will play by them.”
- Amber Morley, a community health promoter who came a strong second to incumbent Mark Grimes, plans to run again in suddenly expanded Ward 3 Etobicoke-Lakeshore. The Black woman who grew up in a low-income home says: “There’s definitely still a huge need for representative leadership at city hall. Community is changing at a really rapid pace and frankly it doesn’t feel like community voices are being centred in that growth.” Polling suggested Morley was on track for a possible win in 2018 until Mayor John Tory endorsed Grimes and gave him campaign support.
- Vince Crisanti, a right-leaning councillor in Etobicoke from 2010 until 2018, lost a re-election battle against Coun. Michael Ford when the council cut collapsed their wards into one. Crisanti, who has his own lobbying firm, says he hasn’t decided if he will seek to replace the incumbent who is running provincially but hasn’t ruled out jumping back to the council race if Ford loses. “I haven’t fully turned my mind to it,” he said.
- Rocco Achampong, a lawyer and child of immigrants from Ghana, folded his 2018 candidacy and started the legal challenge to the council cut that, joined by others including the City of Toronto, lost in a 5-4 split Supreme Court of Canada decision. He plans to run in Ward 10 Spadina—Fort York, an open seat with the departure of Coun. Joe Cressy expected to see many candidates including former TDSB trustee Ausma Malik, who dropped off the 2018 ballot. “Parks and recreation services have diminished since I was a kid,” says Achampong, who also plans to campaign on trying to limit the number of cannabis stores.
- Lily Cheng, operator of the popular Facebook group North York Moms, started the 2018 election in a Willowdale ward endorsed by then-retiring Coun. John Filion. But she ended up finishing second to Filion when he changed plans after the council cut. Cheng says she and other candidates bear “scars” from the 2018 campaign but she doesn’t regret an experience that deepened her connection to Ward 18 Willowdale. “I am considering running again but have yet to make a firm decision,” she says.
David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider
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