October 26, 2010

Rob Ford’s tax cutting mantra wins Toronto

Incumbent mayors ousted in Ottawa, Hamilton and London

Ontario election

Right-wing juggernaut Rob Ford took his belt-tightening mantra all the way to the Toronto mayor’s chair Monday, a victory observers said represents a beachhead for both the federal and provincial Conservatives in the country’s most populous city.

The shockwaves were sure to be felt in Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office – it was his former deputy premier, George Smitherman, considered an early favourite to win the Toronto race, who couldn’t compete against Ford.

The scrappy city councillor who tapped into a potent well of voter fury with his promises to cut taxes and kill big spending at city hall took 47 per cent of the vote compared to Smitherman's 35 per cent and deputy mayor Joe Pantalone’s 12 per cent.

“This victory is a clear call from the taxpayers, enough is enough,” Ford, a lei around his neck, told a cheering crowd of supporters in the city’s west end.

“The party with taxpayers’ money is over. We will respect the taxpayers again and yes, ladies and gentlemen, we will stop the gravy train once and for all.”

The polarizing Toronto race was marred by ugly episodes, including homophobic ads targeting the openly gay Smitherman, and a newspaper article – later pulled from the Globe and Mail website – that ridiculed Ford’s weight.

It also spurred residents to get out and vote. Early numbers put voter turnout at 53 per cent compared to 39 per cent in the 2006 municipal election. Many experts had predicted that a Ford victory could herald a Conservative sweep in next fall’s Ontario election.

“It could be a beachhead for a resurgence of Conservative party support in some parts of the city of Toronto, especially some of the inner suburbs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough,” said Myer Siemiatycki, a politics professor at Ryerson University.

Other Ontario races:

In Ottawa another former provincial cabinet minister, Jim Watson, easily won the mayor's race against businessman-turned-politician Larry O’Brien, in a race dominated by transit and urban development issues.

Watson, who served as Ottawa’s mayor before a successful foray into provincial politics, took 49 per cent of the vote. Conservative incumbent O’Brien had 24 per cent.

O’Brien's rocky term as mayor of Canada’s capital included allegations of influence peddling that forced him to step down temporarily as the matter went to trial. He resumed his duties after being acquitted.

In Mississauga, feisty Hazel McCallion, 89, won her 12th term as mayor.

“Hurricane” Hazel typically doesn't campaign, put up signs or buy political ads because her continued 31-year tenure in the mayor’s seat is considered to be rock solid.

But a conflict-of-interest scandal appeared to put a dent in her staggering support, handing her 76 per cent of the ballots cast rather than the 90 per cent she’s been known to command in past elections.

In Vaughan, ex-Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua took the mayor’s seat from incumbent Linda Jackson, who is headed to court to face Municipal Elections Act charges.

In London, former Liberal MP Joe Fontana just managed to keep long-standing Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best from winning a fourth term.

Bob Bratina defeated two former mayors to win Hamilton’s top job. The councillor and radio host beat former mayor Larry Di Ianni and incumbent Fred Eisenberger.

Incumbent Eddie Francis reclaimed the mayor’s chair in Windsor.

In all, there were 444 municipal votes in Ontario.

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