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October 27, 2010

With Ford as mayor, construction can expect belt-tightening

Ontario election

Belt-tightening and increased transparency are some of the promises Ontario construction can expect to encounter courtesy of the results in this year’s municipal elections.

“The party with taxpayers’ money is over,” said Rob Ford, Toronto’s newly elected mayor. “We will respect the taxpayers again and yes, ladies and gentlemen, we will stop the gravy train once and for all.”

Ford roared to 47 per cent of the vote in Toronto to become mayor, defeating former deputy premier George Smitherman who captured just 35 per cent of the vote and deputy mayor Joe Pantalone with 12 per cent.

Ford was one of three newly elected mayors among the four cities profiled by the Daily Commercial News in its municipal election coverage. Hamilton voted in Bob Bratina, giving the boot to incumbent mayor Fred Eisenberger and Ottawa elected Jim Watson over incumbent Larry O’Brien. Windsor re-elected Eddie Francis as their mayor.

Ford has vowed to scrap Toronto’s fair-wage policy and to eliminate “sole-source” contracting. The Merit OpenShop Contractors Association of Ontario was among the groups that endorsed Ford in the election, citing his commitment to open tendering for its support.

Ford has promised to “respect” taxpayer money and his platform included a $700 million transportation plan focused on road improvements. In his campaign, Ford pledged that among the infrastructure funding mechanisms he would implement would be the use of private-sector funds generated through subway-related development along the Sheppard Line. His $700 million plan includes $250 million for Toronto’s backlog of road repairs and $400 million for arterial road improvements to improve traffic flow.

Toronto’s new mayor also stated that sewer and water infrastructure maintenance/improvement “must continue to be a priority.” Ford intends to publish all the city’s spending online and says that all major purchases will be tendered.

Bratina, Hamilton’s new mayor, pulled 37 per cent of the vote over former mayor Larry Di Ianni’s 28 per cent and incumbent mayor Eisenberger’s 27 per cent. Bratina has said he would revisit Hamilton’s plans for rapid transit and will try to curb the city’s outward growth, with a focus on new city centre development.

Some insiders say he benefited from public disappointment with how Eisenberger dealt with the debate over the location of the city’s Pan Am Games stadium, which pitted the city against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and their stadium location wishes.

Ottawa elected Watson who cruised to victory over incumbent mayor O’Brien, receiving 48 per cent of the vote compared to O’Brien’s 24 per cent. The mayoral race was dominated by transit and urban development issues with a heavy focus on the $2.1 billion, 12-kilometre east-west light rail project that would cross the downtown core.

The other big construction project issue was the rejuvenation of Lansdowne Park.

In Windsor, Francis was re-elected over rival Rick Limoges, receiving 56 per cent of the vote compared to Limoges’ 40 per cent. Some insiders say Francis’ re-election is a sign that the city is ready to shed its union-driven reputation. Francis promised targeted reductions to reduce the tax burden on multi-residential, industrial and commercial properties.

He also wants to promote Windsor’s advanced manufacturing capacity to attract new industry and jobs by establishing it as a centre for aerospace manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul.

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