Ford’s challenge is to get council on side – Thompson

By RON FANFAIR

Mayor-elect Rob Ford and Scarborough Centre (Ward 37) councillor Michael Thompson are on the same page when it comes to advocating for stricter financial management and eliminating the land transfer and vehicle registration taxes.

But that’s where their common ground seems to end, at least for now, as Thompson is among several councillors – old and new – who are unsure how the 44-member body will function with the Conservative, right-wing Ford at the helm.

The former Etobicoke North councillor (Ward 2) easily disposed of former Member of Provincial Parliament George Smitherman in the mayoral race, winning 47 per cent of the votes. Former Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone was a distant third.

“The biggest challenge for the Mayor-elect is going to get councillors to work together,” says Thompson who has been a council member since 2003. “A large number of councillors are not on the same page as him. He has been extremely aloof from members of council and has not cooperated or worked with them for the most part. Getting council to rally around decisions that he wants to move forward will be his biggest test.

“We don’t really have a vision because we did not see one in the election campaign. Yes, there was talk about stopping the gravy train and slashing office budgets and the size of council…The Mayor-elect has had a difficult time working with people, so I am not sure how he’s going to be able to do that in order to address and deal with a vision for the city that he hasn’t really put forward so that we could at least have some ideas as to where we are going.”

Thompson, who was re-elected with the highest margin of victory among councillors in the city’s civic elections last Monday, acknowledged that his relationship with Ford has been rocky. He however says he’s prepared to work in the best interest of the city.

“Our job is to prioritize residents’ needs and services,” Thompson said. “I don’t worry about my relationship with Rob because it has been personal in nature. I have had to call him out on account of a number of things he has done and has said at council that were inaccurate.”

Thompson did not see eye to eye either with former Mayor David Miller who he often accused of not showing leadership. He cited their management styles and approaches to managing the city’s affairs as quite different.

The Jamaican-born politician, who captured 84 per cent of the votes, remains the only Black on council that has 14 new faces, including Josh Colle -son of MPP Mike Colle – who defeated former councillor and Catholic school board trustee, Rob Davis, by 1,269 votes in Eglinton-Lawrence (Ward 15) and former public school board trustee James Pasternak in York Centre (Ward 10) who, as a trustee, was a strong supporter of the establishment of the Africentric Alternative School.

Five incumbents – Sandra Bussin, Adrian Heaps, Suzan Hall, Bill Saundercook and Cliff Jenkins – lost their seats.

Councillor Renrick Ashby, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, cruised to victory in Ajax Ward 2, clinching 54 per cent of the votes while there will be a recount in Caledon Ward 5 after Canadian Armed Forces Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Junor lost by just nine votes in his first bid to become a local councillor.

“I am disappointed,” said Junor who was the first Black to be appointed Regimental Sergeant Major for the Land Force Central Area infantry training exercise conducted in Kentucky 11 years ago. “On the other hand, I am happy with the amount of votes I have garnered. All I did was promise the constituents that I would be their strongest voice and I am pleased with the way they responded.”

Incumbent trustees Michael Coteau in Don Valley East (Ward 17) and Stephnie Payne in York West (Ward 4) retained their Toronto District School Board seats while David Green (Wards 1 & 3), Suzanne Nurse (Wards 2 & 6) and Rick Williams (Ward 5) were re-elected public school board trustees in Peel where Superior Court Justice worker Meredith Johnson joins them after winning in Wards 9 & 10.

Guyanese-born John Rodriguez was unseated as Greater Sudbury Mayor by Marianne Matichuk who is the first woman to hold the post in the city.

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