By TOM GODFREY
In a few days, election-weary Toronto residents will finally select a new mayor, 44 councillors and dozens of school board trustees.
Voters will choose their local leaders from the many excellent candidates who fought valiant campaigns in tight races across the city.
The public will be breathing easier for not having to listen to another of the more than 40 mayoral debates that we have been subjected to in the last few months. Finally, no more mudslinging, name-calling or even racial slurs being hurled against some candidates.
Our city will be well served with either John Tory or Doug Ford at the helm, since both are Conservatives whose platforms are closely aligned.
Many admit that this was one of the most fiercely-fought mayoral races in a long time. It did not come down to a clash of great ideas, but with the belt-tightening political right being Tory and Ford; against the spending left of Olivia Chow.
Chow is being applauded by many residents for her handling of derogatory racial slurs made against her in a fight for the rights of immigrants, women, racialized communities, the poor and visible minorities.
Yes, she did talk with a little accent, but stayed the course under the direction of a good team. She worked hard and was able to communicate her ideas, that for whatever reasons never gained traction with voters.
Credit also goes to the thousands of volunteers who braved the weather to help the 600 candidates who were trying to make Toronto a better place. Chow alone had more than 1,000 volunteers knocking on doors, planting signs or dropping off literature.
The candidates can’t all be winners and the debates allowed many good Black contenders to shine. In a few years look for leaders like Andray Domise and Benn Adeoba of Ward 2; Saeed Selvam of Ward 17; or Patricia Crooks of Ward 1.
The candidates have gained tremendous contacts, experience and the know-how required to run future campaigns.
I attended about a dozen debates and all-candidates meetings and found most of the visible minority candidates to be articulate, well-researched and would make good leaders with time.
I was impressed with Munira Abukar, 22, a Somali-Canadian who fought against Mayor Rob Ford for councillor of Ward 2.
She was left more determined after two of her signs were vandalized with words like “go back home” and “terror”. A Nazi swastika was even drawn over her face in red lipstick.
Abukar was the only candidate to have her signs defaced with racial graffiti. Police are now investigating.
Already some candidates have said they will be seeking political office again once they regroup and repay some the debt accrued by their campaign.
All the candidates, regardless of how well they performed, should be proud for putting themselves and their reputations on the line. There was a good showing of visible minority candidates vying for all the positons. Many of them ran slick and politically astute campaigns with eager and energetic staff.
It takes a lot of gumption to stick your neck out and stand up to the abuse that comes with public life. Just ask Abukar or Chow.
Chow was told to “go back to China” by a resident in a televised debate. She has also been called other names, but graciously carried on, never missing a debate or picking fights with any of the 60 mayoral candidates.
All of the candidates cared for, or loved, their city and many have potential as leaders. Some like Ari Goldkind, or even D!onne Renée, were passionate and had to battle for stage time or to get their views heard.
Politics require money, with each of the front runners spending in excess of $1 million to mount a decent race. It boils down to who has deeper pockets.
It’s also about paying your dues. Take comfort that the Fords and Tory are not Johnnies-come-lately, in that their families have been fighting political campaigns in Toronto for many decades.