In last summer’s by-election in Scarborough-Guildwood, first-time Liberal candidate Mitzie Hunter defeated Tory party challenger Ken Kirupa by 1,246 votes.
Her plan to take a few days off last Christmas was aborted when an ice storm struck with vengeance, causing major damage and inconvenience in her riding where many residents live in high-rise subsidized apartments.
Hunter reached out to Toronto Hydro and the city manager to ensure these residents were a priority. Within four hours of those meetings, power was restored to 5,000 units.
Scarborough-Guildwood residents knew they had a representative they could rely on and they were not going to allow her to slip out of their grasp. That did not augur well for Kirupa, who finished 7,793 votes behind Hunter in last week’s provincial election.
“It’s gratifying to know that the residents have put their trust in me and I promise to continue to serve them well,” she said.
While campaigning, Hunter – who was the parliamentary assistant to Minister of Community & Social Services Ted McMeekin, a member of the finance & economic and government committees and a special committee on developmental services before the election was called – said she was prepared for constituents’ questions about the gas plant scandal.
“People wanted to ensure that as Liberals, we were aware of the fact that we have to make the best use of taxpayers’ dollars and spend money wisely as well,” she said. “That was something I was able to speak to with my background.
Having worked with charitable organizations, I definitely know the value of the dollar and how to make it productive. I also have an MBA and I was able to articulate to residents that I will bring the need for investment in the community along with fiscal responsibility.”
Four months ago, Hunter tabled a private member’s bill that would allow Toronto to implement a ranked-ballot system for electing members of council. Last March, Bill 166 passed second reading on a voice vote and it’s on its way to the standing committee for social policy for social review.
A graduate of Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute and the University of Toronto Scarborough campus with a political science degree, Hunter worked at Bell Canada as a regional director for five years before becoming president of SMART Toronto, an information community and technology industry firm. She spent seven years at Goodwill Industries of Toronto, rising to the position of vice president, external relations & corporate secretary and two years as Toronto Community Housing’s first chief administrative officer, where she led the organization’s strategic and business support functions, including corporate communications, strategic planning, human resources and information technology, prior to joining CivicAction in January 2012.
Hunter served on the board of directors of Housing Services Inc., TV Ontario, The Yonge St. Mission and on the board of trustees of United Way of Greater Toronto before succeeding former Health Promotion & Sport and Consumer Services minister, Margarett Best, who resigned as an MPP in June 2012 after serving for six years.
Don Valley East Liberal candidate Michael Coteau, who won his riding by 10,026 votes over Conservative Party contender Angela Kennedy, also faced tough questions about the costly scrapping of gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga.
“I let them know that governments are not perfect and mistakes are made,” said Coteau, who was the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration prior to the election. “I think the values we have as Liberals in Ontario speak louder than the errors that were made. We also have a leader with an incredible track record and the people wanted to give her a chance to govern the province.”
An early supporter of the Africentric Alternative School that opened in September 2009, Coteau said he will not be fazed if he does not retain a ministerial portfolio in the new cabinet.
“That’s up to the Premier and I will do whatever she decides is best for me and the party,” he said.
This was Coteau’s fifth election since 2003. The three-term Toronto District School Board trustee joined the Legislative Assembly of Ontario after the last election three years ago.
Trinidad & Tobago-born Bas Balkissoon is heading back to Queen’s Park for a fourth term after defeating New Democratic Party candidate Neethan Shah by 3,271 votes.
“The people have spoken and I am happy to be their representative,” said Balkissoon.
This could be his last term as the Liberal party representative in Scarborough-Rouge River.
“I will be in my 66th year by the time the next election comes around,” said Balkissoon. “My supporters and volunteers tell me I have to keep going. Four years from now, I will make the decision as to whether to stick around or quit while on top.”