The deadly 2012 collapse of the Algo Centre Mall — and a damning report that laid part of the blame with municipal officials — loom heavily over the election as Mayor Rick Hamilton seeks a third term in office. Residents have expressed outrage and frustration over officials' role in the crisis, which claimed the lives of two women. A judicial inquiry found last week that municipal officials turned a blind eye to the worsening conditions at the shopping centre until it collapsed following decades of wear. The northern Ontario community is still without a mall. Two councillors — Al Collett and Tom Farquhar — are running to replace Hamilton.
Former mayor Joe Fontana resigned in disgrace this summer after he was found guilty of government fraud for forging a contract from his son's wedding to make it look as though it was for a political event at the same venue while he was a Liberal MP. He's been sentenced to four months of house arrest and has vowed not to seek public office again, effectively ending his three-decade federal and municipal political career. The top candidates vying to replace him are Paul Cheng, a businessman; Matt Brown, a teacher; and city councillor Joe Swan.
It's the first real election in nearly four decades for this suburban community west of Toronto. The city's beloved 93-year-old mayor, Hazel McCallion — affectionately known as Hurricane Hazel — was first elected in 1978 and handily won another 11 times. A conflict of interest case involving a development company owned by her son could have seen her ousted from office, but a judge found last year that the conflict was minor and did not warrant such a drastic step. Though she's not running this time, McCallion isn't staying out of the campaign — she's thrown her support behind city councillor Bonnie Crombie, who is considered a frontrunner along with Steve Mahoney, a former MPP.
A cloud of controversy hangs over the incumbent, Susan Fennell, believed to be Canada's highest-paid municipal politician. An audit found Fennell, who is seeking a fifth term in office, broke municipal expense rules — including on business-class flights, premium hotel rooms and cellphone IQ quizzes — worth more than $172,000, although roughly $41,000 was repaid. An arbitrator later released a report that found Fennell must only pay back $3,523.
The scandal has taken centre stage in the race to lead the city northwest of Toronto. The two other contenders for the mayor's seat are Linda Jeffrey, a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister, and John Sanderson, a city councillor.