NEWS

Toronto council races dominated by incumbent candidates

10/28/2014 08:48 EDT | Updated 12/28/2014 05:59 EST
Toronto candidates had little success in their bids to unseat sitting councillors in Monday's municipal election on a night when 37 of the 38 returning councillors were re-elected.

The lone incumbent knocked out of his seat on council was John Parker, who lost to challenger Jon Burnside in Ward 26 Don Valley West.

In most races across the city, incumbents not only won, but won by a wide margin.

The results will renew the debate about whether the incumbent advantage represents a failure of the democratic process in civic elections.

Torontoist editor-in-chief Hamutal Dotan discussed the issue with Metro Morning host Matt Galloway on Tuesday.

She said the results show how difficult it is for new candidates to break through.

"Name recognition is a huge factor," she said. "For someone who is new, it is a very uphill battle at the beginning to get any kind of money, any kind of campaign operation going, and to get your name out there. Even with a 10-month campaign, the actual legwork is very challenging."

Record voter turnout

The other number that jumps out in last night's election results is a massive jump in voter turnout: 64 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots on Monday, up from just over 50 per cent in 2010. Dotan called it "an astonishing increase." A key factor is likely the expansion of the advance polls this year.

Like the last one, this council doesn't much look like the city it will represent. Only 32 per cent of councillors are women and only 14 per cent are visible minorities.

"I think people like the idea of representative government," said Dotan. "They want to see themselves in the government that represents them. I think you need a range of experiences for a government to fully appreciate the constituency that elected them."

Downtown vs. suburbs again

The voting results in the mayor's race also divided the city between the suburbs and downtown.

A look at the results map shows voters in North York and Scarborough voted overwhelmingly for Doug Ford while downtown wards — with the exception of four west-end wards that voted for Olivia Chow —  supported John Tory.

In an interview on Metro Morning Tuesday, Tory acknowledged that he must reach out to the people in the suburbs who did not vote for him.

"I've got a challenge in front of me to bring the city together," he said.

Dotan spoke about the steep learning curve Tory will face. He is the first mayor in recent memory who didn't first serve on a local council.

"City hall is a very complicated place," said Dotan. "The budget is several binders thick. Getting something through council is a complicated process because it's not a party system.

"You need to build a coalition of votes every single time. For someone that hasn't been at city hall …, you're going to need some advisers to help you navigate those issues."

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