Ford's Toronto council shake-up leaves candidates in the dark

Ford's announcement has left many candidates questioning where - or if - they'll run for council.

Many are unsure where — or if — they are going to run

Jennifer Hollett, a candidate in Ward 21, heard about the premier's plans to shrink Toronto council right after her campaign launch event on Thursday. She said it's too early to tell how her campaign will react. (Submitted by Jennifer Hollett)

Premier Doug Ford's announcement that he will introduce legislation to shrink the size of Toronto city council from 47 seats to 25 — three months before election day — has left those running for council uncertain of the future of their campaigns.

While Ford said at a news conference Friday the transition will be simple, many candidates don't feel that way. 

"It's chaos," said Jennifer Hollett, a candidate for Ward 21.

"We don't have any precedence for this, that's why it's so outrageous."

The announcement has left many questioning in what ward they will run, or if they will be able to afford to run in a ward that's double the size than the one they're running in now. 

Hollett heard the news right after completing her campaign launch event Thursday night. She says its too early to tell what her campaign's next move is.

"A lot of things are in motion, not just with Queen's Park but also with city hall," said Hollett.

"It's really hard to tell what next week or the week after is going to look like."

For now, she'll be fighting the decision, saying doubling the average number of people each councillor will represent gives people less representation.

"Already people feel disconnected from city hall," she said.

"We should be looking to make sure that there is better and stronger representation, especially as more and more people move into Toronto."

Uncertain future in Ward 25

Chris Moise has been canvassing for the past three months. The Toronto school board trustee registered as a candidate on May 1 in the newly-created Ward 25, and since then he's been talking to voters "seven days a week, for six hours a day.

"I've invested a lot of time and resources into this campaign," said Moise.

"Not only time but money; my volunteers, and the people who have donated to my campaign … I feel bad for them."

Chris Moise — a Toronto District School Board trustee — is running for council in the new Ward 25. (Chris Moise)

Moise isn't sure if — or where — he is going to continue running. His ward lies within both federal-provincial ridings of University-Rosedale and Toronto Centre, and he wants to avoid running against Kristyn Wong-Tam, an ally of his who endorsed his campaign earlier this summer.

"It's very disappointing and disheartening that, at this late stage, we've been thrown into this tailspin as we have been," said Moise.

Jules Monteyne, one of Moise's challengers, is also unsure if he will continue running. He says because campaign spending limits are based on the number of people living in a ward, the changes put non-incumbent candidates at a disadvantage.

"For first-time candidates, it's a much larger challenge. You're doubling the cost of running," he said. "Incumbents and those with their own money or special-interests backing, those are the ones that are going to be able to run now."

Campaign finance questions

For Jennifer McKelvie, who is running in Ward 47, the biggest question is what will happen to campaigns funds that have already been raised. So far, she's collected $23,000 in donations, two-thirds of her campaign's goal.

"I would like to make sure that funds that have already been raised are carried forward," she said.

She's also spent money on Ward 47-branded campaign literature that is now "obsolete," and argues she should be reimbursed for those expenses.

"How are we going to be compensated for spending that we've already done?" she said.

Jennifer McKelvie will continue running. Her biggest question is what will happen to campaign funds candidates have already raised. (Submitted by Jennifer McKelvie)

Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark said at a news conference Friday that the government will provide candidates with clear transition guidelines for campaign spending and reporting, but didn't mention anything about reimbursing campaigns for money already spent.

While McKelvie is surprised at Ford's decision, she isn't letting it throw her off her game.

Even though her ward would double in size and population under Ford's proposed changes, she is still determined to compete for a seat on council.

"I am still committed to the people of Scarborough and will be standing for election in 2018."