Councillor candidates file new papers after election map redrawn

Toronto candidates began registering at the municipal elections office on Monday to run for a reduced number of city council and school board seats as councillors at a special meeting pondered legal avenues to overturn the cut.

Coun. Norm Kelly, 3rd in line, says more resources needed now to run in larger wards

Coun. Norm Kelly was third in line on Monday morning to register to run for re-election under new ward boundaries in Toronto. (Meagan Fitzpatrick/CBC)

Candidates began registering at the Toronto election services office on Monday to run for a reduced number of city council and school board seats, as local politicians pondered legal avenues to overturn the cuts at a special meeting.

New entrants and incumbents started filing paperwork at 8:30 a.m. after the city clerk changed the nomination process for councillors and school board trustees to comply with a provincial government law that slashes the number of council seats from 47 to 25.

Candidates said the change means reprinting campaign material, and in cases where wards are now much larger, it means more money, volunteers, phone calls and door-knocking. The deadline is 2 p.m. on Sept. 14.

Robert McDermott, a council candidate for Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest, was first in line. He had registered to run in Ward 39 but had to file a change of ward notification form.

McDermott has been campaigning since May.

"I have to look at the financing now," he said. "It's going to be a bit of confusion for the residents in the ward, too."

'I'm fine with it," Robert McDermott, now a council candidate for Ward 20 Scarborough Southwest, says of the reduction in the size of Toronto city council, even though it means reprinting campaign material and having to look at financing. (CBC)

Still, despite having to reprint campaign flyers and lawn signs, McDermott welcomed the reduction. He said a smaller council is part of his campaign platform.

"I'm fine with it. It's longer overdue. We had too many city councillors. The council was not running efficiently. It's more cost effective."

'We've had to scramble'

Norm Kelly, councillor for Ward 40 Scarborough Agincourt, was third in line. He had to register as a candidate for the new Ward 22 of the same name. The proposed ward in which he planned to run, under the 47-seat model, is half the size and population of the actual new ward, under the 25-seat model.

"For me and my election team, we've had to pivot from a small ward to the large one," Kelly said. "Now that we're looking at bigger territory, more people and more expenses, we've had to scramble to readapt to the new environment."

"You have to raise more money, obviously. You have to get more volunteers. You have to have perhaps more phones. You need considerably more literature. And it means a lot more walking — and in the same amount of time."

Kelly said the provincial government has the legal authority to shape Toronto city council, but the city is large, complex and diverse, and a smaller council might create distance between councillors and their constituents.

"It was I think unexpected, but nonetheless, it is there and you have to have to cope with it."

(CBC News/City of Toronto)

The Ontario government passed Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act, 2018, last week. It extends the period for councillor and school board trustee nominations but doesn't extend the nomination period for the mayoral race.

Hundreds of candidates had already filed nomination papers to run in the 47-ward election, which would have created four brand new seats and left other wards without an incumbent councillor. Many had hoped that would lead to a more diverse council, featuring more people who haven't held office before.

The 25-ward map, which aligns with provincial riding boundaries with some adjustments, will likely be more competitive, with a number of long-time councillors potentially squaring off against one another.

With files from Meagan Fitzpatrick