Bussin is facing a strong challenge from Mary-Margaret McMahon
Not Your Ordinary Municipal Election
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As far as municipal elections go, the current campaign that will end on October 25 is one for the books. Last night Nanos Research released a poll that shows Rob Ford slightly ahead of George Smitherman while Joe Pantalone was a distant third. Although Mayor David Miller is not seeking reelection, Pantalone represents the status quo that Miller and his acolytes on council are so proud of. And this vision (and all the taxing and spending that goes with it) is clearly being rejected by Torontonians.
What is more interesting is whether any councillors seeking reelection will go down to defeat. The defeat of an incumbent city councillor being is practically unheard of. Generally, few people pay attention to municipal politics.
The sitting councillor has name recognition and is known to those constituents whom they come into contact with. Those who like their councillor will vote for them; those who don’t even know who their local representative are, and there are many, will sit it out. It’s a stacked deck.
Given Rob Ford’s lead and current councillor Joe Pantalone’s poor showing, this is not an ordinary election. One incumbent who may go down to defeat is Ward 32’s Sandra Bussin aka Sandra from Toronto.
Bussin, who had been on Toronto City Council since 1997 and is currently the deputy mayor and council speaker has caused a lot of controversy during the recent term. She promoted and won an untendered deal with Tuggs Inc. to give them a 20-year lease to concessions on the Beach at much less than the city initially sought. And it was all done in secret, raising allegations of impropriety.
Bussin also sued a local newspaper, Ward 32 News, claiming damages for libel. The deputy mayor sought and obtained money from the city taxpayers to fund her legal action. While it is usual for governments to fund the defense of lawsuits for their elected representatives, this is not so for initiating litigation. Bussin’s money grab was viewed as intimidating her critics by using their own money to silence them.
A final straw was Bussin’s call to John Tory’s talk show on Newstalk 1010. Identifying herself only as “Sandra from Toronto”, she talked nonstop about how David Miller was the bestest mayor in the whole wide world (or words to that effect). After Tory asked her several times if she was employed by the city, she finally said “no”. While technically correct (elected representatives are not city employees), at no time did she identify herself as a current councillor.
Bussin ended her childish rant by calling Tory a “three time loser.” People began to contact the station to say they thought the caller was Sandra Bussin. The tape was then played for other councillors who identified her. Caught red handed, Bussin fessed up.
Bussin is facing a strong challenge from Mary-Margaret McMahon and a poll has shown McMahon with a slight lead. The environmentalist and community activist says that her success so far is because of her hard work. No doubt her years of community work, her hard work on the campaign trail and the professionalism of her campaign and the people around her accounts for the fact that she is far ahead of the other challengers but does not explain her ability to knock off an incumbent who has been elected four times.
On Saturday, John Tory showed up at McMahon’s campaign office to offer his endorsement. Although it’s hard to believe the call to Tory’s show had nothing to do with his support for McMahon, the former Ontario PC leader told CFP that Bussin should go because she showed absolutely no contrition for the way the Tuggs deal was done. She could have said that perhaps it should have been done a different way.
There is not a lot of difference in policy between Bussin and McMahon who are both on the left of the political spectrum. But McMahon promises not to use taxpayer money on self promotion, something that Bussin is legendary for. McMahon said she would have no difficulty with Rob Ford’s proposal to reduce office budgets from $53,100 to $30,000.
Hopefully the voters in Ward 32 will make an honest woman out of Sandra Bussin and on October 26 she really will just be “Sandra from Toronto.”