Mary-Margaret McMahon had to stand on a chair and shout her thank-yous over the cheering crowd of supporters who packed Kingston Road’s Grover Pub on election night.
“This is a clear, strong, solid message to Ward 32 that we have done great work in the last four years!” she said.
A rookie when she was first elected to city council in 2010, McMahon grew her votes on Monday to 15,762, or 61 per cent of the total.
Her closest challenger, four-term councillor Sandra Bussin, finished at a distant 4,552 votes. None of the other 10 candidates got more than a tenth of the total.
“She had the door knocking, the signs, the grassroots, the background, the whole package,” said campaign volunteer Jeff McIlveen. “And integrity.”
Clearing up election signs a few days later, McMahon had more applause for local voters, whose 71 per cent turnout was the highest in Toronto.
But while she is happy with the turnout and the result, McMahon hopes to see big changes in future elections.
During this campaign, unflattering photos of McMahon turned up on attack ads, a pornographic cartoon, and an anonymous letter stuffed with chicken feathers.
At one debate, a rival candidate swore and made lewd remarks. At another, a candidate tried to wrestle a mic from her hand.
“There was just a lot of nastiness and craziness in Ward 32,” McMahon said. “I think it would deter good people from running in future.”
Asked what can be done to encourage clean campaigns, McMahon said perhaps candidates should collect signatures to show some depth of support, noting that unlike federal and Ontario politics, Toronto has no political parties to screen candidates.
“The beauty, I guess, of municipal politics is that it’s democracy at work – anyone has the right to run.”
Last term, McMahon and councillor Jaye Robinson proposed a two-term limit at Toronto city hall. But the idea was voted down, and on Monday 37 of 38 incumbents were returned to their council seats including, locally, McMahon, Janet Davis, Paula Fletcher, and Gary Crawford.
“Last time we had way better turnover,” McMahon said. “There was lots of fresh energy, fresh ideas, a willingness to work together, no baggage, and no egos – I’m telling you, it’s a sad state of affairs that we only have one person who unseated an incumbent.”
McMahon said she will pitch term limits again this term, if only to keep the discussion alive. It may stand a better chance, she said, now that Queen’s Park has agreed to look at other reforms for 2018, such as ranked ballots and a shorter election period. McMahon also wants a review of Toronto’s proxy voting system, which she called a “complete schmozzle.”
Elections aside, McMahon said many residents told her during this campaign that they would like to see a change in local politics, too.
“What I heard from people is that the ward is bigger than just the Beach,” she said.
“Every community matters.”
While at city council and Toronto’s Catholic school board, voters chose mainly to stick with the status quo, half the 22 trustees elected to the Toronto District School Board are non-incumbents.
“A lot of new people bring a lot of new ideas, but they also have a lot to learn,” said Sheila Cary-Meagher, who is firmly among the veteran half at the TDSB having just won her 13th election as a trustee.
Besides her school priorities – which include a new inner-city and equity department, more French in Ward 16, and a plan to make principals responsible for getting all their Grade 1s reading – Cary-Meagher wants to see better behaviour at the board, where personal expenses incurred by former trustees likely played a role in the recent turnover.
Cary-Meagher began making her expenses public in 1973, her first year as a trustee, and now posts them online.
“I was the first one ever to do that,” she said. Coming back to office in 2001 after a 15-year break, she said she was “flabbergasted” it wasn’t already the norm.
Asked if posting expenses online will now become standard, Cary-Meagher was quick to answer.
“Oh, you bet.”
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