By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Former Scarborough Southwest Councillor Gary Crawford is officially on hiatus after finishing second in the Scarborough-Guildwood provincial byelection on Thursday, July 27.
The byelection was won by Liberal candidate Andrea Hazell. It took place after the sitting Liberal MPP for the Scarborough-Guildwood riding, Mitzie Hunter, resigned her seat to run in the Toronto mayoral byelection earlier this year.
“Congratulations to Andrea Hazell on being elected as the new MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood, and to all candidates for their contributions to this race,” Crawford said in a statement following the provincial byelection results.
“I am grateful to Premier Doug Ford for the opportunity to run as part of the Ontario PC team.”
Although Crawford attempted to disrupt the status quo in the riding, the Ontario’s Liberal Party retained the support it has had in the Scarborough-Guildwood riding area since 2007.
Hazell won with 5,640 votes; while Crawford was second with 4, 562 votes; and NDP candidate Thadsha Navaneethan with 4,041 votes was third. For full results of the Scarborough-Guildwood provincial byelection on July 27, please go to https://www.elections.on.ca/content/ngw/en/election-results/scarborough-guildwood.html
Voter turnout in Scarborough-Guildwood for the provincial byelection was just under 22 per cent, according to Elections Ontario.
Having resigned earlier this week, but prior to the provincial byelection date, Crawford qualified for a severance package from the City of Toronto which would not have been possible had he been elected as an MPP without formally resigning his council seat.
The City of Toronto is mandated to present councillors with a severance package that is 1/12 of their salary for up to 12 years in the case that they resign, retire, or are not re-elected to a council seat. Crawford, who has served as a city councillor for Scarborough Southwest since 2010, was eligible to receive the maximum severance amount of $120,000 – about a year’s salary.
Crawford’s resignation from his councillor position means that Toronto Council must decide whether to call a byelection for Scarborough Southwest or to appoint an interim councillor to finish the remaining three years of the term. Another municipal election is not scheduled until October of 2026.
Until that decision is made by Toronto Council, and a byelection is completed to elect a new councillor or one is appointed on an interim basis for the rest of the term, a Deputy City Clerk will oversee the operations of the Scarborough Southwest councillor office while it remains vacant.
Given that is more than three years until the next municipal election in Toronto, it is expected that a byelection for a new Scarborough Southwest councillor is the route that will be taken, though a date for that cannot be set by the City Clerk until Toronto Council mandates that it be called.
Since his resignation, some of Crawford’s opponents from the October 2022 municipal election have signaled intentions to run for the Scarborough Southwest councillor position once again.
Kevin Rupasinghe, who finished third in the municipal election with 13.7 per cent of votes in his previous attempt, announced his candidacy for the Scarborough Southwest council seat on Wednesday, July 26.
“I have heard from so many people asking me if I would consider running again,” said Rupasinghe. “The answer is yes. I am committed as ever to fight for our community.”
Parthi Kandavel, Crawford’s most formidable critic during the 2022 elections, told Beach Metro Community News that it is “certainly [his] intention to run in the byelection” after finishing a close second place in his first attempt.
“Scarborough Southwest is going through tremendous changes and we need an effective representative at the table to ensure community concerns are present while big decisions are being made,” said Kandavel. “It’s unfortunate that we’re continuing to see missed leadership.”
Although Kandavel didn’t foresee Crawford’s resignation from the Scarborough Southwest council seat, he said that he wasn’t at all shocked about the outcome of Thursday’s provincial byelection in Scarborough-Guildwood.
“I think Doug Ford’s leadership has left many across Scarborough, and the province, asking who does he serve,” said Kandavel. “Last night’s results – two Liberal women winning – is a powerful message.”
The Ontario Liberal Party picked up an additional victory on July 27 after Liberal candidate Karen McCrimmon won in the Kanata-Carleton riding’s provincial byelection. That seat had previously been held by Progressive Conservative MPP and former Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Marilee Fullerton who stepped down earlier this year
This now brings Ontario’s Liberals to a total of nine seats in Queen’s Park. The Progressive Conservatives hold the majority of seats with 81, and the NDP’ has 29 seats to make the Official Opposition. The Ontario Liberals would need 12 seats to regain official party status at Queen’s Park.
— Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.