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A fifth of Toronto’s Councillors wont be returning
June 22, 2022
Alexander Coney

While the upcoming municipal election in Toronto probably won’t be acrimonious, expect a major shake up in Toronto City Council. Five of Toronto’s 25 councillors, or a fifth of the whole council won’t be returning.

Toronto City Council is Changing
Kristyn Wong-Tam of Toronto Centre and Michael Ford of Etobicoke North have both moved on to the Province. Joe Cressy of Spadina-Fort York, Ana Bailao of Davenport and John Filion of Willowdale have all left politics for good.

Wong-Tam served on council for many years, leading various harm-reduction initiatives, such as supervised injection sites. She also served on the Board of Health as Vice Chair, working with Cressy who served as Chair. Ana Bailao served as deputy mayor and was key to implementing much of the City’s housing policy over the last several years.

John Filion’s Departure
The departure of Filion however, really does signify the end of an era in Toronto politics. The 72 year old councillor has spent 40 years in politics. Filion also chaired the Board of Health during his tenure at City Council and took a leadership role in the motion that stripped Rob Ford of his mayoral powers. A moderate figure, Filion calls himself a fiscally conservative progressive, often working across the ideological divides of council.

Yet Filion says that these last four years were the worst of his entire career. In 2019 a man armed with a pipe attempted a brake in at Filion’s home and few weeks later Filion found his car full of bullet holes. Moreover, changing the number of wards in Toronto from 47 to 25 has made a hard job even harder. The councillor has talked about how difficult it has become to connect with his own staff let alone, the 120,000 residents of Willowdale. Filion actually tried to retire before the last municipal election but felt compelled to re-entre the arena to challenge a candidate he considered ill suited for office.

Filion isn’t the only councillor to open up on the toll the changes to council have taken. Joe Cressy has been one of the youngest members of council. The father of a toddler, Cressy has spoken about missing far too many firsts with his family while working as a councillor. The departure from politics to work as senior vice president for external relations, communications, and real estate development at George Brown College should give him more time to spend with his family.

One question I have is whether the departure of a fifth of council is a sign that that it’s not working. Is it reasonable to expect a local councillor to have a relationship with 10’s of thousands of people? Is it reasonable for the job to interfere with having a family and something of a normal life?

Former councillor Joe Mihevic has been appointed to fill Joe Cressy’s seat while Wong Tam will see her position filled by her old chief of staff Robin Buxton-Potts. I wish them and the rest of City Council well as they navigate the departure of colleagues and the highs and lows of Toronto municipal politics.