Toronto council appoints Tory supporter to replace McConnell
Lucy Troisi won the hard-fought battle for the Ward 28 council appointment on a second ballot.
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Toronto city council has appointed Lucy Troisi to replace the late Pam McConnell as the councillor for Ward 28, rejecting the McConnell family’s pick.
Troisi, executive director of the Cabbagetown Youth Centre, got the votes of council’s right-leaning allies of Mayor John Tory although Tory himself voted for Mike Creek, an anti-poverty activist the McConnell family wanted to succeed her.
In an interview after the close vote, which went to a second ballot, Troisi did not hide her support for Tory’s agenda including low property taxes and the Scarborough subway.
“I don’t know if that made the difference but absolutely I like the mayor’s agenda and I’ll be supporting that,” on council, Troisi told reporters.
In all, there were 31 candidates vying to replace McConnell, but only Troisi and Creek made it to the second ballot
McConnell was Tory’s anti-poverty advocate, but also a leader of council’s left wing who regularly voted against the mayor on issues including budget reductions, the Scarborough subway and keeping the east Gardiner expressway elevated instead of turning into a ground-level boulevard.
But Troisi, who worked with McConnell on initiatives when Troisi was a manager in the city parks department, said she can fulfill McConnell’s legacy in the year that she will hold the seat. Troisi, like most of the candidates, vowed not to use the appointment as a springboard to running in the 2018 election.
“Absolutely, I’ll be pushing the poverty-equity agenda for sure,” she said, adding council needed another female voice on council.
Her priorities, she said, will include Regent Park redevelopment and protecting Toronto islands from flooding.
Ward 28, including the east downtown waterfront and from Sherbourne St. to the Don Valley Parkway north to Bloor St., is one of the busiest in the city, with booming development and wealth, but also significant poverty.
Longtime representative McConnell died in July at age 71. Her council allies argued strongly for the appointment of Creek, a longtime anti-poverty activist who worked closely with McConnell on many projects including Regent Park, where he was also her neighbour.
Creek, who was once homeless and is openly gay, told council he hoped to continue his mentor’s work. “I spoke with Pam every day,” he said, promising to be a non-partisan, collaborative voice at council.
Creek, director of strategic initiatives at the non-profit Working for Change, would give the ward “the collaborative, engaging and respectful approach that characterized Pam and which led to her success as a political leader,” McConnell’s husband and children said in a letter to councillors.
Councillor Joe Mihevc, another Creek supporter, tabled four pages of endorsements for him from a host of Ward 28 activists and community group leaders, as well as former mayor Barbara Hall.
Many of Troisi’s council supporters said they appreciated her roots in a big family with a disabled father, growing up in Regent Park, as well as the need to have more women on council plus her familiarity with city hall that should help her “hit the ground running.”
Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, however, said Troisi got his vote for other reasons, noting city council will soon head into tough budget deliberations.
“We’re going to be asked to make some tough decisions and I would like someone on this council who actually votes the way that I think this council should be going,” Minnan-Wong told council, adding Troisi had assured him she supports Tory’s agenda — “holding the line on taxes”, supporting the Scarborough subway and keeping the Gardiner aloft.
Some of McConnell’s former council allies looked shaken after the vote.
“Council’s right wing, despite the endorsements of 150 community leaders, has denied Ward 28 a vote at council,” said Councillor Mike Layton.