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Politics

What do local politicians have to gain from picking sides in the federal election?

City councillors aren’t running for re-election but they’re hardly immune to federal election fever: At least 10 have publicly endorsed federal candidates, and some are helping them campaign.
City councillors aren’t running for re-election but they’re hardly immune to federal election fever: At least 10 have publicly endorsed federal candidates, and some are helping them campaign. Erica Vella/Global News

TORONTO – City councillors aren’t running for re-election but they’re hardly immune to federal election fever: At least 10 have publicly endorsed federal candidates, and some are helping them campaign.

Councillor Mike Layton is actively supporting the NDP in his spare time – perhaps unsurprising, as his dad Jack Layton led the party to its biggest show of support in its history.

“If they [councillors] are choosing not to get involved – quite frankly they are doing it as individuals – that’s not any of my business. I believe Toronto needs strong representation in Ottawa and I’m prepared to fight for it,” he said.

“I’m going to work with whoever is elected to try ensure that we have a good strong investment in our city. I’m supporting these particular candidates in this election because I think that what they are proposing and their experience is what Toronto needs … I believe the interests of Torontonians have been ignored for far too long … and that’s why I am choosing to spend my personal time on campaign.”

And Layton said he thinks it’s in his constituents’ interest.

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“They want to look to parties that are putting forward policies that will help their municipalities,” he said.

“If we were talking more about municipal issues on the doorstep with our politicians from Ottawa or that want to go to Ottawa, we would certainly end up with better policies for Toronto.”

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Councillor Josh Matlow is endorsing Liberal candidates Carolyn Bennett for Toronto-St. Paul’s and Rob Oliphant for Don Valley West. Both Councillor Michelle Berardinetti and Councillor Norm Kelly are endorsing former police chief Bill Blair as the Liberal candidate for Scarborough Southwest and Councillor Sarah Doucette and Councillor Gord Perks are backing NDP incumbent Peggy Nash.

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Mayor John Tory has said he won’t endorse any federal candidate.

“I don’t think it’s my place to endorse a party. I’m not sure anybody is sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for me to tell them how to vote. They’ll make up their own minds,” Tory said Tuesday when speaking with media.

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“What I will do – sometime between now and election day … is comment on some of the issues that are out there that you know we have a continuing concern with respect to housing on the part of all of the parties.”

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Tory has previously called on all federal party leaders to commit to funding for social housing at the Big City Mayors meeting in September.

WATCH: Mayor John Tory said to the media on Tuesday he will remain firm and neutral on his position to not endorse any of the parties for the upcoming federal election.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has not been so taciturn: He slammed the Conservative and Bloc focus on niqabs as “disgusting” and divisive.

Nenshi’s office says he will not be making any formal endorsements for the federal election.

READ MORE: Nenshi fires back at Kenney for comments on niqab ban

On the provincial level, meanwhile, Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley are actively supporting their federal counterparts, the Liberals and NDP, respectively.

Wynne has been especially vocal in advocating for Justin Trudeau. This week she slammed Harper’s statements on the niqab – he suggested, as his ministers have in the past, that he’d consider prohibiting federal employees from wearing them.

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“We have a responsibility to find ways to live together in harmony. That is who we are as Canadians. And I think that this prime minister is using this issue as a wedge to try to divide people. I think it is shocking actually, when there are so many huge concerns that we have as a country,” Wynne said in a press conference on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Ontario Premier says Harper is using the niqab debate to ‘divide’ Canadians

In general there’s nothing wrong with politicians endorsing candidates in other elections, says Nelson Wiseman, professor and director of Canadian Studies Program at University of Toronto.

“If you say that they are going to work very closely with candidates from other levels … you’d want to support people who think like yourself.”

But that doesn’t mean they’re effective.

“I don’t think many people notice it. … If you really trust that person and you’re not interested in other levels of government then you might go along with their recommendations. If you don’t really care what they think because you have a mind of your own, you’ll ignore it,” Wiseman said.

Endorsements can also backfire, however.

Wynne has not shied away from speaking out against Harper, which raises the question of what will happen if Harper remains Prime Minister Oct. 20.

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Wiseman says there wasn’t much of a relationship to begin with.

“Harper has refused to see her. She was begging for a meeting and he finally saw her for a half-hour before he came to town for a hockey game … last winter,” Wiseman said.

“They’re politicians, they know what they’re doing … They make political calculations. Of course Wynne would rather deal with a Liberal federal government, because it will be easier to bend their ear, just as Harper would prefer to deal with a provincial Conservative government.”

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And not all endorsements are welcome.

Prior to Rob Ford’s drug scandal, the former mayor and Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared to be a team working for each other’s best interests.

READ MORE: Mayor Rob Ford endorses Harper at Brampton event

Ford endorsed Harper in the 2011 election and Harper supported the former mayor’s push for subways.

But Harper distanced himself when rumours of Ford’s drug addiction surfaced.

READ  MORE: Prime Minister’s Office addresses ‘troubling’ Rob Ford allegations

“Stephen Harper liked Rob Ford… but after we had the Ford follies, he knew to disassociate himself,” Wiseman said.

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“Often, you don’t want the person endorsing you because he is tainted goods. Other times you want it because he might influence a small chunk of the population that has elected him at another level.”