Spadina-Fort York candidates get do-over following Toronto election turmoil

Click to play video: '3 campaigns upended by 2018 Toronto council cut seek redemption in Spadina-Fort York race'
3 campaigns upended by 2018 Toronto council cut seek redemption in Spadina-Fort York race
WATCH ABOVE: When the Ford government cut Toronto’s council in the middle of the 2018 municipal election, it upended several campaigns. – Oct 19, 2022

With just days remaining before the 2022 municipal election in Toronto, the political contest is a chance to begin again for several candidates.

The Ford government’s mid-election decision to reduce the size of Toronto’s city council in 2018 not only slashed expanded city representation, it also cut short the aspirations of dozens of council hopefuls.

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Now, one of the city’s open races sees three of those former candidates squaring off against one another.

Seven of the city’s council races are wide open with an incumbent not in the running, including Spadina-Fort York. That’s where candidates Ausma Malik, Rocco Achampong, and April Engelberg are fighting for their chance to represent their ward. Each was touched by the 2018 council cut in a different way.

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Four years ago, Malik was hoping her knowledge and name recognition following a stint as Trinity-Spadina’s school trustee would increase her chances of getting on city council. But the Ford government’s cuts eliminated that ward and Malik bowed out of the race. Now she’s back and continues to have the support of several left-leaning groups, including Progress Toronto and several high profile Toronto NDP MPPs.

Ausma Malik was the former school trustee in Trinity-Spadina and saw her 2018 council race derailed with the Ford government cuts. Matthew Bingley/Global News

“I want to be able to take that local knowledge and that experience to make sure that we have a champion at city hall,” Malik told Global News. “Especially because there’s so many big issues that are coming up on the council agenda, around affordability in the city, around making sure we are living up to our climate responsibilities, and also that we’re a city where we can imagine thriving for a long time to come.”

Click to play video: 'Toronto election 2018: New council elected under 25-ward system, but will governing be simpler?'
Toronto election 2018: New council elected under 25-ward system, but will governing be simpler?

While many candidates abandoned their runs in 2018, Engelberg stayed in the race and finished in second place behind Joe Cressy. On this second run, she’s hoping to build her support and is counting on some headline-grabbing proposals to get her there.

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Spadina-Fort York City Council candidate is proposing a 250 metre lift bridge to connect the city with Ward’s Island. Matthew Bingley/Global News

Engelberg’s campaign kicked off with a promise to push the next council to open up the ward’s parkland on the Toronto islands by building a lift bridge. Incumbent mayor John Tory was among those who said the idea was worth exploring.

Engelberg has also proposed a pilot to allow the legal consumption of small amounts of alcoholic beverages in Spadina-Fort York’s parks. She said it was an important path to moving the city forward after several failed attempts to do so in the past.

“In both 2021 and 2022, city council decided to defer voting on that, and with this pilot project making it just for our ward I think it could finally pass,” said Engelberg.

Read more: City council candidate proposes bridge connecting city with Toronto Islands

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When the Ford government first cut city council in 2018, lawyer and candidate Rocco Achampong was among those who took the province to court. The roller-coaster ride that ensued ultimately saw the courts rule in the province’s favour and Achampong abandon his candidacy, but this time he’s more confident of a breakthrough.

Achampong said he’s thinks one of the ways his campaign could make progress with voters is by tapping into one of the most common frustrations felt by those living there. The ward is known for its dense population and the traffic gridlock that comes with it. He said it’s high time the city pursues a congestion fee to get the area moving again.

“People like to pay lip service to a lot of these talking points, but have you been on Welington (Street) during rush hour,” Achampong asked, “or even off-peak hours?”

Rocco Achampong challenged the Ford government over its council cut in court. He’s hoping to tap into voter frustrations with a proposed congestion fee. Matthew Bingley/Global News

Nine other candidates are registered in Spadina-Fort York’s city council race, including: Robb Cooke, Kyle Enslen, Peter George, Karlene Nation, Laura-Maria Nikolareizi, Arber Puci, Igor Samardzic, Stephanie Soltermann and Andrei Zodian.

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Toronto’s election day is Monday, Oct. 24 with voting open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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