This is perhaps the most interesting set of municipal elections in Ontario in quite some time. On October 27th voters across the province will be electing their local officials. While the mayoralty race in Toronto has garnered the most attention there are contentious elections in Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton, London and Sudbury. My hometown, Brampton, has a significant number of open seats as a large number of councillors retired this year as well the controversial mayor of Brampton faces serious challengers. Some people back home have asked for some help picking out candidates so here are my suggestions for Brampton’s elections. There are a huge number of candidates running so making an informed decision is challenging. I would appreciate any feedback and wish all the citizens of Brampton good luck in making their choices.
I did not do school board endorsements because finding information for those races is very challenging.
While Mayor Susan Fennell protests her innocence and threatens lawsuits to her critics it seems clear that her time and office will and should end. Even before the spending scandals began I was no fan of Mayor Fennell. Her leadership style and position on issues has been troubling for me. Brampton has severely lacked in leadership to manage the transformation from a sleepy suburb to an urban community. Leadership has been far too reactive and not enough proactive to meet challenges the city faces. Fennell faces two realistic opponents, current regional councillor John Sanderson and former Liberal MPP for Brampton-Springdale Linda Jeffrey. Polling suggests Jeffrey is in the lead. To be honest I am not entirely satisfied with either Sanderson or Jeffrey. Both candidates are still appealing to the auto-oriented development style that can no longer help Brampton. Both discuss highway and road expansion/widening. The Hurontario LRT is one of the most important issues to my mind and both are non-committal or critical of the current route.
Reading the platforms it seems to me that Jeffrey offers vague promises that rely to a large degree on action by the provincial government. Sanderson offers greater detail within the scope of a municipal mandate and a far more detailed platform. Sanderson has been pushing for greater accountability in city hall and his experience as a member of council should serve him well as mayor of the city. For me, John Sanderson is the best choice for Brampton’s next mayor.
Looking at the candidates for city council was more difficult than I had hoped. Far from Brampton I had to rely on the information I could find online. Many candidates seem to have no internet presence at all and a brief description on a webpage of Facebook page is hardly enough to base an informed decision. Given that some of the following should be considered under the caveat of incomplete information.
Wards 1 & 5
City Councillor Grant Gibson and Regional Councillor Elaine Moore are seeking re-election. I’ve met with Elaine Moore and think she is deserving of another term. I am less familiar with Mr. Gibson, but none of his opponents seem credible enough for me to recommend unseating the current city councillor. Given how many new councillors there will be in the next Council it will be valuable to have a few experienced hands.
Wards 2 & 6
An open race for the city council seat will mean a competitive election. Reviewing the available websites I was intrigued by Mr. Sukhminder Singh Hansra. I think he has some misguided policies, like increasing policing, but he actually addresses issues like poverty and affordable housing, which is depressingly rare. His experience as a journalist and long-time resident of the city makes him a strong candidate in my opinion.
For regional councillor John Hutton is seeking re-election for regional councillor. Mandeep Jassal looks like an interesting challenger for the incumbent. Jassal’s platform indicates that he is an urban progressive with interesting policy ideas. His support for a city-wide bike network and expansion of transit services and fair representation for Brampton makes a compelling case.
Wards 3 & 4
Bob Callahan is retiring this year which has led to a wide range of candidates seeking to replace him. More challenging to voters in Wards 3 & 4 is that John Sanderson is running for mayor making an opening for regional councillor too.
Looking at the candidates putting their names forward in 3 & 4 for City Council Michael Freeman stands out to me. Given his experience and platform I think he has a reasonable, thoughtful vision for my home community. While I am not in favour of his proposal, Freeman has a detailed plan for the Hurontario LRT and how it can form the basis for a stronger transit system. Outside of the big picture policies he also has nice planks on important local issues, like modernizing Peel Village Park. I recommend checking out his platform positions. In addition I would like to recommend looking at Jeff Bowman, a businessman, community volunteer and life-long Bramptonian. Freeman and Bowman share a great deal in common in their platforms. I like what Mr. Bowman has to say about affordable housing and he has a novel notion for a re-routed Hurontario LRT to the new hospital complex. I think the biggest highlight to me is Mr. Bowman's reference to Brampton's "unbridled growth" and the employment issues and affordability of this approach. Jeff Bowman is passionate about his community, that much is clear, and is worthy of consideration.
For regional council I would cast my ballot for Kevin Montgomery. Kevin is passionate advocate for re-examining transportation and urban design practices in Brampton. He also has platform planks on a wide array of important topics such as poverty and mental health. I think he would be a valuable voice at city hall and regional council.
Wards 7 & 8
For city council in Wards 7 & 8 I would like to throw my support behind Veenay Sehdev. Veenay might be the candidate I am most familiar with in this election. Full disclosure, a friend connected us so I could offer some advice on his campaign. I found Veenay passionate, intelligent and bold. He is also young, which would be a valuable voice compared to our last city council.
There was insufficient information for choosing a candidate for regional council. The incumbent Gael Mills was the only one with a website that I found. That being the case I am uncomfortable endorsing anyone.
Wards 9 & 10
The city council race is pretty narrow in Wards 9 and 10 compared to the others. Vicky Dhillon is the incumbent and he is seeking re-election. Of the candidates available I would lean towards voting for Gurpreet Dhillon, who was the recent ONDP candidate for Brampton-Springdale. Unsurprisingly I am in favour of more progressive voices at city hall.
For regional council John Sprovieri is seeking re-election. I have a tough time picking an endorsement for this race. I would encourage voters in these wards look at Michelle Shaw or Gurratan Singh. I like what Mr. Singh has to say, but his platform is not fully fleshed out, on the other hand Ms. Shaw has more platform planks, but lacks in details.
Brampton, hopefully, has reached an inflection point. The old-style of doing things has come to an end and if the city is to make progress moving forward it means changes in leadership. Brampton can’t think of itself as a sleepy suburb, it is a city of over a half-million people. Evidence and case studies around the world show us that sprawling suburban development is not the way to build successful, healthy cities. Brampton will look very different fifty years from now, but it will take time and thoughtful politicians and citizens to get us there. Hopefully the next city council can lead this transformation for a better Brampton.
A full list of candidates in Brampton can be found here. Best of luck to the candidates who put their names forward.