Anti-incumbent wave crashed into Ward 13

A Town Crier Community Column

In the end, the 22 years of elected public service; the cautious middle ground that guided his political radar, and the prominent campaign headquarters squat in the middle of Bloor West Village, didn’t amount to much for veteran Ward 13 councillor, Bill Saundercook.

Caught in the mini-tsunami that swept across Toronto in the Oct. 25 civic election, Saundercook was washed ashore along with a handful of other incumbents in what amounted to a change moment that now sets the table for the way our city will be governed over the next four years.

One got the sense that Saundercook was running on fumes at an all-candidates meeting 12 days before E-Day. He bore the scars of someone whose expiry date in the political arena had come-and-gone. Tired-looking, vaguely disinterested, and struggling to offer up anything remotely inspirational on behalf of his ward or his city, Saundercook had to know then that the only card he had left to play was that old bromide, name recognition.

Remarkably, even that failed him.

More remarkably, it failed him in a contest that didn’t particularly offer a sparkling constellation of strong opponents. That hardly mattered. The voters from this corner of west Toronto – much like residents elsewhere across the city – were loaded to deliver a change of guard.

Under these circumstances Saundercook didn’t stand much of a chance, even though on most issues of policy there was little to separate him from his challengers. Public transit? More and more. The environment? To be worshipped. Waste at city hall? Trim the fat.

Stepping into this perfect storm came Sarah Doucette. In politics timing is everything and this year the clock ticked loudly in her favour.

Articulate, pleasant and painfully earnest, Doucette is a city employee assigned for the past six years to Swansea Town Hall, a posting that undoubtedly spiked her name-and-face recognition for a sizeable number of residents, especially in the south end.

But her profile has seeped beyond Swansea, in advocacy groups that have fought to save public services like local swimming pools. She has done time with a community liaison committee with police, and was a volunteer with Green 13, a local environmental outfit.

Overwhelmingly, Doucette was the favoured candidate among those who fancy themselves as progressives in Ward 13. NDP operatives had a hand in her campaign and she was endorsed by the Toronto and York Region Labour Council.

But her left-wing street cred is suspect. Doucette has no known record as a party activist. And, in a CBC radio interview following her election, she said she was prepared to work with whomever was elected the new mayor. That stated, is she prepared to work with Rob Ford’s agenda of privatizing some public services, scrapping Transit City, blocking immigration, and cutting off vital revenue like the vehicle license fee?

Local political junkies will ask themselves: is Doucette cut from the same cloth as other admired progressives in Parkdale-High Park like David Miller, Cheri DiNovo, Gord Perks, Peggy Nash, Irene Atkinson and Gerard Kennedy?

Others, meanwhile, are left scratching their heads after reading in a local daily Doucette’s odd view that being a “multi-tasking mother” will make her a better city councillor. By that qualification one imagines there are tens of thousands of other such mothers – and fathers – who deserve a seat at city council, too.

But Doucette’s parade is just starting and this is no time to rain on it. For many, a new day has dawned over Ward 13 and that alone is reason enough to celebrate.


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By: Greg Hamara
Posted: Nov 2 2010 4:18 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto
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