Fletcher crushes former ally and opponent in Toronto-Danforth

Longtime Mary Fragedakis supporter Keith Leigh explained why he was at the victory party for her opponent Paula Fletcher on election night.

The two city councillors who had been allies on municipal issues were forced to run against each other in the Oct. 22 election after the provincial government merged their two Toronto-Danforth wards. With Conservative-backed candidate Chris Budo making a strong showing in the new ward, voters like Leigh had to make sure they did not split the progressive vote between Fragedakis and Fletcher.

Then several high-profile endorsements, including from the Toronto Star and the Labour Council, made it clear Fletcher would be the preferred progressive candidate, Leigh said.

Fletcher ended up with 16,468 votes (42.3 per cent of votes cast), outstripping both Fragedakis with 10,201 (26.2 per cent) and Budo with 7,394 (19 per cent), as well as seven other candidates.

It was an “historical election,” Fletcher told about 120 cheering supporters at the Fox and Fiddle on Danforth Avenue.

She castigated Premier Doug Ford and his government for its “unprecedented” action of cutting city council nearly in half to 25 seats in the middle of an election campaign, which led to the back-and-forth legal battle over what she called the “ping pong election.”

And she warned of challenges to come.

“This is going to be a difficult four years,” she predicted. “Many people told me at the door they are very worried about what will happen to this city.”

She vowed to continue fighting for democracy in Toronto. “We are going to make sure our public transit system is not sold off to the highest bidder,” she said in her victory speech. “We will fight to make sure all the city’s valuable lands are not sold off to the highest bidder but are used for the public good.”

Down the street at the Sidewalk Café, the Fragedakis party was a smaller, more sombre affair.

Mary Fragedakis with campaign workers in Toronto-Danforth
NO REGRETS: Mary Fragedakis, in blue coat, is surrounded by campaign workers after losing her bid for re-election in the expanded Toronto-Danforth ward.

The candidate had no regrets about running in the new expanded ward, she said in an interview. “I would’ve regretted it if I hadn’t run,” Fragedakis said. “We were preparing over the last year for a different race and we got dealt a bad hand in late July — and that was that.”

She did not appreciate running against Fletcher. “We’ve been working together for the past eight years, so we’re very close,” she said.

“It’s been an honour and a privilege to represent [the old] Ward 29 for these last eight years. We’ve done a lot of good things together.”

Now her only immediate plans were to “go home and sleep,” she said.

Also elected in Toronto-Danforth was Jennifer Story, who was returned to the Toronto District School Board as trustee.

Jennifer Story re-elected trustee for Toronto-Danforth
TRUSTEE RE-ELECTED: Jennifer Story thanked her supporters and “mentor” Paula Fletcher after she won re-election to the school board.

Story, who shared campaign signs and literature with Fletcher, spoke at the joint victory party at the Fox and Fiddle.

She thanked supporters, campaign workers and Fletcher: “Four years ago Paula took a risk supporting me for trustee. She has been a friend, someone to laugh with, someone to cry with, an incredible mentor,” Story said.

“Toronto-Danforth, look around you — we always show up and we get it done,” she said, calling the campaign “a well-oiled machine.”

Campaign manager Ravi Joshi said in an interview Fletcher’s team was initially concerned about picking up support in the area north of Danforth that was added to her old ward to create the new Toronto-Danforth Ward 14. “We hoped for an open mind in new area,” he said.

“We knew the people were picking up on our message of standing up for community, of making our  community even better,” Joshi said.

Among the issues that resonated most among voters, he said, were protection of the waterfront and taking on Doug Ford.