Long-time Toronto city councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker will not be seeking re-election this fall, citing Premier Doug Ford’s proposal to reduce the number of city councillors as the reason.
“I don’t want to put my family and friends through a very stressful election campaign," Mr. De Baeremaeker said in an interview.
The Ontario government introduced legislation late last month to reduce the number of Toronto city councillors to 25 from 47 ahead of the city’s Oct. 22 election. The new boundaries would mirror those for provincial ridings. Mr. De Baeremaeker said the proposal “was an earthquake that shocked all members of council,” and he had hoped the decision would be implemented after the fall election.
Mr. De Baeremaeker represented Scarborough Centre’s Ward 38 for 15 years. Should Premier Ford’s plan to reduce council be implemented, Ward 38 would be merged with the second part of Scarborough Centre, Ward 37, represented by councillor Michael Thompson, and Scarborough East’s Ward 43, represented by councillor Paul Ainslie.
“My seat effectively disappears,” Mr. De Baeremaeker said. “My base of support is split in half, and I don’t think there’s a path to victory.” He added he does not want to run in areas that he hasn’t served before.
A self-proclaimed “environmentalist,” Mr. De Baeremaeker served on council under three mayors: David Miller, Rob Ford and John Tory. He spearheaded efforts during his time on council to create Rouge National Urban Park in Scarborough, and was a fierce proponent of the Bloor-Danforth Scarborough subway line extension.
In a statement, Mr. Tory thanked Mr. De Baeremaeker for his public service, calling him a “tireless defender of Scarborough” and its transit projects. “The people of Ward 38 have been well-served by Glenn for the last 15 years and I have always appreciated his work," Mr. Tory said. “I wish Glenn all the best in his future endeavours.”
Despite his decision to not seek re-election, Mr. De Baeremaeker maintained that reducing the size of council is ultimately a positive step for the city. He said council has “become toxic” in the 15 years he’s served at city hall, and that there are “groups within groups whose sole purpose is to sabotage the government of the day.”
“You’re still going to have democratic debate ... but the debates will be faster, more efficient and allow us to get more things done in the city," Mr. De Baeremaeker said.
Councillor Thompson, who was elected to city council in 2003 alongside Mr. De Baeremaeker, said in an interview that he was disappointed with his colleague’s decision not to run. “He was my [other] half for the better part of 15 years,” Mr. Thompson said. He added he hopes Mr. De Baeremaeker will continue to offer his expertise to those who will be chosen to represent Scarborough.
Mr. Thomspon said he will be seeking re-election for Scarborough Centre city councillor in the fall, and added he is supportive of Premier Ford’s decision to reduce the size of council.
For councillor Joe Mihevc of Ward 21, St. Paul’s West, the decision for Mr. De Baeremaeker to withdraw from the race this upcoming fall was predictable. “It would not have been easy for him, and I guess he realized the writing was on the wall," Mr. Mihevc said. He added the reduction of council, which he does not support, will force councillors to seriously consider their bids for re-election.
“There are going to be some very difficult conversations that will happen frankly in many wards across the city, where veteran councillors will have to square off against each other," Mr. Mihevc said.