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Right-wing tide sweeps Toronto mayoralty race but not rest of Ontario

Voter anger propelled conservative challenger Rob Ford to the mayor's office in Toronto but the right-wing trend didn't extend far beyond Canada's largest city as Ontario residents voted in municipal elections Monday.

A former Liberal provincial cabinet minister in Ottawa and a left-leaning former radio host in Hamilton knocked off the sitting mayors in those cities while incumbents won in Mississauga, Brampton and Milton. Former Liberal MPs defeated incumbents in Vaughan and London, Ont.

Many experts had predicted that a Ford victory could herald Conservative inroads in Liberal-dominated Toronto and across Ontario in future federal or provincial elections.

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"It could be a beachhead for a resurgence of Conservative party support in some parts of the city of Toronto, especially some of the inner suburbs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough," Myer Siemiatycki, a politics professor at Ryerson University, told The Canadian Press.

"I think he (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) is probably thinking: 'There may be scope for me in Toronto. There may be hope for a Conservative foothold or breakthrough in Toronto'," Mr. Siemiatycki said.

But in other cities, Liberals and left-leaning candidates won several key races.


Former provincial cabinet minister Jim Watson easily won the mayor's race against businessman-turned-politician Larry O'Brien, in a race dominated by transit and urban development issues. In an unprecedented move earlier in the campaign, Mr. O'Brien apologized to Ottawa residents, characterizing the first two years of his term as a "disaster."

Mr. Watson, who served as Ottawa's mayor before a successful foray into provincial politics, took 49 per cent of the vote. Conservative incumbent Mr. O'Brien had 24 per cent.

"It appears clear that the public have voted for change, and they have voted for change in a very big way," Mr. Watson said Monday after the results were known.

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Mr. O'Brien's rocky term as mayor of Canada's capital included allegations of influence peddling that forced him to step down temporarily as the matter went to trial. He resumed his duties after being acquitted.


There was no upset in Mississauga, with incumbent Hazel McCallion, 89, overcoming a conflict-of-interest scandal and a record 16 challengers to mark her 12th straight victory in the city's most hotly contested mayoral race in decades. But a conflict-of-interest scandal appeared to put a dent in her staggering support, handing her 76 per cent of the ballots cast rather than the 90 per cent she's been known to command in past elections.

Carolyn Parrish, the outspoken former Liberal MP who became a thorn in the mayor's side on the last council, was defeated in her re-election bid, losing to former councillor Ron Starr, for whom Ms. McCallion had campaigned.

Ms. McCallion also was buoyed by the defeat of rival Carmen Corbasson. The return of supporters Pat Mullin, Katie Mahoney, Pat Saito and the win by Chris Fonseca in Ward 3, whom Ms. McCallion publicly endorsed, means the veteran mayor has regained control of council.


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In Vaughan, veteran Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua swept into the city's mayoral race with the promise of change, winning the mayor's seat by a landslide 50 percentage points over beleaguered incumbent Linda Jackson, who was challenged for second place by former MPP Mario Racco.

"You have voted for change - a change in leadership, a change in the direction of this city," Mr. Bevilacqua told supporters. "I will do my best to give you that and much more," he said.

He pledged to set a "different tone" for politics in a city trying to shrug its reputation as "the city above the law."

Elsewhere in the GTA

In Oakville, Rob Burton won 52 per cent of the vote, compared to 42 per cent for Ann Mulvale. The pair are used to slugging it out: Ms. Mulvale fended off Mr. Burton's challenge in 2003 by 12 votes and Mr. Burton came back in 2006 to end Ms. Mulvale's 18-year reign.

Brampton mayor Susan Fennell fought off several challengers to claim roughly half the popular vote. Ms Fennell was accused of lacking transparency for keeping secret the books of a community fund that raises money in her name. Ms. Fennell ultimately agreed to open up the legers up to public scrutiny.

In Milton, mayor Gordon Krantz extended his decades-long stay in office, taking roughly 60 per cent of the vote.

A new leader also took the helm in Oshawa - former councillor John Henry.

"I'm going to have a council that's united in building a vision statement for the city," the businessman said, adding that he'd like to bring some ideas from the private sector into the job. He won by 18 percentage points over incumbent John Gray.

Markham mayor Frank Scarpitti held fast to his position with a giant 88.7 per cent win, handily beating his two competitors.


There will likely be a recount in Thorold, where Ted Luciani won the mayor's job by just four votes. Current regional councillor Robert Gabriel was a close second. Luciani says he expects Gabriel to ask for a recount.

The eventual winner will replace outgoing Mayor Henry D'Angela, who won the city's regional council seat. In Niagara Falls, city councillor Jim Diodati handily beat incumbent Mayor Ted Salci by 3,000 votes.


In London, Ont., former Liberal MP Joe Fontana won a tight race to keep Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best from a fourth term. It was the closest mayoral race in London since 1994. Ms. DeCicco-Best trounced Mr. Fontana in 2006. Mr. Fontana proposed a four-year property tax freeze in this campaign. The issue proved effective, leaving the mayor to defend her record of consistent tax hikes in recent years.

Hamilton, Burlington and Haldimand County

In Hamilton, Bob Bratina beat two mayors to become the city's new mayor.

The Ward 2 councillor and former CHML radio host handily defeated both Larry Di Ianni and Fred Eisenberger. Mr. Bratina becomes Hamilton's fourth mayor in four elections since amalgamation.

Mr. Bratina's platform, which pledged help for the working-class city's downtrodden neighbourhoods, appealed to a left-leaning coalition with environmentalists, rank-and-file trade unionists and NDP supporters backing Mr. Bratina, said Henry Jacek, a political scientist at McMaster University.

A disappointed Mr. Eisenberger said "obviously people were looking for some change." Mr. Di Ianni urged Mr. Bratina to "unify us, don't divide us" by abandoning the issue of deamalgamation.

In Burlington, councillor Rick Goldring won 47 per cent of the vote, another councillor, Carol D'Amelio, took 25 per cent and incumbent Cam Jackson 22 per cent. The election was dominated by discussion over a stalled plan to build a new waterfront pier.

Haldimand County is set to welcome Ken Hewitt, its first new mayor in seven years. Mayor Marie Trainer lost her bid for a third consecutive term by more than 1,000 votes.


Newcomer Marianne Matichuk became the first woman elected to the mayor's office in Sudbury. She told supporters Monday night that people had voted for political accountability and for building bridges with the provincial and federal governments.

It was an emotional night for Mayor John Rodriguez, who only captured 36 per cent of the vote.

Oxford County

The winds of change swept through Oxford County as four incumbent mayors went down to defeat. Only one sitting mayor managed to get re-elected, two were acclaimed and there was one vacancy filled.

In Woodstock, Pat Sobeski beat incumbent Michael Harding by more than 4,100 votes. John Lessif took the title from Stephen Molnar in Tillsonburg by 300 votes.

In Ingersoll, the results were reversed from the 2006 election with Ted Comiskey beating Paul Holbrough by nearly 400 votes. In Blandford-Blenheim, Marion Wearn edged incumbent Kenn Howling while in Norwich Township Donald Doan returns to the mayor's chair.

Southwestern Ontario

Carl Zehr was re-elected mayor of Kitchener and Brenda Halloran won the mayor's seat in Waterloo. Cambridge also elected its incumbent Mayor Doug Craig for another term. In Guelph, Mayor Karen Farbridge easily won reelection with more than 4,300 votes.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley won his eighth straight term.

It's another term for Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis, and several mayors in Essex County. Mr. Francis defeated challenger Rick Limoges by more than 10,000 votes. However, John Adams is out in Leamington after being defeated by John Paterson. In Lasalle, former town official Ken Antaya beat Mayor Gary Baxter.

Tom Bain was re-elected in Lakeshore, Nelson Santos in Kingsville, Ron McDermott in Essex and Wayne Hurst in Amherstburg.

Chatham-Kent's incumbent mayor Randy Hope won a second term by more than 2,000 votes.

Northern Ontario

Retired police officer Keith Hobbs defeated two-time incumbent Mayor Lynn Peterson in Thunder Bay. Sault Ste. Marie elected its first female mayor in Debbie Amaroso, who took the top job by little more than 800 votes.

In all, there were 444 municipal votes in Ontario.

With files from The Canadian Press, Adrian Morrow and Sarah Boesveld

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