Brampton's race for mayor heated up Monday as the first experienced challenger filed papers to run against incumbent mayor Susan Fennell.
Regional councillor John Sanderson announced his candidacy Monday afternoon, three months after he pushed for an independent audit of Ms. Fennell's spending following revelations the mayor had expensed flight upgrades, language classes and other items fellow councillors deemed "questionable" for a total of $186,154.60 since December, 2010.
Mr. Sanderson's campaign website went live soon after he registered, outlining an extensive six-part platform that took direct attacks at Ms. Fennell.
He promised to end the culture of entitlement at city hall and to post all his expenses and full schedule online if elected mayor.
"I will not accept the current $49,000 a year taxpayer-funded limousine service enjoyed by the current Mayor," he wrote, adding that if elected, he will cut his salary to $185,000 – $28,000 less than Ms. Fennell's.
Ms. Fennell volleyed back to Mr. Sanderson's attacks Monday evening, saying her opponent had a "record of hypocrisy" in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. Ms. Fennell points out that when she proposed scrapping salary increases for members of council in November (she had come under fire earlier that year for her high salary) Mr. Sanderson was vocal in his opposition.
She cited items that have appeared on Mr. Sanderson's expense reports: thousands of dollars spent on golf tournaments, hockey tickets and souvenir bags. She alleges he hid some of his spending in city departmental budgets, an accusation some councillors levelled against her last fall.
According to documents released by the city following a freedom of information request, Mr. Sanderson had spent $37,873.50 of his $60,000 term discretionary budget as of Nov. 30, 2013.
"John Sanderson has a record that he is going to have to answer for, and a vision for Brampton that is backward-looking," Ms. Fennell.
Mr. Sanderson could not be reached for comment.
On Wednesday, the city's chief administrative officer is expected to present a report in council that outlines details on an upcoming audit of all councillors' expenses. Following the controversy of Ms. Fennell's expenses, members voted in November for a forensic audit of all of council's spending for the term. Mr. Corbett wrote that the cost of the audit will be between $100,000 and $200,000 and take "no less than four months to complete." It is likely the results will be available before voters head to the polls in late October.
Before he was elected to council in 2006, Mr. Sanderson served as president of the Brampton Board of Trade in 2001. On Tuesday, the current president of the board, Susan Crawford, will play host to Ms. Fennell and members of the local business community at the annual Mayor's Luncheon.
Ms. Fennell has served four terms as mayor of Brampton. In 2010, she was elected with 51 per cent of the vote.
Other candidates who have stepped into the race include Sukhjinder Gill, Sewak Singh Manak and Miriam Wylie.