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Former trustee to run in TDSB by-election

A former Toronto District School Board trustee who lost his seat in the 2010 provincial election is vying for one of the vacated seats at the board's coming by-election.

Scott Harrison, formerly a trustee for Ward 19, is now running in Ward 20, Scarborough-Agincourt on Feb. 27. He is one of the 14 candidates who threw their hats into the ring, with another 17 candidates for Ward 17, Don Valley East.

Nominations for both wards closed Friday. The two TDSB seats have been empty since veteran trustees Michael Coteau and Soo Wong were elected to the provincial legislature as Liberal MPPs, and the TDSB voted to have by-elections instead of appointments.

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Mr. Harrison lost his seat to union-backed trustee David Smith two years ago and said he's back on the ballot to take care of "unfinished business." Restoring an annual Scarborough parent conference for 2013, cancelled this year after a funding crunch, is on the top of his agenda.

"I know Scarborough and the TDSB quite well," Mr. Harrison said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "I can hit the ground running for parents right away."

Carol McDonald, who served as a trustee on the pre-amalgamation Scarborough Board of Education, is also running in Ward 20. She is currently an assistant to city budget chief Mike Del Grande, but is planning to take a leave of absence to campaign in late January.

Not that she expects any favours from Mr. Del Grande if elected, but "the budget chief is my councillor and if I go to him as a school trustee, we would be familiar with each other and I think that is a huge advantage. There is a great line of communication between us."

Both Mr. Harrison and Ms. McDonald are concerned about voter turnout for the school trustee by-elections, which have typically lower voter participation regular elections for a mayor, city councillors and trustees.

"It's different from a normal election day, because you've got to get people who are interested in how educational tax dollars are being spent," Ms. McDonald said.

In spite of the cost of mounting a by-election, most TDSB trustees agreed a by-election would be the democratic choice, given that the new trustees will serve for three more years, until the next municipal election.

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Candidates for Ward 17 include Sean-Michael Harrison and Sam Ghose, both of whom ran in the previous election, as well as Tyler Johnson, an executive assistant at TDSB and former Pride Toronto youth co-ordinator.

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