In a race that often got very personal, the two leading Mississauga mayoral candidates have decided to play nice in the final days of campaigning.
Steve Mahoney and Bonnie Crombie, both former Liberal MPs with experience on Mississauga City Council and with similar political agendas, have spent months launching attacks on each other over everything from work experience, to a past expense scandal, to the alleged use of political robocalls.
While the two polled within a few points of one another for the majority of the campaign, a recent Forum Research poll suggests Ms. Crombie has pulled into the lead with 56-per-cent support to 31 per cent for Mr. Mahoney. Still, both say they are aggressively campaigning in the next four days to win the support of voters who have not seen a real mayoral election since Hazel McCallion was first elected to the post 36 years ago.
Rather than focusing their messaging on attacks against the other, both candidates have filled their schedules in this past week with community group meetings to discuss their platforms.
"Part of it is shoring up the people who have committed to make sure the Hazel endorsement hasn't driven people away," Mr. Mahoney said.
On October 12, Ms. Crombie's team released a video of Ms. McCallion endorsing their candidate at a fundraiser two days earlier – which may be why Ms. Crombie established a substantial lead in the Forum poll last week.
"I say to you, look at the programs … of both candidates, the chief candidates that are running, and I have every confidence that when you review it, that you will vote for Bonnie Crombie," Ms. McCallion said in a speech at the Emerald Chinese Restaurant.
Even before the election campaign was under way, Ms. McCallion told the media she intended to stay neutral. Her endorsement of Ms. Crombie came as a shock to the Mahoney family, especially Mr. Mahoney's wife, Katie, one of Ms. McCallion's top allies on council and a close personal friend. Mr. Mahoney volleyed back the next weekend with a list of local MPs and MPPs who had endorsed him.
"Katie's hurt by [Hazel's endorsement]. I don't really care, to be honest," he said.
Mr. Mahoney did take issue with Ms. Crombie's timing – the video was released on Thanksgiving weekend on the same day Mr. Mahoney's mother died. He told Mississauga News, "It's just the most crass, negative politics I have ever seen."
The local paper also reported that Ms. Crombie and her husband were "escorted out" of the funeral visitation for Mr. Mahoney's mother because "they weren't welcome."
Since that interview earlier this week, both camps have played down what happened.
"I have known Mr. Mahoney and his family for many years. My husband and I attended the visitation to pay our respects to the family and offer condolences because we thought it was the right thing to do. At such times, politics should be put aside. We were asked to leave and we did," Ms. Crombie said in an e-mail.
Mr. Mahoney said the whole issue had become "a tempest in a teapot." He said his wife had asked the Crombies to leave, they offered their condolences, and that was that. He said he saw Ms. Crombie the next day and she offered her condolences again, which he thanked her for.