After securing the support of long-time mayor and political legend Hazel McCallion – the most valuable endorsement in town – Bonnie Crombie rose to victory in Mississauga on Monday night, becoming the city's next mayor.
The former Liberal MP and Ward 5 councillor won with an overwhelming 64 per cent of the votes according to unofficial results, more than double that of her chief opponent, Steve Mahoney.
Ms. Crombie and Mr. Mahoney, a former Liberal MP, MPP and councillor, were neck and neck in opinion polls throughout most of the campaign and had similar platforms. In early October, however, Ms. Crombie surged ahead of Mr. Mahoney by 25 points in a Forum Research poll, which was taken soon after a video was released of Ms. McCallion endorsing Ms. Crombie at a fundraiser.
As a politician who has enjoyed extremely high approval ratings – even in the midst of a conflict of interest case – Ms. McCallion's endorsement proved key to Ms. Crombie's success. When she took the stage Monday night, Ms. Crombie gave credit to the outgoing mayor before all others.
"Hazel McCallion has taken our city from farm fields and from fruit trees to the sixth-largest city in Canada and an economic powerhouse in North America," she said with a hoarse voice, pausing as the crowd cheered at the mention of Ms. McCallion's name.
This election was a historic one for Mississauga. For 36 years, Ms. McCallion, now 93, claimed easy wins in election after election. While she won strong mandates, often without formally campaigning, voter turnout was abysmally low. In the previous five elections, only one in four eligible voters on average cast a ballot. Voter turnout was up slightly at 32 per cent, according to unofficial results.
While Ms. McCallion initially said she would remain neutral during the campaign, she unexpectedly got behind Ms. Crombie a few weeks ago at a campaign fundraiser.
"The key was her platform. She consulted people first. She got input from all the organizations. As my favourite saying goes: She did her homework! And it certainly paid off tonight," Ms. McCallion said as she took the stage at Ms. Crombie's victory party.
Ms. Crombie inherits a very different kind of city from the one Ms. McCallion led when she was first elected in 1978. For decades, the city thrived as it sold off green fields and raked in development fees. Now Mississauga is built out, fees have dried up and the city has an $80-million annual infrastructure deficit – and went into debt for the first time this past municipal term. From 1994 to 2002, Mississauga was so prosperous, it froze property taxes. For now, Ms. Crombie has pledged to keep property taxes within the rate of inflation.
While Mr. Mahoney won the support of several council members as well as local MPs and MPPs, in the end, only one endorsement mattered. Mr. Mahoney told The Globe and Mail that "of course" the outgoing mayor's endorsement influenced the outcome of the election.
Go here for results in the Mississauga election.