Retired Etobicoke businessman Peter Leon is the newest member of Toronto City Council, chosen in an upset vote that went against the wishes of Mayor Rob Ford and the recommendation of the local community council.
Mr. Leon, a political neophyte who was appointed by council Thursday from a field of 41 candidates that included several veteran politicians, had the endorsement of former deputy mayor Doug Holyday to replace him in Ward 3 until next year's municipal election. The seat was left vacant after Mr. Holyday won a provincial by-election in the summer.
Mr. Ford and the Etobicoke York Community Council both endorsed former Tory MPP and cabinet minister Chris Stockwell. Mr. Stockwell, with his years of experience in provincial and municipal politics, was expected to step into a major role in Mr. Ford's administration, possibly getting a seat on his executive committee.
After a brief meeting with Mr. Ford in his office following the vote, Mr. Leon indicated it was too soon to say what his role would be.
"I go where I am asked to go and serve wherever I can serve and be an advantage. I think they've got to find out what Peter Leon's all about first," he said.
Mr. Ford said he was looking for an experienced candidate, but would work with Mr. Leon to set up his office. Asked about committee appointments, Mr. Ford responded: "We are figuring it out."
Mr. Leon won the seat with the support of 26 councillors on the third round of voting during a special council meeting. Both Mr. Leon and Mr. Stockwell got 14 votes in the first round before Mr. Leon took the lead. He needed the votes of a majority of those councillors present to be appointed.
Mr. Leon said after the vote he would be "filling some very big shoes" as he takes over from Mr. Holyday. He choked up a bit as he thanked his supporters – including his wife of 48 years, Barbara. "I'm usually not short of words, but I am today," he told reporters. "This is overwhelming."
A resident of Etobicoke for 56 years, Mr. Leon, 71, stressed his involvement in the community to council and his work with several charities. "Let me assure you that I have the pulse of the people in Ward 3," he said.
Mr. Leon said he has no intention of running in 2014. A member of the local riding association for the federal Conservatives, he has said he shares Mr. Holyday's views on fiscal matters.
His only attempt to run for public office was about 25 years ago, when he ran unsuccessfully as a trustee for the separate school board. He has held several public posts, including with the former boards of Etobicoke Hydro and the Etobicoke library. Mr. Leon also volunteered on Mr. Holyday's recent by-election campaign.
Mr. Leon was sworn in immediately after the vote and by suppertime Thursday he was in the chamber for the regular council meeting seated at Mr. Holyday's former desk.
Council voted to appoint someone to fill Mr. Holyday's seat in August, opting not to hold a by-election because of the cost.
With a report from Kaleigh Rogers