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Villain: Frances Nunziata

Nominated for: treating her colleagues like wayward schoolchildren.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

During city council’s first meeting of 2012, Councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) did something unexpected: he moved a motion to reverse tens of millions of dollars in proposed budget cuts by Mayor Rob Ford’s administration. Councillors began to rise and question Colle. As Paula Fletcher (Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth) stood for her turn, council’s speaker, Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South Weston)—whose job is to preside over meetings objectively and ensure that debate is fair—acknowledged her by name before adding, “stick to the script.” When Fletcher replied that she didn’t have a script, the speaker insisted, “I’m sure everybody has a script. Just follow your script.”

Cynical sniping of this sort is an unfortunately common occurrence on the floor of council, particularly from veteran councillors. What a shame that Nunziata, the person charged to lead council meetings and maintain order, can’t resist such mean-spirited, partisan behaviour while sitting in the speaker’s chair.

Nunziata exhibits few of the qualities you might expect from someone in her role. For one thing, she often seems confused about or unconcerned with procedure; Nunziata recently ruled a motion by none other than Councillor Fletcher out of order after councillors had been debating it for nearly an hour. At the time, the speaker claimed she knew all along the motion was no good, but got distracted by the number of councillors who wanted to debate it. Nunziata often seems convinced that if she needs to interrupt a colleague mid-speech, the remainder of that person’s speaking time is forfeit and she may simply move on.

Nunziata’s indifference to rules and inability to maintain order carried serious consequences this year. During a wild debate on the civic appointments process, the speaker asked Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) to retract potentially intimidating and impugning statements towards city ombudsman Fiona Crean. When Mammoliti refused, Nunziata suggested that he leave the chamber, as council rules require, but didn’t actually enforce her decision. Mammoliti’s ability to remain despite his behaviour was a message that Nunziata either didn’t know how to enforce the rules, or didn’t care to do so. (He later chose to leave of his own accord.)

Nearly anyone who took in even a quarter-hour of council proceedings this year knows that Nunziata’s hallmark as speaker is her apparent burning contempt for many fellow elected officials. It’s particularly evident during a term where 14 rookie councillors, nearly a third of councillors, are usually polite, diplomatic, and unconcerned with lobbing insults and dismissals at their peers. Perhaps they haven’t been made cynical yet. And to returning Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), Nunziata said recently: “You don’t know how to tell the truth.” She seems to thrive on her endless verbal assault of perceived political foes, as if moralizing, editorializing, and comebacks are part of the job description.

Mere notions of respect, civility, and fairness are mocked by this speaker at almost every opportunity. This summer, in the wake of mass shootings downtown and in Scarborough, council was debating possible responses to the violence. As is sometimes the case, the discussion became unruly when councillors got confused about an item to be voted on. Nunziata’s response? “I guess some people don’t care about the shootings.”

See the other nominees in the Dividers category:

Sue-Ann Levy

Using her position to deride instead of reason.
  Michael Bryant

An astonishingly tone-deaf response to a tragic death.
  James Pasternak and QuAIA Alarmism

Undermining Pride Toronto, and Toronto’s commitment to diversity.

Unsubstantiated “Safety Concerns”

Using race as an indicator of crime.
  Yunel Escobar

Homophobic slurs and frustrating non-apologies.
  Doug Holyday

Trying to turn an already divided house even more against itself.

Cast Your Ballot


  • Drake Smith

    Well Said. Ford is a idiot, Nunziata is the teacher that gives him a passing grade everytime.
    Why is it so hard to have leaders that represent the mature and civil sate we wish to live.

  • A. MacDonald

    A friend of mine just found (March 24/13) Nunziata’s cell phone on the ground. She looked through the phone and called her with the good news. Her response was to ‘get it over to her right now’. My friend told her that it was her late mother’s birthday and she was on her way to the cemetery to visit and would be about an hour. Naziatl told her that this was unacceptable and to get it to her right away. My friend made her wait until after her visit.
    Naziata is fortunate that her phone was found by a very nice lady with more class than she has; but I guess any class would be more.

  • Beverly Pearson

    Had a first hand encounter on Saturday that showed Francis Nanziatas true character…I stumbled across her cell phone which was lying on the ground face down beside my car the Lions Arena in Weston….I search for an owner. .but was not successful with that at first. .so I thought the next step would be to wait for someone to call it. A short while later Frances called…I answered and told her that I have her phone and would be happy to return it. I told her where I had found it and she confirmed that she was at the arena earlier.
    SHE asked me if I could drop it off right at that moment but I told her that I could not as I was on my way to the cemetery going to see my Mum that had very recently passed away and I had to be there as it was her birthday.
    Frances was not happy with that answer and said that she needed it right away…but I told her the soonest. That I could return it would be an hour….instead of sending her condolences to me…she said she needed it….I did not respond to that.
    One hour later I delivered the phone to her house. …she old me that she appreciated me bringing it to was a quick thanks and good was all about her phone. .and her….well She was a true politition at that moment… talks and bullshit walks….do they really care about the people?

    • Better T.O.

      Dear Beverly,

      My sincerest condolences to you for your loss. As well, thank you for sharing your experience with francis Nunziata. I would have made her wait a few days or made her come to me to fetch it, dog that she is. Her behaviour towards you was disgusting.

      I was at a weston community meeting with metrolinx two nights ago. Nunziata was the moderator. If she wasn’t interrupting residents or cutting them off mid-sentence when she didn’t like their question, she’d be barking at every person who was asking metrolinx for some clarification which because that counted as 2 questions instead of 1 and she wouldn’t allow anyone to ask more than one question. And the more we tried, the more she barked.

      At one point, a metrolinx made a comment referring to how big of a budget they have to throw at the air rail link project and if it needs more workers then they have the money for it. Nunziata then puts her hand on the man’s arm and says “Don’t worry, I’m sure there are some people in this community who can use the job” then she laughed like we were a piece of mud on her shoe. She’s a vile, low class woman. always will be.