Adam Vaughan, Kristyn Wong-Tam, and supporters at Kristyn Wong-Tam’s campaign launch. Photo courtesy of Kristyn Wong-Tam.
Monday night, as election results poured in and took many of us by surprise—if not the victors than at least the margins of their victories—we sat down to chat with two of the people who will anchor the left-leaning wing of council: newly elected Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale), and returning incumbent Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina).
Vaughan doubled his vote total from 2006, and took three out of every four votes cast to retain his seat. “I hope to live up to their vote of confidence,” said a visibly relieved and relaxed Vaughan, citing strong relationships with businesses and residents as cause for his wide margin of victory. The mood inside his victory party at Supermarket was one of cautious optimism, as supporters weighed Vaughan’s re-election against Rob Ford’s decisive mayoral victory.
Vaughan himself downplayed the scope of Ford’s win, noting that half of all voters chose a different candidate. “I hope he takes that message to heart, and realizes that he’s actually got to do what he says [outgoing mayor David] Miller never did, which is govern with both sides of the aisle. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t—we’ll let the next four years tell that story.”
Vaughan admitted that voters have sent progressive councillors “a message about core services, about value for tax dollars, about getting back to basics.” While saying he looks forward to finding common ground with the new council on these issues, Vaughan also promised to fight for the arts, transit, parks, and public housing. “That’s going to happen with or without Rob Ford being mayor, because that’s Toronto.”
Vaughan went on to say he is open to working with Ford, qualifying that he and other progressive councillors “have a responsibility to say yes, but we also have a right to say no. When mayor-elect Ford is right, he’ll get my vote, and when he’s wrong, he’ll hear about it.”
When asked about the narrow victory of Ward 27 councillor-elect Kristyn Wong-Tam, whom he had endorsed, Vaughan beamed, calling the win “one of those Toronto stories that makes you so, so proud.” However, he noted “there were about five or six other candidates that I’d hoped were going to join with her [that] didn’t make it tonight.” Vaughan was referencing the likes of Mohamed Dhanani, Karen Sun, and Kevin Beaulieu, all of whom were defeated on election night.
We found Wong-Tam a little to the east of Vaughan’s Kensington Market party; she was having a party of her own at the jammed Slacks Reataurant and Bar. Wong-Tam edged out Ken Chan, a former police officer and advisor to mayoral runner-up George Smitherman, by a mere 462 votes. Campaign volunteers and voters spilled onto the sidewalk along Church Street as a teary-eyed Wong-Tam pledged her thanks for “one of the most incredible experiences in my life, and also the life of my family.”
When we chatted with her, Wong-Tam attributed her victory to “hard work, discipline, and a positive message that I repeated over and over again.” Wong-Tam, who grew up in Regent Park after immigrating to Canada in 1975, expressed pride in her upbringing by working-class parents: “I was honest about where I came from, I didn’t hide the fact that I was from social housing….this shows that we are a compassionate city and a compassionate ward.” She summed up her win as a sign to others to “speak from your heart, speak from your lived experiences—you’re probably not the only one who’s gone through it.”
In the years leading up to the election, Vaughan and Wong-Tam worked together to alter plans for the proposed development of a Home Depot at Queen West and Portland. Wong-Tam’s election platform included the “Communication, Engagement, and Participation” (CEP) model she developed to engage local residents. Adam Vaughan’s re-election bid also highlighted strong community consultation on local planning, as well as the need to resolve conflicts with developers without involving the Ontario Municipal Board.
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