Giorgio Mammoliti, Ward 7’s incumbent, is one of the city’s most notorious and toxic councillors. Of all the politicians in Toronto Mammoliti is in an important sense the worst: he may not be as harmful to this city as the Ford brothers have been, but that is only because of a relative lack of opportunity. His multiple instances of alleged corruption, his general incompetence, his homophobia, and his venal, near-psychotic demeanour at council render him unfit for public office of any kind.
This creates a problem for Ward 7 residents: there are two leading contenders to replace him—Nick Di Nizio and Keegan Henry Mathieu—but one is polling much better than the other. Last time numbers were made public, Nick Di Nizio was more or less tied with Mammoliti, and stands a very good chance of beating him. If ousting Mammoliti is your overriding concern, Di Nizio is the clear choice for a strategic vote.
But Di Nizio’s candidacy is deeply flawed.
His grasp of city-wide policy is sometimes loose, he tends to avoid direct answers on major issues, and after several conversations with Di Nizio it became clear to us that he suffers from both severe blindspots when it comes to Ward 7’s most vulnerable residents—their lived experiences and how they can best be supported—as well as a willingness to go wherever the political winds blow in an attempt to gain votes.
Di Nizio waffles, for instance, on the vexed TAVIS policing program, saying it needs unspecified reforms but showing no real understanding of the damage it has caused to residents who deal with aggressive police tactics on a daily basis. Di Nizio is also now waffling on the Finch LRT—the single most important infrastructure project in that part of the city. In our earlier discussions with him he declared himself a firm supporter of the project; now he is suggesting that perhaps some of the Finch LRT should be buried, and that a study should be commissioned to examine this option. If pursued at council, as we have all seen over years of mind-bogglingly terrible transit debates, this would leave Finch-area residents with no new transit at all. This combination of factors makes Di Nizio, in our view, unsupportable.
All of this discussion of Di Nizio seems to render Keegan Henry-Mathieu an afterthought, which is far from the case. Despite his weaker polling numbers Henry-Mathieu is by a wide margin the superior candidate. Mammoliti is toxic, but a saner representative who waffles and has blindspots won’t necessarily leave Ward 7 residents much better off. Henry-Mathieu, on the other hand, genuinely understands the pressures on the ward’s population better, particularly with respect to community housing, has a better grasp of women’s issues and minority issues, and is one of the few candidates who are willing to talk openly about government actually raising more money in order to provide services to people who lack them.
In our conversations with him, and when questioned about the Finch LRT at the Ward 7 debate, Henry-Mathieu did not qualify, waffle, or parse the question; he simply affirmed his support for the Finch LRT as planned. That may not sound like much, but in Toronto’s dysfunctional transit-planning environment it is essential, and rare. Any candidate can get additional support by promising that LRTs be buried or elevated or redirected or replaced with subways; supporting the LRT that transit experts have determined is the best and most cost-effective option available has become a brave political decision. Henry-Mathieu has the courage of his convictions and a willingness to follow the evidence where it leads; council needs more people with both those qualities in its ranks.
There are times where there is a real case to be made for strategic voting—where stopping someone is the most important priority. But the truth is that for all his toxicity Mammoliti is a largely powerless councillor and one whose toxicity, in a sense, prevents him from doing certain kinds of practical damage, because he isn’t taken seriously. We would be glad for council to be free of his brand of smug vitriol. But Di Nizio does not offer a strong enough alternative.
Ward 7 residents have the opportunity to vote for someone who will listen to them and who will stand up for them. That candidate is Keegan Henry-Mathieu.