Former cop wants to establish ‘strong relationships’ at City Hall
The Leaside Pub was rocking Monday night after the results of the municipal election poured in.
With Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” playing full blast on the speakers of the Laird and Wicksteed watering hole, former police officer and now Ward 26 councillor-elect Jon Burnside made his entrance, shaking hands with supporters and sharing in the revelry of those gathered.
For a brief moment even one of Burnside’s opponents, David Sparrow, ambled into the tavern to congratulate him on the only upset on Toronto city council in the municipal election.
Burnside had unseated lawyer John Parker, who had held the Don Valley west ward for the past eight years, with 42.73 percent (9,415) of the vote. Parker had 27.99 percent (6,167 votes).
Before he made his victory speech to supporters, he told the Town Crier he was humbled by the experience of being elected to represent such a diverse ward.
“I’m not going to talk about the past,” he said outside the Leaside Pub. “I’m just going to talk about the future, and it means I’m going to be very engaged with the community.
“That’s not just Leaside. There are four distinct areas.”
Those include Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park, Burnside emphasized.
Inside, to the hundreds gathered, he quipped about speaking from the heart with 20 cameras trained on him.
He thanked his sister Laura and his girlfriend Charlene Quesnelle Kew, and noted the first thing he’ll do is build relationships at City Hall, particularly with mayor-elect John Tory.
“It was the prospect of John Tory being our next mayor that pushed me into the race,” he told the crowd. “It was the opportunity to finally move the city forward with a mayor that can work with others, and had that breadth of experience.”
Further south on Laird Drive, the just-defeated John Parker was enjoying the company of a few close friends at the All Canadian Self-Storage.
Under the glow of LED lighting, and enveloped by the smell of barbecued sausages, the husband and father of five acknowledged his defeat graciously.
“It’s pretty clear that there were two products on offer in this election and the voters, quite decisively, chose the other product,” he said. “There were clearly other areas where people decided I wasn’t what they were looking for.”
With eight years’ experience municipally, and an MPP for an additional four, Parker would not say if this was his swan song in politics.
“A great philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said, ‘One should never make predictions, particularly about the future,” he said, with a wink.
The highlight of his career, he said, was the saving and heritage status of 211 Laird, known as the Pease Foundry Company Building, which now houses Laird-Eglinton Pet Hospital.
“I think that’s the type of building that should be preserved,” he said, adding his refusal to let it be lost was the first step in establishing Laird as “an avenue of pride and distinction.”
Finishing third with 3,055 votes was Ishrath Velshi, who said she ran a clean campaign, only to face harassment from some quarters.
“There were some unfortunate circumstances which I faced,” she said Monday night from her campaign headquarters on William Morgan Drive. “There were a few emails that came my way that were inappropriate.
“It’s unfortunate in this day and age as a woman of colour that I would face that in this campaign.”
Velshi says she gave it her all in the campaign, with an “incredible team.”
Rounding out the six candidates were ACTRA president Sparrow, in fourth with 1,786 votes, Wasim Vania in fifth with 1,033 votes and Dimitre Popov in sixth with 578 votes.
Sparrow was joined by his family — wife Lisa, and daughters Jocelyn and Sarah — at his campaign party at Against the Grain.
He said he was surprised to have come in fourth, but was not bitter about it. He attributed the outcome to the ward seeking change.
“I’m happy to see Jon in there,” he said. “I know he will bring a new energy to what goes on here in Ward 26.
“My hope for him is that he’ll buckle down and come to understand the learning curve at City Hall. And I expect him to step in and do what he said he’ll do, which is actually be on the side of the community.”