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The Globe and Mail

Crisanti carried to victory on the winds of change

Vince Crisanti is one of Toronto's new city councillors. He pulled off an upset in Ward 1, North Etobicoke, where he was photographed, in a Tim Horton's and removing an election sign nearby. He aligned himself closely with Mayor-elect Rob Ford during the campaign.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The wind meets little resistance in Ward 1 (Etobicoke North), the city's northwest corner, a flat but functional place of low-slung strip malls.

It certainly met no obstacles on Monday, when it swept three-term councillor Suzan Hall out of City Hall and left Vincent Crisanti, a former City of Etobicoke councillor, in her place. The same stiff gust lifted Mr. Crisanti's close political ally and fellow west-end suburbanite Rob Ford into the mayor's office.

At a Tim Hortons at Albion Road and Highway 27 on Tuesday, Mr. Crisanti stuck to the basics that got him elected along with a handful of Ford-minded newcomers, including the mayor-elect's brother, Doug Ford, one ward to the south.

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Broken-down buses. Potholed streets. Too many taxes.

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done here, and it's not getting done," said Mr. Crisanti, a 57-year-old grandfather with a background in sales, marketing and real estate. "People told me, 'Vince, we're paying taxes, we've lived in this area for 45 years, why aren't we getting money spent here in our area?' "

Spending, of course, will have to be slashed to meet the commitments of Mr. Ford and his followers, which include scrapping slow-moving streetcars in favour of speedier but far costlier subways.

So be it, said Mr. Crisanti, who uses one of the same pithy examples Mr. Ford did - "the city's budget doubled in 10 years" - to suggest there's plenty of superfluous flesh between knife and bone.

Less weighty are the new councillor's insights into the roots of his political passion. Asked to think back to a formative time in youth that might explain where he now finds himself, his brow creased and he said, "You ask deep questions."

Mr. Crisanti paused and then continued, "I guess I've always been a people person … listening to their concerns, doing something for them … that's what I am, I just enjoy people."

As the candidate in a diverse, largely working-class ward with a 64-per-cent immigrant population, Mr. Crisanti did not lack for variety during door-to-door campaigning. However, Mr. Ford's stated view that Toronto can't sustain many more newcomers did not seem to faze the voters he met, Mr. Crisanti said.

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"They all love him," he said, dismissing the idea that Mr. Ford's comments were xenophobic. "I can probably count on one hand, and have fingers left over, how many people reacted negatively [to Mr. Ford]at the doorstep. The message was clear - he's got overwhelming support."

Mr. Crisanti, in turn, had the support of Mr. Ford, as stated outright in his campaign materials, and only slightly more subtly in the new councillor's choice of red, white and blue, and the slogan "Respect for Taxpayers," for his lawn signs.

Justin Hane, Mr. Crisanti's campaign manager, insisted the sign design was not a product of Mr. Ford's team, but of 20 hours of Mr. Hane's own work. He described the broader Crisanti campaign similarly, saying that while the councillor and mayor-elect are of like mind, Mr. Crisanti ran his own show.

"We were glad to have Rob's support near the end," Mr. Hane said, "but we did this on our own … there were no regular meetings between the two campaigns."

John Anga, a close friend and organizer for Mr. Crisanti and Mr. Ford, offered a different version. Mr. Anga said Mr. Ford asked him more than a year ago about suitable Ward 1 candidates, and Mr. Anga suggested Mr. Crisanti.

"Rob and I are friends," Mr. Anga said. "He was looking to us to get someone up here."

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Several meetings between the two candidates ensued, some at Mr. Anga's house and others at the home of a north Etobicoke couple. It was decided Mr. Ford's brother would run in Ward 2, while Mr. Crisanti carried the flag for Ward 1, Mr. Anga said.

The strategy worked, but the hard work facing a 44-member, city-wide council lies ahead in the coming four years.

Mr. Crisanti is confident it will be four years marked by co-operative progress, not acrimony and division, as Mr. Ford's detractors fear.

"I think this council is going to work far better than the previous one," he said, adding that the mandate given Mr. Ford by voters is broad. "We have an understanding that, as a council, we have to work more efficiently together."

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