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Mayor-elect Ford, meet your fresh-faced council

Toronto mayor-elect Rob Ford is greeted by supporters following his election victory.

Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Toronto will wake up Tuesday to a city council rife with new faces, after at least six normally untouchable incumbents went down to defeat in a wave of voter anger that swept controversial Rob Ford into the mayor's office.

Add in the nine open seats - where the incumbent either did not seek re-election or ran for mayor - and the 44-member city council will have an unprecedented 14 rookies on the job. A full third of the room will be new to council's sometimes gruelling marathon debates, procedural tricks and bitter wrangling.

It is this council that will have to deal with the extraordinary Mr. Ford, who not only comes with an aggressive agenda of cost-cutting but also a proposal to slice council in half.

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Some had predicted that council would dramatically shift to the right in Monday's vote, just as the mayor's office has. But the political mix does not look radically different, at least on paper, despite all the new faces.

But long-time Scarborough city councillor Brian Ashton (Ward 36 - Scarborough Southwest), who chose not to run in this election, predicts that whatever the head count among council's various factions, councillors will be scared rightward because of the anger candidates heard on doorsteps.

"I'm not sure it even matters necessarily to look at the faces and the newcomers," Mr. Ashton said. "This council will shift right out of fear and what they've witnessed during the campaign."

The left-leaning core of the coalition that supported Mayor David Miller's initiatives certainly lost several big names, with Sandra Bussin in Ward 32 (Beaches-East York) and Adrian Heaps in Ward 35 (Scarborough Southwest) losing their seats. It also lost a key battle for Adam Giambrone's seat in Ward 18 (Davenport), amid allegations of voting irregularities, when local businesswoman Ana Bailao defeated Mr. Giambrone's assistant, Kevin Beaulieu.

But that left-leaning block - which will take on an opposition role under Mr. Ford - also gained, with Sarah Doucette knocking off centrist Bill Saundercook in Ward 13 (Parkdale-High Park), and Mary Fragedakis winning retiring fiscal conservative Case Ootes's seat in Ward 29 (Toronto-Danforth).

Voter turnout was unusually high at more than 50 per cent. And there were lineups at some polling stations that forced voters to wait more than an hour. In some cases, the lineups persisted after the polls were supposed to close - and after Mr. Ford had been declared the winner by news media projections.

Few expect the often-criticized nasty tone of debate in council to change. The new council will face a divided city after the mayoral race. And it will be faced, very quickly, with the challenge of balancing its $9-billion budget amid all that anger over taxes and calls for drastic spending cuts.

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John Matlow, the outspoken school trustee with Liberal connections who replaces the retiring Michael Walker in Ward 22 (Trinity Spadina), said he would try to work with Mr. Ford.

"Let's see what Mr. Ford brings forward with his agenda … and I will see which items I can deal with and which items I can't," Mr. Matlow said.

The way the new council functions will also depend on the new mayor and how he hands out the committee chairs and other favours he controls in exchange for loyalty. That power makes it possible for a mayor to reach out beyond his core loyalists - from the left under Mr. Miller, and now set to be a group on the right under Mr. Ford - and marshal majorities on council.

Mr. Miller rarely lost an important vote. His most famous defeat, on the controversial land transfer and auto registration taxes in July 2007, was only a delay: The taxes were later passed in a 26-19 vote after weeks of arm-twisting, brinksmanship and bitterness.

He used to rely on about a dozen left-leaning loyalists, plus the regular votes of at least 10, but often more, centrist or centre-right supporters. Between 12 and 15 right-leaning councillors tended to vote against almost everything Mr. Miller or his majority proposed. That math may now start to work in reverse under Mr. Ford.

With a report from Robert Parker and Josh O'Kane.

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About the Author
Toronto City Hall Reporter

Jeff Gray is The Globe and Mail’s Toronto City Hall reporter. He has worked at The Globe since 1998. He spent six years as the law reporter in The Globe’s Report on Business, covering Bay Street law firms and writing about fraud, insider trading and corporate tax avoidance. More

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