Today is election day across Ontario's thousands of local municipalities, ranging from the big ones in Toronto and Mississauga, to itty bitty races where specific people need to be beaten back by large margins. Turnout in these elections are hilariously low usually, despite municipalities being the closest level of government to your daily life - even Toronto's competitive 2010 mayoral race only saw 50% turnout.
So don't expect to see high numbers of voters, except in the few cases there are highly competitive races. Lets go over some, if you've got the time.
Mississauga is definitely going to see a spike in turnout, featuring its first actual competitive mayoral race since its creation in the 1970s. The main contenders are former Liberal MP Bonnie Crombie and former Liberal MPP Steve Mahoney - the race was fairly close before, but Crombie managed to score the endorsement of Hurricane Hazel McCallion herself a couple weeks ago, and that has put her far in the lead of Mahoney. Both have some great ideas though, and its good to see Mississauga has such strong contenders after McCallion's retirement.
In Hamilton, incumbent mayor Bob Bratina has decided not to seek re-election after one term (and is instead seeking election as a federal MP for the Liberals in Hamilton East-Stoney Creek). That has brought forward three main contenders to replace him: Brian McHattie, a downtown Councillor with ties to the NDP establishment in the city; Brad Clark, a suburban Councillor with ties to the Conservatives; and Fred Eisenberger, the previous mayor before Bratina who was defeated in 2010 who also has ties to the Conservatives, though maybe some Liberals as well. Clark has been accused of essentially trying out the Rob Ford strategy of pitting the suburbs against the downtown core, and it seems McHattie and him will work up their various bases. Eisenberger led in the polls I've seen scattered around, and probably has the best chance of winning due to broader appeal among both constituencies. Its really up in the air at this point though.
Over in Brampton, Susan Fennell's drama continues on and she still seems likely to go down to defeat, probably to former Liberal MPP and cabinet member Linda Jeffrey. Fennell, mayor since 2000, had her reputation ruined due to an audit that found she inappropriately charged hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city expensive account. She then sued the audit company for "exceeding its mandate," and the city's integrity commissioner looked in and eventually cleared her of wrongdoing, saying its an "established practice" that she followed and can't be held accountable for (right). That happened last week, so who knows how the polls have moved since then, but it seems likely that not enough people are going to be convinced by Fennell's cleared-by-technicality to win re-election. We'll see.
In southwestern Ontario, Windsor and London are looking for new mayors. Windsor's popular incumbent Eddie Francis decided to not seek re-election, and his position is being sought by three main contenders: Councillor Drew Dilkens, a leftist with probable NDP ties; Larry Horwitz, a former Liberal candidate from 2008 using suspiciously Ford-like campaign graphics; and John Millson, a former mayor from the late 1980s who may/may not have had the backing of former Liberal MPP and cabinet member Sandra Pupatello. I have zero clue about whats going on, but it looks like a fun race.
In London, former mayor Joe Fontana was booted out for being a corrupt asshat, so the city needs a new mayor. The main contenders, as far as I can tell, are business Paul Cheng, who has a largely self-financed campaign; and sitting councillors Matt Brown, Roger Caranci, and Joe Swan. An early poll suggested Brown had the lead over Cheng, but not much has come out since. Like Windsor, I have no idea whats going on, but I like the cut of Cheng's campaign, who says "folks" more than Doug Ford does.
Speaking of, the Ford legacy is on the line tonight in Canada's biggest city. John Tory, Olivia Chow, and Doug Ford are all competing to succeed Rob Ford as mayor, and the polls indicate so far that Tory has the lead. I don't live in Toronto, so it doesn't really matter to me - though I will heartily chuckle if Doug Ford gets in - but if I did, I would probably vote for Tory. I do find his resume impressive and he clearly has some positive ideas for the city, plus at this point he seems likely the only person who can defeat Ford. That being said, I feel like my heart is with Olivia Chow - she really does speak to a lot of the issues I care about, especially alleviating poverty. Yet I suspect a lot of people are saying "I like Olivia, but..." today. Tory will make a competent mayor, that's all people can ask for and actually receive at this point.
Some council races to watch are Ward 2, where Rob Ford is seeking his hold seat but does have some spirited challengers; Ward 7, where Comrade Mammoliti will hopefully go down to defeat; Ward 12, where former MP John Nunziata is trying to join his sister on council; Ward 24, where Dan Fox is running a strong campaign to unseat incumbent David Shiner; Ward 32, where incumbent Mary-Margaret McMahon is running against former incumbent Sandra Bussin and certified weirdo James Sears; and Ward 42, where former Liberal/PC candidate and incumbent Raymond Cho is facing off against Neethan Shan, former NDP candidate/party president who is perennially close to being successful, kind of like the NDP's John Tory.
On a personal note, the reason I haven't been as active lately is that I have been managing the campaign of my friend Michael Kukhta, who is running for Public School Trustee here in my city of Burlington (whose races are mostly pretty boring, especially for Mayor). We're hoping to get Michael elected tonight against three other opponents, and I'll be watching the results come in at a local bar, so no live results unless Teddy does them. But good luck to everyone in their respective campaigns!
Oh, right, Alberta - I nearly forgot. That's my Central Canadian bias coming out.
There are four by-elections in Alberta tonight as well, the first - and final, if it goes badly - test for new PC Premier Jim Prentice, who himself is a candidate on the ballot. Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-Elbow, Calgary-West, and Edmonton-Whitemud feature Prentice and two appointed cabinet members (and another guy) facing off against stiff competition in the Wildrose Party, and maybe the NDP or Liberals if they get their act together. I encourage people to mosey on over to Daveberta's website for more information.
These by-elections will heavily influence the fate of Prentice's government, though if he loses a riding I wouldn't say its the end - Prentice came in at a bad time for the hegemonic PCs, and there is a lot of anger out there. By-elections are a chance for people to express that anger, and not necessarily decide the fate of a government. So whatever happens, do not read too much into it.
One of the biggest questions to come out of this, as it always happens anyways, is the question of a merger on the progressive side of Alberta's spectrum. There are three main "progressive" parties in this election - the Alberta Liberals, the NDP, and the Alberta Party, the latter which poached former Redford/Nenshi campaign guru Stephen Carter. For some reason this speculation doesn't include the revitalized Greens, but whatever. Its very, very unlikely any of these parties will win any of the ridings up for grabs here, so any "success" tonight will be about who can end up in what position in the final results.
There was some hoo-haa in Calgary about the Alberta Party trying to set-up Liberals saying things about merger/co-operation (which, in fairness, Kent Hehr, does promote), but we're not likely to see any movements by any party to merge right now. The Liberals are counting on the Trudeau effect; the NDP are counting on new leader Rachel Notley's appeal; and the Alberta Party is betting on Carter. Co-operation in certain ridings makes sense, but the hail-mary plays of these respective parties have hardly come to pass.
Besides, any new entity that comes out of a merger will, at best, manage to get an Official Opposition role to a Wildrose government in this climate. The PCs are not swinging wildly to the right, and frankly neither are the Wildrosers. Everyone is making a play for the "progressive" centre, which is a lot more prevalent in Alberta than most people actually think. A merged progressive party will just be another party making the same play, and not even a mildly successful one at that - 20-25% of the vote, and that is being very generous. If it were me, I'd rather take my chances as a separate party and maybe find my own success - and if a strong movement for a merger does arrive, I'd have a better bargaining position based on my own success, wouldn't I? ;)