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The more they want change, the more things stay the same

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It is an accepted principle of municipal politics that incumbent mayors and councillors very rarely get booted out of office. The lack of voter participation and the lack of organized political parties to focus contempt upon contributes to the ease that incumbents have in winning reelection. The only incumbent Toronto councillor to lose the election was Peter Li Preti who went down to defeat to Anthony Perruzza in Ward 8, York Weston. With the exception of former deputy mayor Case Ootes who managed to just squeak by challenger Diane Alexopoulos in Ward 29, Toronto Danforth, all other incumbents rode to victory with relative ease.

What was interesting in this election were not the predictable results but the opinion polls that preceded them. A Decima Research poll conducted shortly before the election showed that 58% of respondents said that they wanted a change. Not only was this figure well over 50 percent, but it was a point higher than the percentage of voters who voted for no Mayor David Miller and no change. And Miller ran on the relative simple platform of continuing to do what he had started during the last three years. The mayor promised no great changes in his second term, yet many people who wanted change were obviously happy to vote for the status quo. Although Miller’s closest and only serious challenger, Jane Pitfield, never caught on and captured 32% of the vote, she differed with the mayor on most major issues. She was hardly an unknown quantity when the election was held. She was the only serious mayoral candidate who represented the change that many people wanted but in the end, refused to vote for. The results of this poll seemed to defy logic when it came to those who wanted change but voted for Miller.

Another poll that seemed to not make sense was one done a couple of weeks before the election by Leger Marketing for the Toronto Sun. This poll identified crime as the number one major issue facing the city of Toronto. Thirty-six per cent of respondents named crime as the most important election issue, compared with only 9 per cent who held similar views back in 2003. And as the election campaign wound down three years ago and the race became one between David Miller and John Tory, crime seemed to be the most defining issue. The perception if not the reality that violent crime is increasing and a major election issue had quadrupled since 2003 if the polls are considered to be accurate. David Miller was the mayor during 2005 that is now known as “the year of the gun”, a year that ended with the killing of 15-year-old Jane Creba at a Boxing Day sale in one of the city’s major shopping districts. Miller and Pitfield had completely different views on how to fight crime. It seems inconceivable that anyone would vote for David Miller if they truly believed that the number one issue facing the city is violent crime. For those who believe that crime is important, Miller should have gone down to defeat for getting rid of popular police chief Julian Fantino if crime was important to as many people who told the pollsters it was. But obviously many of those who identified crime as the major issue voted for Miller and the status quo.

It could be that there were some respondents who simply gave the answer to what they thought the pollsters wanted to hear. Too embarrassed to say what their number one priority really was, the state of the city’s street furniture whatever that is, they simply blurted out crime. Then again it cannot be taken for granted that people who were answering the pollster’s questions knew anything about the issues and the candidates. Or, this could be the one time in 20 or whatever, that the poll simply wasn’t accurate.

The past Toronto municipal election was a real sleeper – but the polls were interesting.

See results here
Arthur Weinreb Arthur Weinreb is an author, columnist and Associate Editor of Toronto Free Press. His work has appeared on Newsmax.com, Men's News Daily, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, Glenn Beck and The Rant.
Arthur can be reached at: aweinreb@interlog.com
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