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Why some familiar faces are taking a second shot at Toronto city council seats this year

Some familiar faces will take another shot at winning a seat on a Toronto city council that’s poised for a lot of change in this fall’s election.

With seven incumbents departing, a group of former city politicians, and some veterans of the tumultuous 2018 campaign, have registered to run. The official deadline to enter the race passed on Friday, setting the stage for the Oct. 24 vote.

Among the dozens of candidates for Toronto’s 25 wards are a trio of former councillors trying to make comebacks — Jon Burnside, Lorenzo Berardinetti and Vince Crisanti.

“Just plain and simple, it’s my dream job,” Burnside said of his bid to return to city hall.

Just plain and simple, it’s my dream job.– Jon Burnside, former Toronto city councillor

In 2018, Premier Doug Ford’s decision to slash the size of council from 47 to 25 wards pitted incumbents against each other and forced others to reconsider running. Burnside lost to fellow incumbent Jaye Robinson. Earlier this year, Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong announced he would not seek another term in Ward 16, Don Valley East, where Burnside is now running.

“I know it’s a weird thing to say, but I love being the councillor,” Burnside added. “I love being with people. And I love trying to build communities.” 

Berardinetti, who served on council for 15 years before being elected to the Ontario Legislature in 2003, is also trying to make a comeback at city hall. He’ll face off against Coun. Gary Crawford, the incumbent in Ward 20, Scarborough Southwest.

“I think you can make more changes at the city level,” Berardinetti said, contrasting that to his experience in the party system at Queen’s Park. “I have experience and I would like to offer my services back to the city.”

In 2018, former councillor Vince Crisanti lost to fellow incumbent Michael Ford in Ward 1, Etobicoke-North. This time around, he’s jumped back into the race to represent the ward now that Ford has moved on to Queen’s Park.

Chris Moise, pictured here in May of 2018, is running for Toronto city council again after withdrawing his candidacy four years ago when council was cut to 25 wards from 47. (Submitted by Chris Moise)

Chris Moise was among a crop of new candidates who pulled out of the 2018 race when the council cut happened. Instead of running against his friend Kristyn Wong-Tam in Ward 13, Toronto Centre, he successfully campaigned for reelection as a trustee at the Toronto District School Board.  Like Michael Ford, Wong-Tam has since moved on to provincial politics, having won election in June.

After six years at the school board, Moise said he can bring his skills and experience to city hall.

“Being a black man and gay man on the school board, I brought my lived experience to the role,” he said.

“If I wasn’t there talking about my experience in my community and advocating, some of the issues I brought up never would have surfaced.”

Lily Cheng, a candidate running in Ward 18, Willowdale, came second in 2018 to incumbent John Filion who has decided not to run again. 

Cheng, who runs the Facebook page North York Moms, says she didn’t “disappear” after the last election, and instead dove into work in the community. She is concerned about the levels of apathy and cynicism in city politics but hopes voters will elect a new and diverse council.

“There seems to be a lack of connection between city hall and the people who live in the communities,” she said.

“I’ve been a community organizer in Willowdale now for almost a decade so I really feel that our democracy is at risk because the threads of our communities are frayed.”

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