There were 444 municipal elections in Ontario last week, but none grabbed more attention than the mayoral race in Brampton.
The rookie mayor, Linda Jeffrey, was seeking re-election under unusual circumstances. Part of what made those circumstances so unusual was her opponent, Patrick Brown, who was eyeing yet another job in politics — the third he’d run for this year alone.
A reminder: after Brown resigned from his position as PC leader following allegations of sexual misconduct, he determined to make a political comeback. After a couple of false starts, he announced that he’d run for the Peel Regional chair’s job, which was supposed to be an elected position for the first time this year.
Then Premier Doug Ford returned things to the way they’d been before: the Peel job would once again be appointed by the Peel Region council. Brown, finding himself without a mission, immediately pivoted to run for the Brampton mayoralty.
He no doubt set his political sights on Brampton — despite having only a tangential connection to the city — because Jeffrey seemed vulnerable. Turned out, she was. (Some members of Ford’s election team even helped out on Jeffrey’s campaign, despite the fact Jeffrey is a former Liberal MPP and cabinet minister.)
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Brown narrowly defeated Jeffrey, beating her by fewer than 4,000 votes out of the more than 105,000 cast. No one in Ontario was more astonished by the results than Jeffrey herself. Having first been elected as a councillor in the Flower City in 1991, she felt that she knew her constituents well. When she was defeated, she evinced an air of disbelief — and it was hard not to feel sympathy for her.
But having seen half a dozen former Liberal MPPs who lost in June’s provincial election make successful comebacks at the municipal level, Jeffrey may now be wondering whether a similar move could be in the cards for her.
The fact is, thanks to Ford’s legal changes, there is still one significant job vacancy in municipal politics in Peel Region: council chair. Peel Council is the upper tier of that region’s municipal government, composed of representatives from Brampton, Caledon, and Mississauga.
I’ve heard from a source familiar with the political situation in Peel that Jeffrey has started making phone calls and soliciting opinions on whether she should put her name forward for the regional chair. If she does, she’ll have company: two now-retired Brampton city councillors, Elaine Moore and Gael Miles, have already announced that they’ll vie for the job, too. And the rivalry between Brampton and Mississauga means that the latter city will want a candidate to champion as well. At the moment, it’s looking like that could be the former Mississauga councillor Nando Iannicca. And even though he denies having any interest in the job, Peel Region’s best-known former politician — ex-finance minister Charles Sousa — can’t be ruled out either.
There are some curious aspects to this race. Jeffrey was a big proponent of making the Peel chair’s job an elected position. It seems she may now be seeking an appointment anyway.
Her entry into the race could also split the vote among the three Brampton candidates — potentially giving Iannicca, as the lone Mississauga candidate, an easier path to the finish line.
And perhaps the most uncomfortable question, which some are no doubt asking Jeffrey: Are you treating the Peel chairmanship as a consolation prize after missing out on the job you really wanted?
Marcel Wieder, a spokesperson for Jeffrey, who’s out of the country at the moment, says, “The Mayor has not made any decision on her future at this time. She is using the time away to reflect and decide her future path.”
All these issues will be resolved on December 6, when the newly elected Peel Region council holds its inaugural meeting.