Councillors debate Pam McConnell’s legacy in appointment of Troisi

4:19 p.m. Nov. 2, 2017. Lucy Troisi, moments after being appointed Ward 28 city councillor.

Nov. 2, 2017

By Arianne Robinson

Toronto City Council appointed former City of Toronto parks manager Lucy Troisi as Ward 28 city councillor Thursday afternoon. Council needed two rounds of ballots to get a majority for one of the 27 candidates.

Troisi won with 24 out of 44 votes (one councillor was absent). Michael Creek, the candidate supported by the family of late councillor Pam McConnell, the councillor Troisi will be replacing, had 19 votes in the first and second round.

Troisi spoke with reporters after meeting Creek and the McConnell family. She said she respected their support for Creek but she also had a lovely relationship with McConnell. “Pam was a real role model for me. I worked a long time with Pam, and both of us had similar agendas so I’m looking forward to going back and representing the ward in a different capacity,” Troisi said.

However, the extent of similarities between their agendas is questionable based on the magnitude of support for Creek from most of the left-leaning councillors (of which McConnell was among them), plus a handful of centrist councillors and Mayor John Tory.

As councillors made their speeches for who should be chosen for the Ward 28 seat, emotions ran high as a handful made arguments that Troisi should be chosen because she is a woman in politics and that was a key issue for McConnell, while others made arguments that Creek, an openly gay man who has experience with poverty, represented another kind of identity (there are no openly gay men on council).

Councillor Joe Cressy spoke in support of Creek. “[Mike] personifies Pam’s work in so many ways. As a gay man living with a disability he will bring new viewpoints to this chamber that Pam spoke of. As someone who experienced homelessness, rose out of it to buy a condo in Regent Park by design, he can speak directly to Pam’s work in that area… ” Cressy said. “If I just take a step back, put all the politics out of this place, take everything away… the right thing to do is to ensure we’re carrying on Pam’s work in the way Pam would have wanted… In my heart of hearts you honour Pam’s legacy by selecting the candidate that she would have selected herself, and to me that is Michael Creek.”

Councillor Michael Thompson was also passionate, saying he knew McConnell for 25 years and worked with her for 14 years. “I was looking for a woman… this was about her legacy,” Thompson said.

“I have walked with her, in varying committee rooms across this country, where she advocated for women being in politics. And so today I’m going to elect a man? No, I’m sorry, I’m not. I’m going to elect the best woman for this position, because based on my relationship with Pam McConnell, that’s what I believe she would have wanted… I can tell you the amount of energy I spent with her on women in politics, there’s no way I can do anything differently.”

Councillor Maria Augimeri disagreed. “I think the wrong message is being put out there with respect to Pam,” Augimeri said on the chamber floor. “Pam was not a saint. We’re not out here to sanctify Pam. She was a street scrapper. Okay, she was a person who could fight her own fights, and yes, she supported women. Progressive women.”

Troisi said she likes and will support the mayor’s agenda, will advocate for poverty reduction, and welcomes the partnership between Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs for the technology neighbourhood idea for Ward 28. “I’m glad that our city is getting such economic development from major corporations like Google,” Troisi said to reporters.

Creek also spoke to reporters after the decision. “I feel very satisfied that I did everything I could to convince people that I was the right candidate,” Creek said. “I feel a little disappointed for the McConnell family. They didn’t have to write an endorsement letter or a letter of support. They felt that Pam would have wanted them to do that. For people sometimes in an elected position to sort of make fun of that or not make it as genuinely important, I think, can be hurtful and it has no place in any types of politics.”

Norm Kelly, one of the oldest councillors was pleased with the outcome. “Oh, I think the right choice was made. I’ve known and worked with Pam for what, two, two and half decades, and everywhere she went – to [Federation of Canadian Municipalities], around the world, she had one point to make: more women in politics. I thought it was either puzzling or disturbing that so many of the people closest to her were willing to support a guy, just violating the basic principle on which Pam’s career was based.”

If true, then Troisi is a good fit. “There’s not enough [women] represented right now and I think we need that perspective on council,” Troisi said.

However, some councillors completely disagreed. Paula Fletcher said in her remarks to council before the vote, “What I really want to tell you about is what Pam’s number one issue was, and it’s why the mayor made Pam the deputy mayor. He made her deputy mayor, not to have more women, not to have more LGBT members of council, he made Pam deputy mayor to fight poverty in this city. Full stop. Which she dedicated herself, from the second he gave her that position, to her dying breath… I am standing with what the community thinks. Nobody else has brought forward a large number of people to say this is the person that represents us in this difficult appointment process, so I would urge you all to support Mike Creek.”

Troisi will be sworn in at the next city council meeting next week.