Fil­ion flip-flop results in win over Cheng

Un­prece­dented events led to a tu­mul­tuous cam­paign pe­riod

Bayview Post - - News -

In an elec­tion that saw the size of coun­cil halved a month be­fore vot­ing day, new and sea­soned po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates were faced with un­prece­dented chal­lenges in a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

In the new Ward 18 Wil­low­dale, can­di­dates who were run­ning a noin­cum­bent race sud­denly saw their coun­cil­lor, John Fil­ion, back in the run­ning.

“I ac­tu­ally think that for those of us who have gone through this in­tense time, there’s prob­a­bly some PTSD that’s hap­pened for some peo­ple based on what hap­pened,” said can­di­date Lily Cheng, jok­ingly.

A few years ago, Cheng had founded a group called North York Moms and be­gan work­ing with sin­gle moth­ers in the com­mu­nity. Through her work with North York Moms, she be­came ac­quainted with Fil­ion. Early on, he asked her to run, with the ex­pec­ta­tion that he would be re­tir­ing. At the time, she de­clined.

Then the van at­tack hap­pened in April, a tragedy that left 10 victims in its wake and shocked the en­tire com­mu­nity. She was asked to be the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Wil­low­dale at the Toronto vigil. It was a line in her speech that con­vinced her to run.

“I said some­thing like, ‘Let’s not just go back to be­ing busy,’ ” she said. “Af­ter a tragedy, we all awak­ened to the fact that we could con­trib­ute to the com­mu­nity, and peo­ple were all will­ing to put aside their busy sched­ules to do some­thing good. As I said those words, I felt like I was talk­ing to my­self. I felt, maybe there’s some­thing greater that I’m sup­posed to do for this com­mu­nity.”

So she signed up. With Fil­ion as her po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sor, she put to­gether a core team of 10 peo­ple, and started knock­ing on doors.

Af­ter coun­cil was cut in half in mid-Septem­ber, Cheng had a tough de­ci­sion to make: Stay the course and con­tinue cam­paign­ing against her men­tor in an ex­panded ward or leave the race and go back to grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“In the end, I de­cided that I would con­tinue be­cause I felt that just be­ing a woman, a mi­nor­ity and a mom –– all voices that are un­der­rep­re­sented on city coun­cil –– I had to per­se­vere,” she said.

Fil­ion had ad­vised her to fin­ish fundrais­ing by the end of Au­gust, but af­ter the ward size dou­bled, that be­came a ma­jor ob­sta­cle.

“So we thought we had enough, and then sud­denly, we re­ally didn’t have enough,” said Cheng. “I still con­sider it a mir­a­cle that we got to where we did.”

Sonny Cho, an en­trepreneur who has ties with the lo­cal real es­tate com­mu­nity, also ran as a can­di­date. Al­though he had no trou­ble se­cur­ing the fundrais­ing he needed, he felt that time sud­denly be­came a much big­ger hur­dle.

“We were fo­cused on half the area, and we cov­ered that ge­og­ra­phy well,” he re­called. “But the other half, by that time, there was only so much we could cover in that short pe­riod of time.”

Cho had run mu­nic­i­pally eight years pre­vi­ously, against David Shiner, in the for­mer eastern ward of Wil­low­dale. Even when Fil­ion stepped back in the race, Cho kept on cam­paign­ing.

“Beat­ing an in­cum­bent is not easy, but we felt that there was enough dis­con­tent with John Fil­ion that there was some pos­si­bil­ity,” he said. “At the doors, we found that a lot of peo­ple were dis­con­tent with Mr. Fil­ion or felt that he should have re­tired and not come back.”

In the end, Fil­ion won with 31.06 per cent of the votes. Cheng trailed 10 points be­hind him, and Cho fin­ished with 12 per cent of the vote.

Both Cho and Cheng con­tacted Fil­ion af­ter the results came out.

“I called him on the elec­tion night to con­grat­u­late him,” he said. “I’m one of the few can­di­dates he ac­tu­ally shakes hands with. We’re on good terms. There are things we dis­agree with, but John is a good guy.”

Cheng stopped by Fil­ion’s cel­e­bra­tion on elec­tion night.

“One thing that I’m grate­ful for is that I don’t at­tach my value to the suc­cess or fail­ure of this cam­paign,” she said. “I just be­lieved that I would walk out this jour­ney the best I could in the way I was meant to walk it out.”

“There’s prob­a­bly some PTSD that’s hap­pened for some peo­ple based on what hap­pened.”

Ward 18 Wil­low­dale run­ner-up in the last elec­tion, Lily Cheng

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.