Some familiar names and new options for mayor and council

The gloves are off, and candidates for municipal council, mayor and school trustees are knocking on doors, updating social media, glad-handing at dinners and honing their policy chops. All in the hopes that you will entrust them with your vote.

Running for office is a thankless job sometimes, but an important one as municipal political issues are the ones that arguably affect us most on a day-to-day basis. But, although some respect should be given to anyone who steps up and runs, the reality is that some are more worthy to represent us than others.

It’s impossible in this space to cover all the candidate platforms but here is a look at some of the key battles going on this fall in Markham.

Mayor

It’s been quite a while since there was even a question of who would be Markham’s mayor after an election with incumbent Frank Scarpitti practically a shoo-in against past aspirants to his seat. With solid support from a cross section of the city, he has been popular and seemed embedded in the mayor’s chair (and on York Region council) for as long as he wanted.

But this time around, Deputy Mayor Don Hamilton will take on Scarpitti.

Hamilton surprised many, including himself, when he moved from Ward 3 councillor and won not only a regional council seat but also the deputy mayor role in the 2018 election.

The deputy mayor title is bestowed on the regional councillor who received the most votes of the four elected regional positions available and was long held by Jack Heath who has decided to retire from the public fray this time around.

The current deputy mayor managed to acquire thousands of votes outside his Unionville home base, and no one is writing him off this time either with only Scarpitti and Hamilton going head-to-head with none of the usual long-shot candidates that typically run to split off any votes from the main contenders.

Regional council

This battle will see four of the 11 registrants for regional council be elected to represent the entire city not only on Markham council, but also on York Region council along with the mayor.

This is a strong field with long-time incumbents Jim Jones and Joe Li coming back for more. But the battle will also include former regional councillor Nirmala Armstrong, former MPP Michael Chan, current Ward 2 councillor Alan Ho and businessman Greg Marcos.

Also on the ballot is Shanta Sundarason, a local community activist who has started local charities like Pink Cars devoted to assisting seniors getting access to COVID vaccinations.

Allan Tam will be running this time around hoping that his solid performance as a long-time York Region school board trustee will serve him well. Tam is also president of a Lion’s Club and on a number of committees including those for church groups and Markham Prayer Breakfast and touts’ fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets and low taxes as key planks in his platform.

Tamil TV executive Srini Suppira, as well as business person Ivy Lee and financial services business owner Sophia Sun, round out the roster of candidates.

This would be a tough call if voters only had one vote. But, you can vote for your top four in addition to a vote for your local councillor and mayor.

Ward 1

The Thornhill ward, squeezed between highway 407 and Steeles Avenue, Yonge St on the west and the 404 on the east featured a heated battle last election with eight aspirants. This time, only two will do battle -incumbent Keith Irish and controversial former councillor Howard Shore.

Irish has built a reputation as a solid performer on council. His tenure has featured battles with the province over the provincial subway plans that want to detour the extension under residential homes which has put him in good stead with both council allies and residents.

Ward 2

With Alan Ho contesting a regional council seat, the path to victory in the northeast corner of the city is wide open for a newcomer. Enter five contestants including Larry Lau who finished a respectable second behind Ho last time.

Lau is a British Armed Forces veteran who served in the Hong Kong Regiment and is a Royal Canadian Army cadets training officer. He has years of experience in the backrooms of politics working in the provincial government. He promises to leverage his knowledge to the benefit of Markham and be able to hit the ground running. He would appear to be a worthy front-runner.

But Ritch Lau, no relation to Larry, also brings some name recognition as a journalist and Fairchild TV anchor.

Yan Wang also brings some media experience as a show host on The Region 105.9 while Trina Kollis and Steven Sun round out the roster.

Ward 3

Ward 3, which encompasses Unionville Main Street was won by incumbent Reid McAlpine with a healthy 39 per cent of the vote. He has been a steady performer on council with a reputation for being accessible and responsive to residents. He has championed issues like Main Street revitalization plans, new trails and better winter maintenance of them and more green space in the City. McAlpine has a thing for trying to develop a simpler and more efficient zoning and administrative services which is a noble but intimidating undertaking.

This time he faces five aspirants for his job but all different from last time.

The field includes Bill Chan, a former Toronto police officer who served as Chinese Liaison Officer while Robin Choy is positioning himself as a protest candidate opposing the Warden/Highway 7 development plan (although a new development plan for the land has recently been submitted to the City) and advocates for lots of new cameras in Markham to prevent crime.

Rounding out the roster is Sheng Huang, Annie Chan and Sandra Tam. 

Ward 4

The last battle here in the central ward that stretches from McCowan to 9th Line and Highway 7 to Bur Oak in the north featured four contestants last time. But it turned out to not be much of a contest at all as the formidable incumbent Karen Rea cleaned up with a massive 78 per cent of the vote. This time around only Viradhi (Vid) Sansanwal is back to try his luck.

Sansanwal, a local businessman who, in addition to other endeavours builds custom emergency services vehicles, will be in for a tough slog against the forceful councillor who has built a reputation as a tell-it-like-it-is fiscally conservative manager of voter tax dollars. She has also been active on numerous boards and charities and task forces even outside of what her role as councillor demands including serving as a Big Brothers and Sisters mentor, a supporter of 360°Experience (which supports homeless youth), and a host of other causes.

Ward 5

Last time around this ward was one of the most heavily contested with 13 people vying for the councillor role. This time only two will battle incumbent Andrew Keyes.

After a successful career in corporate communications and advertising, Keyes used his involvement in the community including as a president of the Cornell Ratepayers Association to jump to municipal politics. He has shown a dedication to the role and hopes his efforts will be rewarded with a second term. Not surprisingly as a fiscal conservative, he positions himself as an assiduous custodian of taxpayer dollars as well as an advocate for better seniors’ living in Markham.

Keyes will put his term accomplishments up against realtor Sri Sivasubramaniam who finished in third place last time around and Ashok Bangia, a transportation planning engineer. Bangia, who is also back for a second run at the position, is a member of the Markham Environmental Advisory Committee.

Ward 6

This should be a fairly clear contest win for incumbent Amanda Yeung Collucci who is a well-regarded veteran of council. The ward in north-central Markham between 16th and 19th Ave. and Warden and Highway 48/Markham Rd. has a fast-growing diverse community that gave Yeung Collucci over 40 per cent of the vote last time.

Yeung Collucci continues to run on the principles of keeping taxes low, developing safer roads and school zones, better traffic management, responsible commercial development and more green spaces.

Her only competitor is Darren Soo who registered for the election but has no contact or website information on the Elections Markham website.

Ward 7

The southeast corner of the city will host an interesting race, partly due to the absence of incumbent Khalid Usman who registered to contest this election but withdrew before the final deadline was reached.

As a result, the wide-open field will feature five candidates including Nimisha Patel who seems to have the best organization of the candidates with a resume featuring tons of community work including working on charity projects and co-chairing a Ward 7 residents’ association. She has also been a vocal advocate for better amenities in the area at council.

She will join Juanita Nathan, Shahzad Habib and Neetu Gupta in battle for the seat.

Ward 8

This ward was won by Isa Lee in 2018. She seems well-positioned again this time having made herself accessible during the pandemic, securing PPE supplies for local businesses and charities, supporting charity drives, and prides herself on being an active listener regarding city development. Affordable housing, better community safety are also points of focus for her 2022 platform.

Deepak Talreja, presents himself as a ‘bridge builder’ advocating for more police and emergency resources, a defender of the environment and an ambitious and energetic voice of his community.

Jack Levinson and Nihanthan Ratnasingham round out the field.

The Wrap

Some interesting options beckon on voting day. The information provided here is only the start though, and many candidates did not have public profiles or contact information posted as of publishing. Look for your candidates though. Or better yet, your candidates should look for you. Aside from candidate visits or a good Google search, electionsmarkham.ca is a good source of candidate information that includes contact information including email addresses, website and social media information (if provided upon registration) as well as voter and donor information.

Remember, voting is your chance to officially have your say. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about who others choose. Cast your votes on October 24. Your community is depending on you!

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