Recently, Toronto Star columnist Royson James lamented the lack of “new blood” among the near-record number of council candidates running in this November’s municipal election.

“And these days, old and recycled blood may have to do for those seeking new blood at the seat of local democracy,” he wrote. “Welcome back John Sewell and John Adams … and Ron Moeser…. Then, there is the connected — ex-Citytv man Adam Vaughan challenging in Trinity-Spadina and the last-minute parachute candidate Gord Perks, riding in on his environmental horse into Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park. Old new blood.”

If, by “new blood,” he means young blood (sorry for the Rob-Lowe-on-skates flashback), James should be inspired by the race in Ward 26, which is wide open since incumbent councillor Jane Pitfield has left to take on David Miller. The race — with 15 candidates, the most crowded in the city — features two impressive candidates under 30.

Bahar Aminvaziri entered politics through public-space activist Dave Meslin’s City Idol competition, the wonderful, un-televised exercise dreamt up to draw in some uncommon fresh faces.

Aminvaziri is 27 years old, a U of T masters candidate and environmental engineer who emigrated to Canada from Iran to attend university seven years ago. She points to different priorities in Ward 26’s four neighbourhoods: historical preservation and safety in Leaside, poorly planned development in Wynford Park, the need for a community centre in Flemingdon Park and a lack of skills training and language classes for immigrants in Thorncliffe Park. How fresh is this face? It’s still wearing braces.

Meanwhile, further right on the political spectrum is 26-year-old Natalie Maniates, who boasts an endorsement from Conservative Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay. Her campaign features a “FIT for 26” theme: “I’m 26 years old, running in Ward 26 and my platform deals with the city over the next 20 years, which will take us to 2026,” Maniates says.

The former sorority girl and campus conservative figures waste management (she’s in favour of incineration and a credit system for garbage tags) and crime (she’s believes in the broken-windows theory) are the big issues in this election.

What does Maniates think of the City Idol process that nominated her youthful opponent? “I don’t watch much TV,” she says, “but I think it’s a fun show.” I can hear Mez howling from here.

Election Fever Online
I’m a frequent contributor to Spacing magazine, so take my endorsement of it with a grain of salt. But while you’re weighing my bias, head on over to Spacing‘s brand-spanking-new election blog at http://www.spacing.ca/votes.

The public-space advocates have assembled 13 young writers and urban thinkers to blog about the election from points across the city, which just might mean their blog will offer the most comprehensive campaign coverage in Toronto.

Best of all, they’ve snagged former Toronto Life urban affairs columnist and multiple National Magazine Award winner John Lorinc — who may be the best city politics writer in the country — to write a column.

From Lorinc’s first post: “David Miller is coasting into an election on the strength of his personality and intellect and a respectable, though modest, record in his first term…. So it’s time for him to make a bold move and spend some of the political capital he so loves to hoard…. The bottom line is that he’s got to make a big gesture in order to rekindle the imagination of Torontonians. If he puts himself on cruise control, Miller could quickly become another Barbara Hall — pleasant, popular, yet ultimately crippled by his unwillingness to be effective and bold. The choice is his, and ours.”

The only thing that would’ve been better than Lorinc blogging for Spacing would’ve been if he’d been hired to run Miller’s campaign.

Jane’s Door is Open
Brendan Cahill of Jane Pitfield’s campaign emailed to call me out on something I wrote in last week’s notebook. “Read in your Sept. 14 edition of 2006 election notebook that Jane Pitfield’s campaign office at the northwest corner of Dundas and Pacific in the Junction has never been opened or staffed. Really? As far as I know, it’s been opened and staffed since we had our grand opening July 18. In fact it’s open Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm, and sometimes on the weekend….”

I sent my two research assistants (my wife Rebecca and my son Colum) by on Monday to check out his claim and, sure enough, her office was open with four campaign staffers helpfully offering a brochure.

So sorry. But I was telling the truth when I wrote that — though I live across the street — I’d never seen it open, which, since I work from 10am to 6pm, makes sense.

My larger point, of course, was that it didn’t look like the central hub of a serious city-wide campaign hoping to capture the votes of a couple million people in fewer than three months. Maybe it’s time to extend the bankers’ hours.

Originally published September 21, 2006 in Eye Weekly. 

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