Toronto-Danforth race heats up

The latest entry in one of the city’s hottest municipal election races has some heavy-hitters behind her.

Mary Fragedakis, a 38-year-old businesswoman and community activist, publicly launched her campaign to become Toronto-Danforth councillor at the Danforth’s Megas Restaurant on Thursday.

According to the former mayor of East York, Michael Prue, Fragedakis is the one “East York has been waiting for.”

Prue, now the member of provincial parliament for Beaches-East York, came out with fellow New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns of Toronto-Danforth to show support for Fragedakis.

Speaking to a crowd of her friends and family, Prue said Fragedakis would restore community identity to East York, which he feels is suffering since Toronto’s amalgamation in 1998.

 “I’m wearing my East York button today, ” Prue said. “I swore on the last day of East York that I would wear this button until the day I died, or until the day we got our community back. This will be the very first step, I’m sure, in getting our community back.”

 “That’s high praise,” Fragedakis responded, “and it makes me feel good. I do believe that I can (live up to it).”

Fragedakis said that building bridges and uniting Ward 29’s diverse residents requires strong leadership.

“The strength of this community lies in its diversity,” she said, advocating child care, environmental initiatives and senior services to unite people “of all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.”

Prue said that East Yorkers complain that they don’t have the same access to their government representatives that they did “in the old days” before the Conservative provincial government of Mike Harris imposed the consolidation of the former independent municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto.

Tabuns echoed Prue’s comments about the “mega-city.”

“It used to have a close-knit feel here, and it doesn’t as much anymore,” he said. “I think Mary’s the kind of active community organizer that can go out there and pull people together, and create that community spirit.”

Fragedakis’ resume includes lifelong residency in East York, co-founding the Broadview Community Youth Group and winning Toronto’s 2008 Best Overall Performance for small businesses. She holds an MA in political science and a BA in history from the University of Toronto, and she has financial training from Canadian Securities.

Fragedakis’ entry into the race with Prue’s and Tabuns’ endorsement suggests that she’ll stake out the left of the political spectrum, offsetting another high-profile candidate to the right — Jane Pitfield, the former Ward 26/Don Valley West councillor who was David Miller’s major opponent in the 2006 mayor’s race.

Also running in Toronto-Danforth are first-time contenders Chris Caldwell and Mike Restivo. Caldwell is an urban sustainability expert and Restivo is a semi-retired field technician and lifelong East York resident.

Another candidate, self-employed businessman John Richardson, is a veteran of Ward 29 politics, having run unsuccessfully for council in 2006.

Jennifer Wood rounds out the field of six candidates in Ward 29. The race there is wide-open since veteran councillor Case Ootes announced that he won’t be seeking re-election on Oct. 25.