City council candidate Jon Burnside accepted a tight second-place finish in Ward 26 tonight, coming within 300 votes of incumbent John Parker. The Ward 26/Don Valley West race was identified weeks ago as one to watch closely, with former police officer Burnside and Yale graduate Mohamed Dhanani acting as strong challengers to Parker.
“To come (that close) to an incumbent who has name recognition and all that experience, I’m thrilled,” Burnside said at a gathering at the Fox and the Fiddle pub on Laird Avenue.
He commented earlier in the day that his newcomer status was his greatest challenge.
“I had to work that much harder,” he said, noting he was the only candidate also working full-time during the campaign. An entrepreneur, he is president of a food delivery service called Healthy Heart Meals.
The voting was briefly threatened by suggestions of fraud at the polls at Thorncliffe Community Centre earlier in the day. Police attended after allegations that two Vote Toronto volunteers had promoted a particular candidate and had handed out pre-marked ballots. No charges were laid, but J.J. Shire, a Burnside scrutineer, said an official complaint was made to Elections Toronto.
Despite that, Burnside was feeling positive about the election.
“I’ve met a lot of wonderful people as a result of this experience,” he said.
A life-long Leaside resident and community advocate, Burnside, 44, said he is already well-known in Leaside.
“But it’s the relationships that I’ve built outside Leaside that I’ll say is my proudest achievement,” he noted.
Sagu Binthachadren is one such ally. Immigrating to Canada from Sri Lanka in 1992 and representing the Tamil community at Flemingdon Park, Binthachadren was running for council in Ward 26 herself until Sept. 10.
She said she decided to withdraw after meeting Burnside and realizing that their visions were the same.
“He is fully engaged with the community,” she said. “It is coming from the heart.”
Burnside said he plans to continue promoting community integration across the ward as a public citizen. The experience and connections forged in this campaign, he said, will put him that much further ahead for the municipal race in 2014.