Ward 27 race down to the wire

Out of 15 candidates, the race for Ward 27 came down to a tight finish between Kristyn Wong-Tam and Ken Chan, with Wong-Tam coming out on top by a few hundred votes.

Chan, a former police officer who left his position as a policy advisor to London, England, mayor Boris Johnson in order to run for city council, thanked his supporters at a gathering at Woo’s restaurant.

“For those of you who are teary-eyed, just so you know, this macho former cop, I haven’t cried yet,” Chan told his supporters, laughing. “To me tonight is a celebration, because of the bonds and the friendship that have been formed.”

And there were tears, though the mood at Woo’s had remained optimistic until the end. Some even stayed hopeful when 95 per cent of the ballots counted showed Wong-Tam with a lead of around 400 votes. But when the Wong-Tam victory became official, Rosedale resident and Chan campaign volunteer David Sharpe couldn’t hide his disappointment.

“We worked very hard for Ken,” Sharpe said. “I think Toronto is going to lose a great guy.”

Chan had backing from mayoral candidate George Smitherman and the ward’s former councillor, Kyle Rae. When Rae got criticism for using his city budget on his own goodbye party, Chan had tried to separate himself from the city councillor’s reputation. Despite this, Rae showed clear support for Chan.

“Ken has the best experience in public service and civil service,” Rae said before Chan’s defeat. “Understanding the needs of the people…a police officer does that on a daily basis.”

Many in the room did not hide their disappointment about Rob Ford’s mayoral victory, declared just minutes after the polls closed. Blake Connoy had volunteered with the Chan campaign since August.

“It’s just gross,” he said.

While Chan congratulated Rob Ford in his speech, many of his supporters booed. Rae heckled, “OK, I guess you have to say that.”

With 15 candidates running, Ward 27 became one of the more interesting races this election. After quickly congratulating Wong-Tam, Chan also thanked the other candidates who ran.

“I think this is an election that isn’t just about winning. It’s about … pulling together people from all walks of life,” he said. “We as Torontonians value our differences while we embrace our common grounds, and that’s what makes us valuable.”

The differences among the candidates were notable. Chan and Wong-Tam are both foreign-born, out queer candidates from Asian backgrounds. Also running were two trans women, former supermodel-turned-serious-candidate and journalist Enza Anderson and community activist Susan Gapka.

“It’s an indication of how successful as how we are as a community and a society,” Chan said.

Chan comes from Brunei. In his speech, he made it clear he recognizes the opportunities he’s had as a Canadian.

“I was born 35 rears ago in Brunei, where today homosexuality is still illegal,” he said. “Back to 1999 when I was sworn in as a police officer, in Brunei I’d be prosecuted by the police.…Today in 2010, my name is on the ballot. For me, that reminds me of the true value of Canadian citizenship.”