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Carolyn Parrish wins Mississauga byelection to become next mayor

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Longtime councillor and MP Carolyn Parrish won Mississauga’s mayoral race Monday night, beating out a crowded field of contenders for the top job.  

With 99.5 per cent of polls reporting, Parrish was more than 8,500 votes ahead of her closest competitor, first-term councillor Alvin Tedjo.

“Today we celebrate not just a victory at the polls but a victory for the future for our city. I am honoured and grateful to stand before you as your newly elected mayor of Mississauga,” Parrish told a cheering crowd at the Mississauga Convention Centre.

“First and foremost, I want to thank the citizens of Mississauga for placing their trust in me. Your voices have been heard and together we will build a brighter, more inclusive future for our city,” Parrish said.

She vowed to have greater citizen participation in the budget process and to prioritize “sustainable development.”

While she started off with a scripted speech, she tossed it part-way through, opting to speak off the cuff.

“I just want to tell you a very important thing. The region is going to be stronger now because you’re going to have three mayors that actually get along and we will be formidable when we go to Queen’s Park or to Ottawa to tell them we need our fair share of funding here,” she said.

She promised a mix of “charm and force” in making her case for the city.

Speaking with reporters, Parrish said one of her first orders of business will be to assemble a panel of developers to be her advisers on how to build more housing faster.

She also said she thinks she will have no trouble bringing together a council where several sitting councillors were running against her.

“I’m sure that’s going to fall into place very shortly. Nobody wants to be the lone wolf. And I for sure would like to all the help I can get so I will be pulling everybody together,” she said.

Parrish’s win came after some of the final surveys in the race indicated she could face stuffer competition than expected.

While she opened with a wide lead in the polls early in the race, her nearly 20-point advantage in early May had all but evaporated by the last week of the race.

There were 20 candidates on the ballot, with a handful running elections competitive enough to register in the polls. Most of them were current or former city councillors. They included Dipika Damerla, Alvin Tedjo and Stephen Dasko. Brian Crombie, the ex-husband of the former mayor, was also in the running.

Her rivals were quick to offer congratulations after the results rolled in.

“I just messaged our former councillor Carolyn Parish to congratulate her on her win tonight,” Tedjo told his campaign in a concession speech shortly after 9 p.m. “I wish her well in her new role as mayor of Mississauga.”

Premier Doug Ford congratulated Parrish in a post on X Monday night and said he looks forward to working with her.

“Congratulations @carolynhparrish on being elected the next mayor of @citymississauga! I’m looking forward to working with you as we build a stronger Mississauga and a stronger Ontario,” Ford wrote.

Parrish, 77, was first elected as a school board trustee in the 1980s before becoming involved in federal politics in the 90’s. She was elected to the House of Commons for the first time in 1993 as a Liberal MP. She remained in parliament until 2006. She won a seat on Mississauga council in a municipal election the same year. While she lost her seat in 2010, she was back in 2014 when she was elected to represent Ward 5.

She stepped down from council earlier this year in order to focus on her run for mayor.

During the campaign, Parrish said housing was the top issue facing Mississauga residents, with many young people moving away because they can no longer afford to live in the city.

“Most of the GTA cities are growing, and it’s usually young people. They grow up in Mississauga. They want to live in Mississauga, and they can’t afford the rent, and they can’t afford to buy a house,” she told CP24 in an interview.

She said while gentle infill is part of the solution, the city needs more aggressive density and needs to make it easier for developers to get projects approved.

While she’s rejected the idea of a tax freeze, Parrish has said she’d like to keep property taxes at or below the rate of inflation. She’s proposed quarterly rather than annual budget meetings in order to keep the city’s finances on-track.

Parrish managed to come out ahead despite sharp criticism by her rivals for comments she made in an early debate about federal refugee programs and Transgender bathrooms. She claimed her comments had been taken out of context.

She subsequently declined to participate in further debates, citing “a new style of politics” and the safety of her staff.

But she told CP24 that she wasn’t hiding from accountability.

“I’ve been accountable for 18 years on city council. I’m outspoken. I speak on every issue. People who follow politics know exactly where I stand on everything,” she said.

She also said she’s been physically threatened in the past over “controversial issues.”

The special byelection was called after former mayor Bonnie Crombie stepped down from the post to lead the Ontario Liberal Party.  Crombie held the top job at City Hall for more than nine years. She followed legendary Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion, who held the role for 36 years before that.

Asked by CP24 in a recent interview why she wants a busy job as mayor toward the end of a more than three-cade long career in politics, Parrish said serving on council has been her favourite job.

“Well, it is a big job. And I’ve really enjoyed Council,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed being a city councilor much more than any of the other jobs I’ve done. It’s a fabulous job. You don’t have any partisanship. You just listen to your constituents.”

CTV Political Analyst Scott Reid called it a “strange” election that comes with a message for a mayor-elect who was expected to win by a wider margin.

“Alvin Tedjo come out of nowhere, with what? A campaign to freeze taxes,” Reid said.

While many people feel that’s an untenable policy for the city, Reid said, it says something about how people are feeling.

“It gives you an indication of where voters are at, the anxieties about affordability, the demands they’re placing on city council and what they’re looking for from their political leaders,” he said.

“Carolyn Parrish is going to have to pay attention to that vote result because I think that’s what that was about. She can’t be deaf to the pocketbook anxieties of voters in Mississauga.”

Natalie Hart, the general manager of the Malton BIA, won another byelection race in the city Monday night to replace the seat vacated by Parrish. While former mayor Boinnie Crombie didn’t support a candidate in the mayoral race, she did endorse Hart, came in with less than 600 votes from nearest competitor Danny Singh with 99 per cent pf polls reporting.  

Parrish will hold the top job on council through the rest of the current term, which ends in 2026.

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