Closest Hamilton city council race has a recount request

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Published October 26, 2022 at 5:58 pm

An Access to Information order issued by the Ontario privacy commissioner last year might be pertinent to a recount request in the Ward 14 council race.

Technically, the City of Hamilton does not have to order a recount, even when the margin is as slim and narrow as the 79-vote spread between councillor-elect Mike Spadafora and runner-up Kojo Damptey in the West Mountain precinct on Monday night. However, a third party, The Public Record, also stated that the city is “deny(ing) candidates access to elections data.”

That would presumably make it difficult for a defeated candidate to double-check the numbers. That might also fly in the face of the access order that the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) handed down seven months ago. That order originated with a filing in the City Mississauga after the last municipal election cycle in 2018.

The IPC heard out the appeal from an individual who wanted “access to the voter spreadsheet from the October 22, 2018 municipal election.” The municipality in Mississauga had denied that, citing a personal privacy exemption. But the IPC said on March 18 that the Municipal Elections Act allows a voter spreadsheet to be shared and ordered Mississauga to “to disclose it to the appellant.”

Municipalities are only required to hold a recount when there is a complete and utter tie in a race — which actually happened in Niagara Region. Eric Beauregard and Angie Desmarais finished dead-even in the race for the second councillor spot in Port Colborne’s ward 2. By law, a recount must be held within 15 days. If they’re still tied, the winner will be drawn out of a hat, either literally or figuratively.

A municipal council can pass a motion ordering a recount if so inclined. A recount would only looks at the ballots. The matter may also be taken to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

The uncertified Hamilton Ward 14 results show that Spadafora received 2,610 votes, good for a 28.48 per cent vote share. Damptey received 2,531 and 27.62%. Two other candidates, Don Ross (1,382 / 15.08%) and Brian Lewis (1,108 / 12.09%) polled in the double-digits. The open race to replace outgoing Coun. Terry Whitehead had seven candidates.

Vandalism, and a robocall

Any deeper and wider context of the Ward 14 campaign would not be a factor. Damptey, a McMaster University sessional instructor and social justice activist who was born in Ghana and made Hamilton his home when he arrived as a teenager with his parents, had a bus advertisement vandalized with a white supremacist poster.

The presumptive victor, Spadafora, acknowledged to CBC Hamilton on Wednesday that his campaign sent robocalls last weekend that falsely claimed outgoing Mayor Fred Eisenberger had endorsed him.

In the same CBC report, a spokeswoman for the outgoing mayor said Eisenberger was approached for an endorsement, but did not provide one. Spadafora, via e-mail, said, said his campaign had an “understanding” that they were endorsed by Eisenberger and the outgoing Ward 14 councillor, which would be Whitehead.

Whitehead represented Ward 14 for the last four years and Ward 8 from 2003 to ’18. Whitehead announced his decision to focus on his health issues on Aug. 19, the day nominations closed. Three months out from that deadline, in mid-May, he had told the Hamilton Spectator he planned to run again because he was concerned city council was becoming too left-wing.

Spadafora and Damptey each have a strong record of community involvement. The former is well-known in youth and junior hockey circles as an executive with the Hamilton Huskies and Hamilton Kilty B’s teams. Their politics and approach to campaign would appear to differ.

Spadafora ran for the PC Party of Ontario in Hamilton Mountain in the provincial election, finishing second as Ontario New Democrat Monique Taylor earned a second term. His campaign website in Ward 14 lists six priorities — taxes, safety, key infrastructure, housing, law enforcement, meetings — with little explanation. His priorities as a council candidate are summarized in a total of 30 words.

Damptey  is an award-winning musician who is active in climate and social justice campaigns, and in organizing grassroots support systems such as the Mountain Mutual Aid Network. His Ward 14  campaign page for Damptey had eight priorities. His positions on social issues such as climate change, empowering youth, inclusive city building and transit each had a click-through popout page with further exposition on his positions.

City council, helmed by mayor-elect Andrea Horwath and including nine new people, is slated to be sworn in around Nov. 15.

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