Silly season has suddenly arrived at City Hall, as evidenced by the many pundits speculating on who, if anyone, might mount a credible campaign against Mayor David Miller in next year's municipal election.
Things have actually gotten so bizarre that people like Barbara Hall, the pre-amalgamation Toronto mayor with two failed bids to be megacity boss, are being mentioned.
That such non-starters are even in the mix is terrible news for those on the political right on council. It speaks to their complete failure to groom a saleable candidate.
According to one strategist, "The right would be better off if it committed its resources to winning more council seats next time instead of focusing on the mayoralty. If a handful of wards now represented by centre-left councillors were to elect candidates with a more conservative bent, the tide could actually turn in the right's favour."
It's widely believed at City Hall that as many as a dozen council seats could have different occupants after next year's balloting.
At least six councillors are said to be considering retirement. Among them are Michael Walker in Ward 22 (St. Paul's), Raymond Cho in Ward 42 (Scarborough-Rouge River), Case Ootes in Ward 29 (Toronto-Danforth), Howard Moscoe in Ward 15 (Eglinton-Lawrence), Cliff Jenkins in Ward 25 (Don Valley West) and Mike Feldman in Ward 10 (York Centre).
Two names are raised as potential successors to Walker: community activist Michael Visser and public school trustee Josh Matlow. Hratch Aynedjian, who has worked as an aide to several Scarborough councillors over the years, is said to be lining up to replace Cho, his current boss.
Both Moscoe and Ootes have had health problems of late and are reportedly considering life away from City Hall. And sources say Jenkins, a first-term councillor, has been less than impressed with elected politics and may well give it all up when this term ends. At 77, Feldman could also finally decide to put his feet up.
Then there's the question of what will happen if - as expected - Ward 20 (Trinity-Spadina) councillor Olivia Chow decides to take another shot at joining her husband, federal NDP leader Jack Layton, in Ottawa come the next national vote.
Her constituency assistant, Helen Kennedy, would have a good shot at succeeding her, but there's also talk that former councillor John Adams and former mayor John Sewell are considering returns to council.
Meanwhile, other incumbents are considered vulnerable to challenges in the next civic vote.
Number one among them is Cesar Palacio in Ward 17 (Davenport). A longtime executive assistant to former councillor (and Lastman ally) Betty Disero, Palacio won by fewer than 800 votes over NDPer Alejandro Bravo in 2003. Bravo is still working the ward, as is businessman Fred Dominelli, who acted as the ward's appointed interim councillor after Disero left City Hall in advance of the last election.
Over in Ward 39 (Scarborough-Agincourt), Sherene Shaw is said to be itching for a comeback in the constituency she lost to the less-than-impressive Mike Del Grande by 401 votes in 2003.
In Ward 6 (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), Councillor Mark Grimes is sweating the possibility that Irene Jones will seek to regain the seat she gave up to run unsuccessfully for the provincial NDP two years ago.
Likewise, Peter Li Preti has to be worried that NDPer Anthony Perruzza is still sniffing around Ward 8 (York West). And in Ward 38 (Scarborough Centre), school trustee Scott Harrison, son of late Metro councillor Brian Harrison, is busy fomenting unrest against rookie incumbent Glen De Baeremaeker. There's a lot more at stake than just the mayoralty.
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Ihor Wons's return to 100 Queen West as Councillor Michael Thompson's (Ward 37, Scarborough Centre) executive assistant has more than a few denizens of City Hall shaking their heads. Wons was recently blamed by federal Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro for putting his former boss - former federal Liberal immigration minister Judy Sgro - in a political pickle when he helped a Romanian stripper get a temporary residence permit.
Shapiro cleared Sgro of any ethical wrongdoing but took Wons to task for "indelicate and poor judgment" when he placed the ex-minister in a "possibly real but certainly apparent conflict of interest." "Weird" was how one of Thompson's colleagues described the councillor's latest staffing decision.
Thompson says he has no worries. "I respect his judgment. Someone had to be the fall guy [in Ottawa]."