Photo C/O Maureen Wilson
In the Oct. 22 Hamilton municipal election, Ward 1 was wide-open with 13 candidates looking to be councillors for the first time, while the mayoral race was largely a contest between pro-LRT Fred Eisenberger and anti-LRT Vito Sgro.
Maureen Wilson captured 42 per cent of the of the almost 9,000 votes cast. Jason Allen, Carol Lazich and Sophie Geffros followed with 17, 12 and 10 per cent, respectively. Sharon Anderson, Ela Eroglu and Sharon Cole came last in the results.
Wilson has been involved at various levels in the Hamilton municipal government and local groups. She had also served as chief of staff to the Hamilton mayor from 2000 to 2002.
Wilson’s main campaign focuses were safer streets, affordable housing and improved transit. She is also a staunch supporter of the LRT project.
Specific steps Wilson has proposed to take in order to address housing issues include promoting purpose-built student housing and calling for the government to waive development charges on affordable units. She also believes that the government needs to invest more in public transit.
In a statement released following the election, Wilson said that accountability and unity are key for Hamilton to continue moving forward.
“It is time for Hamilton to move forward with a progressive urban agenda,” Wilson said. “A failure to do so will mean that Hamilton risks falling further behind on issues directly related to economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, inclusivity and our efforts to make sure Hamilton the best place to raise a child and age successfully.”
An inspiring part of the Ward 1 race was the presence of two relatively young candidates: Sophie Geffros and Harrison White.
“We are losing the confidence and attention of our youngest residents,” Wilson said. “Sophie Geffros and Harrison White ran outstanding campaigns and it is the city’s best interest to ensure that they and other like them stay involved and are encouraged to participate.”
In the mayoral race, Fred Eisenberger was re-elected for a second term as mayor with a 54 per cent majority, defeating main challenger, Vito Sgro. Sgro gathered 38 per cent of the votes. No other challenger finished with more than 2 per cent of the 139,000 ballots cast.
Despite Sgro’s momentum, Eisenberger actually finished with a higher percentage of votes than he did in 2014, when he won with just 39 per cent of votes.
Eisenberger’s campaign was largely focused on sustaining progress in Hamilton. His priorities are economic development, affordable housing and infrastructure renewal.
During his term, Eisenberger started a 10-year anti-poverty plan to increase affordable housing. Homelessness dropped 25 per cent from 2016 to 2017 on Eisenberger’s watch, according to a city survey. Nevertheless, many of the problems associated with gentrification, such as poverty and income polarization, have continued intensively.
Nevertheless, as the campaign wore on and the field narrowed to Eisenberger and Sgro, the LRT project became the one defining issue.
“For those that wanted to create a referendum, they actually got one,” Eisenberger said. “And the referendum is pretty clear. It’s 70,000 plus majority of people saying we want to move forward on LRT. I think city councillors need to listen to that.”
While he faces a city council that remains divided on the LRT project, Eisenberger is confident that councillors can work together.
“I’ve always worked together with council. Always have and always will,” said Eisenberger. “We will continue to do the great and important work the city of Hamilton needs to get done.”
Important times lie ahead as LRT and affordable housing projects promise to reshape our growing city.