Throwback Thursdays: Nov. 18, 1978

Politics remained at the top of the news for the Nov. 18 issue of Seven News. The Toronto municipal election had occurred Nov. 13, and Ward Seven native son, reformer, and erstwhile Alderman for nine years John Sewell had defeated his conservative opponent Tony O’Donohue.

In those days, municipal government was more elaborately structured, with Metro Council holding considerable power, while City Council also had a more powerful Executive Committee. Outcomes, then as now, were complicated by a lack of standing alignments (ok, “parties”. It was clear that Sewell would not have majority support for his reformist platform, but what is especially interesting for us today is that – in Seven News’s estimation and in the smaller footprint of the old city – the balance of power stood roughly where it is estimated to stand in the newly elected City Council taking office in December: 10 progressives, three centrists (five today) and 10 conservatives, though Seven thought that three of these (Art Eggleton, Tony Ruprecht and Andrew Patton) might veer to the centre on some issues.

Seven News felt that Sewell was likely to face great challenges as mayor, and indeed it turned out to be so. He was portrayed in the major media as “radical” – he rode a bike to work and wore jeans, my God! – and at the end of his two-year term was defeated in a heartbreaker (87,919 to 86,152) by centre-right Art Eggleton, who went on to serve a remarkable 11 years (1980-1991) as mayor. Sewell has remained an outstanding public figure in Toronto life.

On the local scene, Gord Cressy (father of sitting Councillor Joe Cressy) topped the Ward Seven polls, to the mortification of incumbent Janet Howard, who had hoped to place first. (In those days, two aldermen per ward were elected, but the winner got a spot on Metro Council.) The feeling was that she had made a mistake in not running a joint campaign with Cressy, and had been out-resourced by the NDP’s support of Cressy’s campaign.

A look at the three winners’ platforms is interesting; the issues (e.g.”neighbourhoods first”, “affordable housing”) remain similar, though community safety seems not to have been the ballot issue in 1978 that it was in 2018. The mix of who is supporting what back then is intriguing.

There was an interesting ad for a new publication aimed at the city’s communities of colour, The Black Pages.

Duke of York School was enmeshed in controversy. This is not the Regent Park/Duke of York school building on 20 Regent St. which was finally closed in 2012 and demolished in 2016, but its predecessor on Pembroke Street (like warships, school names seem to have recurring incarnations down the decades) which is now known as Gabrielle Roy French School. At the time, Gabrielle Roy was sharing accommodation at Duke of York, and both parties, as Seven News reported, were manifestly unhappy at the arrangement.

(Richard Haskell’s blog on downtown living has a fascinating review of the Pembroke St. building, which in his 2012 entry he still calls Duke of York). https://richardhaskell.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/unnoticed-buildings-the-duke-of-york-public-school/

And Park School on Shuter Street, not yet renamed (until 2001) Nelson Mandela Park School, was celebrating its 125th anniversary; the piece is accompanied by a delightful drawing of the original 1853 school building (replaced 1914-1916 by the present school building which, in its turn, was massively renovated in 2013).

The full stories introduced above are available at http://www.connexions.org/SevenNews/Docs/7News-Volume09-Number14.pdf . The PDF archive is a remarkable achievement by Connexions, a collective dedicated to preserving social activism, of which 7 News is surely a shining example.

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