Parrish still leads, Damerla makes gains according to new Mississauga poll but questions mount about her refusal to take a leave of office while running 
Feature image Alexis Wright/The Pointer

Parrish still leads, Damerla makes gains according to new Mississauga poll but questions mount about her refusal to take a leave of office while running 

While more candidates put their name on the ballot in the race to determine Mississauga’s next leader, a new poll shows one of the best known politicians in the city is still ahead, but support for her lesser-known challengers is increasing.

The latest Liaison Strategies poll, commissioned by the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, shows now former city councillor and Mississauga MP, Carolyn Parrish is still in front in the contest to replace Bonnie Crombie, but her lead has narrowed. Previous reporting from The Pointer showed Parrish held a lead of 11 percentage points according to Liaison Strategies’ January poll, but the latest data shows the political veteran now leads her nearest competitor, Councilllor Dipika Damerla, by five percentage points among decided voters and three — down from six — points among all voters, according to the poll. 

The survey, released March 23, shows Parrish has the support of 29 percent, down from 35 percent, of those residents who responded and identified as decided voters. Damerla’s support remained unchanged from the January poll, following at 24 percent. Councillor Alvin Tedjo was third at 21 percent, up from 16 and Councillor Stephen Dasko was in fifth among the candidates listed with 8 percent support, an increase from 6 percent in January. Peter McCallion is in fourth, at 10 percent. 

While Parrish’s support has not moved from 18 percent among all voters, including those who were undecided in January, more have made a decision now, closing the gap in her lead among voters who have made a choice. According to the survey, only 37 percent of voters indicated they were undecided, a decrease from 49 percent reported in January. 

Between March 21 and 22 Liaison Strategies surveyed 902 Mississauga voters (with a margin of error of +/- 3.26 percent 19 times out of 20) — screened for eligibility and residency — that were asked who they would vote for based on some of the current candidates registered to run in the mayoral race. Other names featured in the poll include former mayoral candidate George Tavares and former mayoral candidate David Shaw, who came second to Crombie in 2022 (he garnered less than ten percent of the support she had). Among decided voters Tavares had 6 percent support and Shaw had 3. 

"A lot has changed since our last Mississauga poll in January," David Valentin, principal at Liaison Strategies, said in a March 23 press release on the poll. "Carolyn Parrish has gone from an 11 point lead to a 5 point lead among decided voters."

A recent poll shows Parrish is still the front runner in the mayoral race to replace Bonnie Crombie as Mississauga’s leader.

(Liaison Strategies) 


The survey also asked Mississauga residents to choose the most pressing issues facing the city. Crime came out on top with 30 percent choosing it as their main concern. Affordable housing followed with 25 percent and traffic at 16 percent, with transit and inflation both at 9 percent. Only 3 percent cited homelessness as the top issue, according to the poll. Older voters were more likely than the younger demographic to cite crime as their top issue, and while younger voters selected affordable housing as most important (32 percent), 27 percent of seniors agreed. 

The list of candidates vying for the mayor’s seat has climbed to 13 as of Tuesday. Two new names on the ballot include Jamie Dookie, president of Jamie Dookie & Associates Consulting, who ran for the Ward 10 position in the 2014 municipal election, and Nathalie Xian Yi Yan. Other candidates running not named in the Liaison poll are Frank Fang, Syed Jaffery and Peter Tolias.  

As candidates try to press the woman leading the race, Parrish was recently questioned by Damerla’s campaign about her severance pay from the city which was automatically triggered when she resigned her ward seat earlier this month.

“Severance pay has been in our bylaws for more than 20 years, one month’s pay per year served, up to 12 months total,” Parrish wrote in an email to The Pointer. “Every councillor who has retired or lost an election has received it for over the past 20 years. I asked if I had to accept it and was told it was automatic,” she added, noting that if Damerla wins the by-election “she will cost the City $500,000 minimum for a second by-election to replace her as the Ward 7 councillor.” 

Parrish resigned from council on March 15 “with no safety net” which she said was “a matter of principle” — something she made clear from the outset since announcing her intentions to run for mayor — “demonstrating full commitment” and saving taxpayer dollars by limiting Mississauga to one by-election, if she wins. Because of Parrish’s decision, taxpayers could save as much as $500,000 by avoiding two by-elections this year, as the one in Ward-5 to replace Parrish will be held on the same day, June 10, as the mayoral election, at no extra cost, according to the City. This will not be the case if either Damerla, Tedjo or Dasko wins, which would trigger a separate ward by-election that would have to be held at a later date at a cost of approximately $500,000. 

Parrish has said she is not comfortable holding onto her councillor seat, while simultaneously running an extensive campaign for mayor, unable to devote full-time responsibilities to ward constituents, attending council and committee meetings while collecting a paycheque, even though she will be working around the clock to become the next leader of the city. She also said her decision avoids costing taxpayers $500,000 and shows she is fully committed to becoming the next mayor, with “no safety net” at the expense of taxpayers.  

Damerla appeared unaware of council rules when questioning the severance that Parrish will collect under the bylaw approved by council decades ago, like most municipalities, which entitles retiring members or those who lose an election after a certain period of time in office to compensation. 


Carolyn Parrish is in the lead to become Mississauga’s next mayor.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer) 


Damerla has not explained why she is not taking a leave of office while running for mayor in Canada’s seventh largest city, continuing to collect her councillor paycheque while campaigning. And she has also not addressed why she did not resign her seat, like Parrish. Dasko and Tedjo have also continued to serve as councillors while simultaneously contesting the mayor’s race, but neither has raised any concern over the automatic severance.  

Under the City’s remuneration bylaw, members of council automatically receive severance “upon retirement, resignation or death of a Member of Council while in office, or upon failure to be re-elected to office for the term immediately following a current term of office.” Under certain circumstance severance is not provided if “the purpose of a retirement or resignation is to assume a position as an elected or appointed officer holder — including mayor — at any level of government, including another municipality,” if it’s to take on paid employment with another organization or business, or if a member of council “ceases to hold office as a result of involuntary removal from office, other than through failure to be re-elected or death.”

This means if a current council member is successful in their campaign for mayor, “the successful Mayoral candidate will be moving directly into a new position (from Councillor to Mayor), so they will not receive severance – they will receive the salary of the Mayor,” a City spokesperson explained in an email to The Pointer. 

During Wednesday’s council meeting the City’s clerk confirmed Parrish, having resigned from her councillor position to run in the mayoral by-election, would automatically receive severance from the City of Mississauga under council’s remuneration bylaws, just like Damerla when she eventually retires or fails to keep a seat on council.

She did not explain why it makes a difference when Parrish gets the severance, which will be the same amount regardless when she steps down or is defeated, or how this is any different for Damerla who will also get a severance, eventually. 

She has refused to commit to the same cost-saving measure as Parrish, meaning Mississauga residents could see multiple by-elections take place this year if Damerla or one of the other current councillors wins the mayor’s race, with taxpayers incurring additional costs. Meanwhile, as Damerla criticizes Parrish for receiving the severance pay she’s entitled to after several terms on council, current councillors running in the upcoming by-election are continuing to collect their council salaries, which, according to a remuneration report coming to council Wednesday, is sitting at $94,700, before benefits and vehicle allowances (Damerla gets about $16,000 a year for a car; these figures do not include roughly $70,000 she continues to receive from the Region of Peel as a councillor). 

Parrish told The Pointer she intends to make sure “the community benefits” from any severance she will automatically receive, and added that the amount would be curtailed, if she wins the mayor’s seat. “I have always given back to Mississauga, and voters know that,” she said. One of her most popular community initiatives is the Milk Fund, for which Parrish has raised $250,000 a year, to help food banks support residents in need of milk. 


Councillor Dipika Damerla has criticized the very severance she will eventually receive but has failed to explain why she continues to collect a councillor paycheque while simultaneously running for mayor.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer) 


Costs for previous City of Mississauga by-elections were $458,000 in 2011 for the Ward 5 seat on council — won by Crombie — and $275,000 in 2015 when Councillor John Kovac became the Ward 4 representative. The City spokesperson previously clarified, “These by-elections were for one ward vs city-wide, so the costs are not comparable to what we will be undertaking this year for the mayoral by-election. A previous report to council revealed the estimated cost of a mayoral by-election will be approximately $3.5 million and will be funded from election reserves.

A ward by-election could cost up to $500,000, the spokesperson confirmed. 

“The ‘safety net’ I referred to is clearly the fact that if Councillor Damerla loses the election she slips back seamlessly into her Ward 7 council seat just as she did when she lost her provincial election attempt in 2022,” Parrish explained. “I, on the other hand, will be retired with no seat to go back to as it will be filled with a newly elected councillor the same day the mayor is chosen.”

Last week City Council declared the Ward 5 councillor seat vacant and unanimously passed a bylaw to hold the by-election to replace Parrish on June 10 — the same date as the mayoral race — rather than appointing someone to fill the vacant position for the remainder of the council term. The report, presented to council on March 20, stated holding the two by-elections at the same time “will allow for greater efficiencies as resources allocated to the Mayoral by-election could also be used for a Ward 5 by-election,” adding that “if…the by-election runs concurrently with the Mayoral by-election, the by-election will be paid for with funds already allocated to the Mayoral by-election.”

If each of the councillors running in the upcoming mayoral election had followed Parrish’s suit and resigned from their council position upon registering their candidacy, the City spokesperson said the estimated costs would depend very much on the number of by-elections, as well as other factors. 

“We have not had this situation occur in the past so we have no previous examples to reference,” the spokesperson explained. “We would need to do a deeper analysis to determine the impact of several concurrent by-elections on staffing, etc.”

Nominations for the Ward 5 by-election opened shortly after the March 20 meeting. So far six candidates have registered, including Hamid Akbar, Amir Ali, Natalie Hart, Imran Hasan, Manish Sawhney, Shelly Scott-England and Danny Singh. As with the mayoral ballot, nominations will close on April 26. Congruent with the mayoral race, advance poll days will be held May 24 and 25 and June 1 and 2.



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Twitter: @mcpaigepeacock

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