Damerla slammed for vowing to cancel Bloor bike lane project; voters hear from candidates; Parrish widens lead 
(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer)

Damerla slammed for vowing to cancel Bloor bike lane project; voters hear from candidates; Parrish widens lead 

With the by-election to decide Mississauga’s next mayor a month away, an issue that has emerged illustrates the schism between voters in Canada’s seventh largest city, who must choose between a leader committed to change, or one willing to serve the status quo.    

At two public forums this week the Bloor Street bike lane project was addressed, highlighting the choice between Mississauga’s suburban past and the more urban future former mayor Bonnie Crombie laid the groundwork for. 

Mayoral candidate and current councillor Dipika Damerla did not support the plan when it was approved last year by a majority of council members and at a public event Monday said, “I voted against Alternative 6 because it was poorly designed, and my commitment is that as mayor, I will not support that. I will try and do my best and work hard to stop it.” 

Monday’s forum was attended by (clockwise from top left): Stephen Dasko, Carolyn Parrish, Dipika Damerla, Alvin Tedjo, Jamie Dookie,  Syed Jaffery, George Tavares and David Shaw.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer)


Her comments drew criticism on social media, from her by-election opponents and from members of council during a meeting Wednesday.

Carolyn Parrish, who also did not vote for the plan last year, before she resigned her council seat to run in the by-election, pointed out Monday evening, the project has already been approved and funding is already beginning to flow for it — the City included $3 million as part of its 2024 capital budget to get construction underway. She highlighted that the only way to reopen the matter is if a member of council who voted for it were to move a motion to reopen it, allowing council to recast their votes on the issue. As someone who voted in favour of the project, Councillor Stephen Dasko, another mayoral candidate, has said he is open to revisiting the previous decision on the plan.

“It's not going to happen,” Parrish said during Monday’s question and answer event which was not promoted as a debate. “So I really think it's sad that we're promising things to people and raising their expectations. The issue is dead on that one.”

As chair of the City’s cycling committee, Councillor Alvin Tedjo, who is vying to become the next mayor, reaffirmed his commitment to the project, stating on Monday that “I'm supportive of the project, I voted for the project, and I stand by the project.” 

The next day, at another candidate event hosted by local groups, he expanded on his position, as the issue was once again brought up. “This isn't about bike lanes specifically. This is about building a minimum viable network of transportation across the City of Mississauga to give people safe and viable options to get around the city,” he said Tuesday when residents asked about the bike lane project on Bloor Street. “We have to build a network across the City of Mississauga. We've committed to Vision Zero… [meaning] no deaths, no injuries. We've all committed to that, every single person on council, because we believe that your life is worth more than 10-15 seconds of traffic.”

Since the outset of her campaign, Damerla has vowed to stop the Bloor Street project, a move that councillors referred to during Wednesday’s general committee meeting. They characterized Damerla’s public comments as a “breach” of the City’s Code of Conduct. 

“Councillor Damerla, a member of this sitting council, had a choice to make when she registered in the by-election to run for mayor,” Councillor Chris Fonseca, who represents the area where the Bloor Street project is already underway, said in a statement during Wednesday’s committee meeting. “She had the choice of resigning her current seat or to continue to sit in the very privileged position of both serving as the Ward 7 councillor and running for mayor. Her decision to sign a petition against a decision made by all of us last June, even though she did not agree with that decision, is in direct conflict with the very Code of Conduct that all of us, as well as Councillor Damerla, signed when we were all sworn in, in the fall of 2022.”

“I’m speaking out today, not only because what she has done lacks integrity, [but] it is clearly not in good governance.”

Unlike Parrish, Damerla has refused to resign her seat or even take a leave of absence, collecting a paycheque as a councillor while maintaining a busy schedule campaigning for mayor across the city. 

Dasko and Tedjo also remain on council, however, unlike Damerla who criticized Parrish for resigning—a move that will save taxpayers about $50,000 in salary and $500,000 if she wins because there will be no need for another by-election, as the Ward 5 race to replace Parrish is being held simultaneously with the mayoral race (if Damerla or one of the other councillors win it will trigger another by-election that will cost taxpayers about a half million dollars)—they have not voiced any position about Parrish’s decision. Damerla has decried her veteran opponent’s resignation because it automatically triggers a severance payment. She has failed to acknowledge that every member of council, including herself, will eventually get a severance payment when they either lose their seat, or choose not to run again. 

She has refused to answer questions from The Pointer asking why she took a leave of absence from council to run in the 2022 provincial election as an MPP candidate, but has not done the same while campaigning in a much larger area, the whole city, for the mayoral election.

She faced criticism on social media this week for pandering to voters who do not support active transportation and efforts to modernize Mississauga’s transportation culture, which helps shape a more dense, urban footprint. 

On Wednesday, other council members also voiced concern over Damerla’s campaign comments. As the vice chair of the governance committee, Councillor Matt Mahoney said he “was also very concerned with what I consider a breach of the Code of Conduct,” adding that Councillor Fonseca has his “full support on this issue”. He said he will raise the issue at the City’s governance committee, noting that, “We all have signed a Code of Conduct and we all understand what that Code of Conduct is.”

Damerla’s ongoing opposition to the project goes against the mandate that requires councillors to refrain from undermining council’s decisions as outlined under Mississauga’s Code of Conduct for members of council. It states: “The role of elected officials, once a council decision is made, is to support the implementation of that decision, not to work against its implementation, publicly or behind the scenes.” It continues. “As members of that body of Council, individual members — those who did not agree with the decision — are not to engage in activities that seek to challenge or undermine that decision.”


Councillor Dipika Damerla has been criticized for her opposition to bike lanes along Bloor Street.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer)


On Monday, the Town of Port Credit Association, along with other residents’ associations, hosted a panel of eight candidates, providing residents an opportunity to “interview” a selection of those running in the mayoral race. It also offered candidates an opportunity to share their thoughts “on city building challenges,” including housing, affordability, transit, crime and the environment. On Tuesday, another candidate forum, this one hosted by MIRANET (Mississauga Residents’ Associations Network), gave residents another chance to hear candidates address similar issues. 

Eight of the registered candidates running for the mayoral position were in attendance during Monday’s event, including current Mississauga Councillors Stephen Dasko, Alvin Tedjo, Dipika Damerla, former Mississauga councillor Carolyn Parrish, along with candidates George Tavares, David Shaw, Syed Jaffery and Jamie Dookie. Five of the registered candidates were in attendance Tuesday evening, including Dasko, Tedjo, Damerla, Tavares and Shaw. Parrish was originally slated to attend but pulled out weeks ago due to another engagement, she explained during a call with The Pointer. A full list of who is running is available on the City’s website

Among the key topics discussed Monday and Tuesday, housing was top of mind, with each candidate emphasizing the need to  build out the “missing middle”, a category of medium density housing, such as a four-plex, three or four-storey building or other similar types of homes desperately needed in Mississauga. The focus is to get away from sprawling subdivisions with large single-family houses, and the hyper-verticality of towering condo buildings that also pose numerous challenges to “complete community” concepts, which feature walking, cycling and transit, in areas that allow residents to get to all the surrounding features within 15 minutes without using a car. 

Some residents who reached out to The Pointer raised concerns over Damerla’s comments, questioning how her opposition to cycling infrastructure aligns with City policies that support complete community design for future growth.

Dasko said he would achieve medium density housing by working with the federal government to obtain grants while incentivizing  the construction of affordable housing, consulting with developers and upper levels of government to create a “sustainable” model that would allow investors to get projects built faster.  

Tedjo, who has been a strong proponent for dense forms of housing, forwarding the motion to allow four-plexes in the city in October, said Mississauga needs more kinds of housing like purpose-built rentals and missing middle options, while also prioritizing more units along transit corridors and around stations.  

“We need to cut the red tape and we need to get out of the way,” he said Monday, while also proposing a tax freeze for residents over the next two years. “We need the city to be a partner and not just a regulator of housing.”

“We need to be much more aggressive on improving supportive housing, on improving affordable housing, and improving rental housing so that we can continue to push people up through the spectrum of the housing need.”

Parrish has also proposed establishing a mayor’s advisory panel that would meet with developers on a monthly basis to determine areas for improvement to get projects off the ground faster, while also looking at rezoning employment lands to create more opportunity for housing that residents need.

Aside from housing, crime was another priority raised by residents. 

Auto thefts and break-ins were on the minds of those in attendance Monday evening. 


Over 150 residents attended a public forum in Port Credit Monday.

(Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer)


If elected, Damerla pledged to advocate for “much needed” national criminal code reforms, which she said Ottawa has not moved on. At the local level, she said she will continue to support Peel Regional Police to ensure they have “the tools they need to be able to do the policing,” while, in the same breath, promising to “empower informants” with a reward from Crime Stoppers of $10,000 “for every tip that leads to an auto theft conviction.” She did not explain how this would be funded. 

Parrish said “once [cars are] stolen, they get shipped out of the country and no one checks or very few people check those cargoes,” and proposed lobbying upper levels of government to implement scanners at ports in places like Montreal, Vancouver and CN Rail lines to examine cargo containers as they ship out. She also said bail reform is needed, changing car robberies into a serious crime to prevent them in the first place. “We have to do something very serious very soon, because it is an organized crime source of funding.” 

Tavares also acknowledged the city needs to do more to forward its efforts, stating that there needs to be jurisdictional reform to allow local enforcement to be able to tackle some of the issues of auto theft, in addition to enhancing cargo screening and surveillance, to “close a very important loophole.” He also proposed utilizing the already existing speed and red-light cameras installed in the city to catch uninsured drivers and address speeding and noise pollution. 

Other issues discussed during the debates included transit, with candidates saying the city needs to alleviate traffic congestion by increasing the number of drivers and buses across the city and implementing more rapid transit to improve frequency, consistency and predictability. Candidates also agreed while the Hurontario LRT is a positive step for Mississauga, the city needs more East to West connections — something Parrish said “is absolutely essential for this city,” on Monday. She added the city needs to intensify around transit stations and build taller buildings, “particularly affordable or rental buildings so that people who can't afford cars can afford transportation.”

“It's great to have one line. But until we have a network that you can rely on and get to by waiting 10-15 minutes and know that a bus or train is going to come, people aren't going to use it,” Tedjo also acknowledged on Monday. “We need to give people options. we need to create a network not in 27 years like the plan says but over the next five years.”

Environmental protection was also among the topics discussed with candidates acknowledging that the city’s greenspace needs to expand as the population expands. Damerla said there needs to be a “cultural change” from the current system of focusing on engineering solutions to address floodplain issues, adding that, as part of her platform, she plans to give up to 50 percent off stormwater charges if homeowners will implement permeable driveways or rain barrels.

Critics have pointed out her vow to cancel cycling lanes will contribute to worsening emissions.

Dasko, who’s been working down on the lakefront to transform the G.E. Booth site — the City’s sewage treatment plant — said he would like to focus on turning waste into district energy to be repurposed in areas throughout the city, highlighting that the City Centre presents an opportunity to do that. 

Parrish continues to be the frontrunner and the latest poll numbers show her lead has widened. The latest Liaison Strategies poll, commissioned by the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, shows Parrish’s support has grown, with the former Mississauga councillor and MP now leading her nearest competitor, Damerla, by 17 percentage points among decided voters.



The latest poll from Liaison Strategies shows Parrish is still the frontrunner in the mayoral race to replace Bonnie Crombie as Mississauga’s leader.

(Liaison Strategies) 


The survey, released May 6, shows Parrish has the support of 37 percent of decided respondents, up from 29 percent recorded in Liaison Strategies’ March survey. Damerla, who sits in second with 20 percentage points among decided voters, dropped from 24 percent reported in March. Tedjo remains in third, although his support has decreased slightly, currently sitting at 17 percent, down from 21, and Dasko is in fourth among candidates listed with 11 percent support, an increase from 8 percent in March.

Between April 29 and 30 Liaison Strategies surveyed 907 Mississauga voters (with a margin of error of +/- 3.25 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. As last-minute candidate filings came in ahead of the April 26 registration deadline, Brian Crombie, ex-husband of former mayor Bonnie Crombie, has appeared on the ballot, debuting with seven percent support among decided voters, according to the poll. 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 5 percent support and Shaw had 3. 

"[Parrish’s] support is strongest among seniors, who are among the most reliable voters in elections. The potential is there for her to out-perform the polling depending on voter turnout,” David Valentin, principal at Liaison Strategies, said in a media release, noting that Damerla’s numbers show she does best among seniors while Tedjo has garnered the support of the 18 to 34 cohort. He added, "The race in Mississauga has had plenty of developments and name recognition is almost certainly playing a large factor. We are now almost one month away from Election Day so time is running out for candidates to make an impact.”



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