Woman who threw pumpkin seeds at Justin Trudeau joins Hamilton mayoral race

A Liberal organizer, the current mayor and an environmental activist who once threw pumpkin seeds at Justin Trudeau are among the mayoral candidates registered for the October election so far.

Other candidates include Vito Sgro, incumbent Fred Eisenberger and six others

Nine candidates want to be Hamilton's mayor so far. Nominations close July 27. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A Liberal organizer, the current mayor and a woman who once threw pumpkin seeds at Justin Trudeau are among the mayoral candidates registered for the October election so far.

Vito Sgro, who has worked on campaigns for Kathleen Wynne, MP Bob Bratina and former mayor Larry Di Ianni filed last week, branding himself as a mainstream candidate against light rail transit (LRT). He'll take on incumbent Fred Eisenberger.

So will seven others, including Ute Schmid-Jones, an environmental activist who in 2016 was temporarily banned from city hall for throwing pumpkin seeds at the prime minister.

The seeds had little green hearts drawn on them, which Schmid-Jones threw while yelling "keep your promises." Schmid-Jones, who calls herself the "Snowflake Lady," said her goal was to spread the word about pipeline issues in Hamilton.

Schmid-Jones, a former Green Party candidate, says she's running to get her environmental and social justice message out to the public. She doesn't regret the pumpkin seed incident.

"I thought very hard about what I was going to do that day," said Schmid-Jones, who recently addressed council on Hamilton's new downtown secondary plan by using a series of T-shirts in a demonstration.

"I'm sorry if [Trudeau's] heart leapt into his throat. I'm sure it did. That I regret deeply. I'd never want to shorten anyone's breath. But I'm sure there are people whose lives are being shortened by the actions of the Liberal Party."

Schmid-Jones is in favour of Hamilton's $1 billion LRT plan, which already has provincial funding. 

"This disruptive technology will help Hamilton see itself with new eyes," she said.

As for Sgro, he wants to scrap LRT. 

This image shows the timeline for LRT construction. (Metrolinx/City of Hamilton)

During the provincial election, Ontario PC leader Doug Ford said Hamilton could still have the money, even if it didn't build LRT. But many around city hall are skeptical of that.

Sgro said he believes Hamilton will still get the money. When it arrives, he wants to use it on some form of bus rapid transit that will connect to the planned BLAST network, which is a 25-year plan to bring rapid transit to all of Hamilton. The current LRT plan is the first leg of that.

The mayor is only one vote on a 16-member council, so Sgro would need to convince other council members of that vision. He thinks he can do that. "You talk up the merits of what you believe in and you try to build consensus."

Sgro has served on the board of Infrastructure Ontario and the Hamilton Port Authority.

Nominations for the municipal election close on July 27. The election is Oct. 22. 

Here is a look at who is running for mayor so far:


Fred Eisenberger

Fred Eisenberger (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Age: 66.

Occupation: Current mayor.

Residence: "The east end, just east of the Red Hill Expressway."

Mayoral history: Eisenberger served as mayor from 2006 to 2010. He ran again in 2010 and lost to Bob Bratina. He was reelected in 2014.

Why you are running for mayor? What you hope to achieve?

"I am running to enhance economic development and future jobs, advance technology and advanced manufacturing, improve public transportation, provide more affordable housing through public/sector partnerships and reduce poverty and provide prosperity for all."

Carlos Gomes

Carlos Gomes. (Carlos Gomes)

Age: 45.

Resides: East end.

Mayoral history: This is his first time running.

Why are you running for mayor?

I'm hoping to make Hamilton the sort of place where the people who live here can continue to grow and achieve the goals they set for themselves, including make the cost of living more affordable and ending both the increase in crimes and the decrease in jobs in Hamilton. I'm hoping to achieve equal opportunities regardless of social status.

Phil Ryerson

Phil Ryerson (Phil Ryerson)

Age: 53.

Occupation: Self employed.

Residence: East Mountain.

Mayoral history: He also ran for mayor in 2014 and had 269 votes.

Why you are running for mayor? What you hope to achieve?

I am running for mayor to make Hamilton, Ontario a safer, better place for us all to live. As opposition to the LRT, I want to use the money towards infrastructure like turning our roads into cement that would last 35 years. I also want to take away private meetings to see why property taxes are so high.

Ute Schmid-Jones

Ute Schmid-Jones (Ute Schmid-Jones)

Age: 51.

Occupation: Activist, blogger, owner of Et-Tu Productions: Ageless Creative You.

Residence: Durand.

Mayoral history: She's a first-time candidate, although she ran federally for the Green Party in 2015. She also ran twice municipally in her native Midland.

Why are you running for mayor?

One is to bring environmental and social justice issues to the platform because those are my passions. Another reason is I think it's incredibly important to see women standing up and wanting to be in that position. I've been a precarious worker my entire life. I've lived from contract to contract. I do not know what stability looks like. I do not understand what the concept of security is. Those are things I've never had in my professional life. I think that makes me a very resilient person.

What do you hope to achieve?

Many things. I want to show women that women can do it, and they can do it respectfully. To do it with a smile on my face because I'm so enthusiastic about what's working in this city, and to reinforce the positive. I think we spend a lot of time in politics talking about what we don't want instead of reinforcing the community leaders that are already out there. The job of mayor, in my opinion, is not a leader's job. It's a facilitator's job. It's the job of that person to know who's out there doing, who's out there leading, who's out there creative positive initiatives. 

Vito Sgro

Vito Sgro (Vito Sgro)

Age: 51.

Occupation: Chartered accountant.

Residence: Downtown.

Mayoral history: This is his first time running for office.

Why are you running for mayor?

There are many reasons, but I think the big issue is LRT. I am not for the LRT. I think we could take that money and create an excellent transit system throughout the city with a rapid bus component. And if the government sticks to its promise, we can use part of it on our infrastructure deficit.

What do you hope to achieve?

I'd like to work on the poverty/economy part of the city. There is a lack of affordable housing. I think we need to get the provincial government, which has a lot of programs, on board. We need not-for-profits, along with private developers, to come up with a plan. We need units right away, not down the road.

Also, governance. I truly believe that the City of Hamilton needs its own auditor general. I can't believe that a city of this size with the expenditure it has does not have outside oversight.

Nathalie Xian Yi Yan

Nathalie Xian Yi Yan (Nathalie Xian Yi Yan)

Age: 52.

Occupation: Founder, Hamilton Traditional Chinese Medical Health Science Centre.

Lives in: East Mountain.

Mayoral history: This is her first run for mayor, but she did run for city council in Ward 6 in 2006 and 2010. Also ran for the provincial NDP nomination on Hamilton Mountain in 2007, and in Flamborough-Glanbrook in 2018.

Why you are running for mayor?

I love this city. I love the people. Hamilton welcomed me, accepted me, adopted me and raised me up. I appreciate the generosity of the people to let me grew up and to give me this opportunity to be part of the democratic community and to allow me to run and to serve. I am very passionate about this and willing to work towards solving its problems if I can. 

Candidates who are running but did not respond to questions include:

  • Edward Graydon.
  • Todd May.

Mayoral candidate Ricky Tavares did respond, but said he wanted $500 in exchange for answers.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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