Toronto city councillor Cynthia Lai has died, re-election campaign says

Toronto city councillor Cynthia Lai has died, her re-election campaign said Friday.

Lai’s campaign said she passed away Friday afternoon.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Councillor Cynthia Lai, Ward 23, Scarborough North this afternoon,” a statement emailed to Global News read. “She was surrounded by family at the hospital.”

Lai was seeking to secure her seat again in Monday’s municipal election.

Read more: All the candidates running to represent Toronto city council’s 25 wards

Her campaign said Lai represented one of the “most diverse multicultural wards in the city.”

“She championed the causes of her constituents and delivered services to residents that reflected the demographic make-up of the ward,” the statement read.

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The City of Toronto said Lai was elected to council in 2018.

“She served on the Budget and Economic and Community Development Committees and represented the constituents of Scarborough North on the Scarborough Community Council,” a news release read. “Councillor Lai was also a TTC Commissioner and served as the Mayor’s designate on the Toronto Zoo Board of Management.”

The city said Lai was also a member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board of Directors, and had participated in standing committees focused on anti-racism and equity, increasing women’s participation in municipal government and international relations.

The city said Lai immigrated to Canada in the 1970s from Hong Kong.

According to the city, books of condolence will be placed in the City Hall Rotunda and the Scarborough Civic Centre on Oct. 23.

According to a profile on the city’s website, before she was elected as a councillor, Lai had an “accomplished real estate career” in both sales and management.

Incumbent Toronto mayor John Tory said he was “so saddened” to hear of Lai’s death.

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“I have known Cynthia for more than 20 years and was always impressed by her strength and professionalism, whether in politics or as the first Chinese-Canadian woman elected to the position of President of the Toronto Real Estate Board,” Tory said in a statement.

“She was a good person who was a cheerful optimist while at the same time being professional, respectful and good at whatever she did. I am proud to have had the opportunity to serve with her.”

Tory said he has asked the flags at City Hall, Metro Hall and Toronto civic centres, including the Scarborough Civic Centre, be lowered to half-mast in Lai’s honour.

“On behalf of Toronto residents, we extend condolences to Cynthia’s family and friends and we pray for them during this difficult time,” he said.

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Those who served alongside Lai in city council, and others, began sharing their condolences on social media.

Jaye Robinson said she was “devastated” to learn of Lai’s passing.

“Cynthia and I developed a strong bond over the last four years – it was an honour to have worked with her,” Robinson wrote in a tweet. “My thoughts are with her family, loved ones, and many supporters across Toronto on this very sad day.”

Jennifer McKelvie said she and Lai were the “new Scarborough Councillors” in 2018.

“She was a fierce advocate for her community and Chinese-Canadians across the city,” she said in a post on Twitter. “I will miss her dearly and have many fond memories. My heartfelt condolences to her family, friends, staff and supporters.”

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