The campaign for Toronto city councillor Cynthia Lai announced late Friday that the councillor has passed away.
Lai was the councillor for Ward 23, Scarborough North, and was seeking re-election in the October 24 civic elections.
The statement Lai's campaign released said the councillor was surrounded by family at the hospital. Lai had reportedly been ill throughout the year, but opted to run for re-election in May after she started feeling better. The Toronto Star reported on Thursday that Lai had been hospitalized.
Soon after Lai's campaign announced her death, Mayor John Tory -- also up for re-election -- announced on Twitter that the City would be dimming the Toronto Sign. "She will be missed by all those who knew her," Tory added.
In an additional tweet, Tory said he has requested that the flags at City Hall, Metro Hall, Scarborough Civic Centre, and other civic centres to be lowered to half-mast. Tory has previously endorsed Lai in her re-election campaign.
“I was so saddened to learn that Councillor Cynthia Lai had passed away," stated Tory in a release. "My thoughts are with her family, including her husband C.K. Fung, and her sons, Derrick and Darren Fung, as they mourn her loss. They will be joined in mourning by many friends and by the many people she served so well over the years. 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. 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. For the last four years, Cynthia represented the people of Ward 23 Scarborough North with such elegance and distinction. She was such a friendly and warm presence at City Hall and I know I speak for her City Council colleagues when I say she will be deeply missed. On behalf of all Toronto residents, we extend condolences to Cynthia's family and friends and we pray for them during this difficult time.”
Premier Doug Ford also released a statement on Twitter.
"I’m so saddened to learn about Councillor Cynthia Lai’s passing," Ford said. "My thoughts are with her friends, family and the constituents she served."
Lai immigrated to Ontario in the 1970s from Hong Kong and has lived in Toronto ever since.
Before her time in government, Lai had an accomplished career in real estate, becoming the first Chinese-Canadian woman to be elected to the position of President of the Toronto [Regional] Real Estate Board. She was also elected to serve on the Real Estate Council of Ontario three consecutive times.
"Cynthia served TRREB as President in 2003-2004, and is fondly remembered for her dedication to the real estate industry, and passionate engagement with our REALTOR® Members, with a cheerful and optimistic demeanour," reads a statement released by the board. "Cynthia was a trailblazer and helped open the doors for other women. She will be remembered as an accomplished REALTOR®, a fierce advocate for her community and a champion of increasing women’s participation in municipal government.
She was elected to Toronto City Council in 2018, winning 5,589 votes (27%) and also served as the Commissioner of the Toronto Transit Commission, after championing the extension of the Scarborough subway into Ward 23. As well, as a member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board of Directors, Councillor Lai participated in standing committees focused on anti-racism and equity, increasing women’s participation in municipal government and international relations.
Lai is survived by her husband C.K. Fung, and her two sons, Derrick and Darren Fung, both of whom have made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, according to her City of Toronto biography, and both of whom Lai referred to as her proudest achievements.