Meet The Mayoral Hopefuls Who Are Vying For Toronto’s Highest Office
John Tory’s Surprise Resignation Has Brought Back Familiar Faces From The 2022 Election, And Some Fresh Ones Too.
By Zyad Osman, Staff Writer
In October, Torontonians went to the polls to reaffirm their support for John Tory in an election marred by low voter turnout and apathy. Election officials reported that just under 30% of the city’s total eligible population went to the polls to cast their vote. Afterwards, Tory commanded the largest lead that any single candidate had over a runner-up in a Toronto mayoral election since Mel Lastman’s 71.5% lead over Tooker Gomberg in the 2000 election. However in the early hours of February 11th, Tory made a surprise announcement that he would be stepping down from his position after admitting to having a relationship with a political staffer during the pandemic. The man who was often referred to by city hall employees and local news correspondents as “No Story Tory” (owing to his relatively unassuming personality and politics) would be Toronto’s second consecutive mayor to step down after a scandal.
With the office of Mayor now vacant, Deputy Mayor and Ward 25 councillor Jennifer McKelvie has assumed partial mayoral powers until the by-election for June 26th. Many of the candidates from the 2022 elections have reaffirmed their interest to run for the position, as well as some newcomers. Here is a brief look at the four candidates that analysts believe may have the best chances of becoming Toronto’s next mayor.
Gil Penalosa is an urban planner, consultant, and long-time advocate of progressive urban policy, having helped establish community outreach programs, car-free developments, and other programs through his advocacy group 8 80 Cities. Despite finishing in a distant second place after last year’s mayoral election, Penalosa sports a comprehensive policy platform, promising sweeping expansions to the TTC, improvements in walkability around Toronto, and investments in affordable housing. Despite flip-flopping on this matter during the 2022 election, Penalosa committed to achieving his goals without utilizing the increased authority that would be granted to him by Ontario’s new ‘strong mayor’ powers. These powers allow mayors in the province to approve bylaws as long as they receive only a third of the city council’s support.
Some see Penalosa’s policies as a breath of fresh air after 8 years of conservative politics under Tory. However, despite Penalosa’s insistence that his vision for Toronto — especially some of its more ambitious components — will be less expensive than some of the city’s current schemes, others like former mayoral candidate Blake Acton have criticized his excess optimism, believing it could lead to irresponsible spending patterns in the future.
Very shortly after Tory’s resignation, Premier Ford signalled his party’s intent to back only “one credible center-right candidate” in the coming by-election. According to the CBC, many sources within the Ontario Progressive Conservative party have indicated that this credible candidate may very well be Brad Bradford, city councilor for Ward 19 — Beaches-East York, and the current chair of the city’s housing committee.
At the time of writing, Brad Bradford has not made an official bid for mayor, however in interviews with the Toronto Star and Global News, he repeatedly mentioned his interest in running. Despite not standing for election in 2022, his background as a planner and chairman of the city’s foremost housing authority might lead to his platform focusing considerably on the current housing and cost-of-living crisis in the city. Although, if elected, he may opt to continue John Tory’s Housing Action Initiative approved last December after endorsing it as the city planner. Bradford also expressed interest in accelerating the implementation of a number of Tory’s other policies, although he did not specify which. Association with Tory’s politics may win him favor with the majority that voted for the ex-mayor last year. However, Bradford’s establishment of an unofficial “advisory committee” that he would refer to in the lead-up to his Mayoral run and which consists mostly of business people such as current and former CEOs has angered some on the left who see this as a move pandering to lobbyists.
Policy analyst and third-place runner-up during the 2022 election, Chloe-Marie Brown received 6.31% of the vote in October. While Brown has a much smaller following than the likes of Penalosa or Bradford, her supporters see her technologically-focused policy solutions as a much-needed radical change to the stagnant status-quo in municipal politics. Brown’s policy platform titled “3 Big Ideas” is centered around increasing mixed-use zoning in the city, implementing smart systems in everyday life, and better managing city assets through a people-centric business model. Apart from that, Brown has also expressed interest in a number of more traditional policies like reforming the city’s taxation to take land value into account, such that property taxes better reflect factors like location and proximity to (and quality of) services, and she has no qualms with using the province’s new strong mayor powers to do so.
Ana Bailão announced her interest to run in the mayoral by-election on the 28th of February. Unlike other candidates, Bailão’s history in high-profile roles in municipal politics gives us a good idea of how she would govern and what policies she would prioritize. Bailão served as Toronto’s Deputy Mayor under Tory between 2017 and 2022. She also chaired the city’s housing and planning committees, focusing on a wide array of issues such as poverty, homelessness, and various individual schemes like the city’s vacant homes tax. Bailão told reporters of the Toronto Star that housing affordability will be central to her platform. Immediately following her housing pledge, the long-time Tory ally made an unusual promise to commuters who struggle to use the internet while on the TTC, stating: “A huge part of the solution for TTC safety and improving services overall is technology, not just more and more police officers. Bell, Telus, Rogers should be put on notice by all candidates running for Mayor. No more excuses. Improve the [cell] service.”
A Consequential Election
With John Tory’s permanence in the Toronto political stage now broken, it seems that the June by-election is shaping up to be one of the most consequential in Toronto’s post-amalgamation history. Numerous fresh faces as well as some stubbornly persistent ones have entered the scene since February 11th, all with wildly different visions for where the city should head in the next four years.
This election’s importance also seems to be lost on no one at the provincial level, with big actors including MPPs and Premier Ford getting involved.
Whoever does end up winning mayorship in June will have their work cut out for them as they will be expected to quickly and efficiently address the myriad of issues plaguing the city ranging from violence on the TTC, skyrocketing property values, and a homelessness crisis, all the way to individual problems faced by the everyday citizen like the continuing effects of inflation.