Students Discuss Apathy and Policy Amid Historically Low Voter Turnout

By Philip Harker, Senior News & Campus Life Editor

Mayoral Election

Data: Toronto City Clerk’s Office 

The 2022 Toronto municipal election took place on Monday, 24 October. Incumbent Mayor John Tory was reelected for a third term, and Dianne Saxe is set to become the new Councillor for Ward 11 University-Rosedale. 

The election had a 39% voter turnout according to early numbers from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, which, if accurate, represents the lowest voter turnout in a Toronto election since 1982. 

John Tory’s landslide win put him at a comfortable 243 633 votes above the first runner-up candidate, Gil Penalosa. As strong as the victory was, this figure is considerably lower than Tory’s 301 466 vote lead in 2018 against runner up Jennifer Keesmaat.

October’s Election is Tory’s third consecutive mayorship win. Prior to this, he was a member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, serving as the leader of the party from 2004 to 2009. 

This election comes in the wake of the Ontario Progressive Conservative government’s “strong mayor” legislation, granting mayors the authority to veto certain bylaws passed by municipal councils. John Tory has stated his support for this legislation, citing its potential to allow him to bypass bureaucracy in developing much-needed housing for Toronto.

Critics of Tory, including all of Toronto’s living former mayors, condemn his  support for the strong mayor system. Art Eggleton, Toronto mayor from 1980 to 1991, called the legislation “unnecessary and a threat to democracy” during an Innis College conference on 11 October. 

Ward 11 University-Rosedale

Data: Toronto City Clerk’s Office 

Ward 11 University-Rosedale is the local constituency of the City of Toronto on which Trinity College and the University of Toronto stands. Ward 11, like the other 25 wards, elects one councillor to represent its residence in the Toronto City Council.

Dianne Saxe’s victory for the seat of Ward 11 Councillor was considerably less secure, winning a mere 123 votes above runner-up NDP-endorsed Norm Di Pasquale. The election follows incumbent Ward 11 Councillor Mike Layton’s departure from municipal politics, citing personal issues. 

Saxe, a lawyer, academic, and former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, is stepping into municipal politics for the first time following her defeat in the 2022 Ontario General Election. Prior to her Toronto city councillor campaign, she had served as the deputy leader of the Ontario Green Party since 2020. 

Student Thoughts

When students took to the polls on 24 October, perspectives on this election were varied The Trinity Times discussed candidates, policy, and voter turnout with Trinity College students. 

Anna is a First-year student and new Torontonian, taking part in her first ever Toronto municipal election this October. She educated herself by talking with upper-year students, and came to a clear conclusion. 

“I was definitely hoping for John Tory to not be elected again,”  she said in an interview. “But I guess he’s pretty popular.”

Anna took part in the election, but the results disappointed her, as did the low turnout rate. 

“I think there’s a general apathy towards elections at the moment. I think people are kind of getting the sense that it’s like ‘does it even matter if I vote or not?’ I can see that.”

She compared the municipal election to the 2022 Ontario General Election.

“Even like the recent provincial election I don’t think people really cared. They were like, ‘oh, Doug Ford’s just gonna win. So why even vote?’”

Indeed, elections with an apparently clear winner can be disheartening, even to the politically engaged voter. Second-year student Tristan echoed this sentiment, at least for the mayoral race.

“I figured Tory had it on lock, so I did not pay attention to the mayoral election at all, whatsoever. But in terms of the city councillor, I paid a little more attention.”

Tristan was a strong supporter of Norm Di Pasquale, Ward 11’s runner up. Housing policy is a very pressing issue to Tristan, something he discussed with Di Pasquale at a public relations event.

“…it’s very difficult to tell because all the candidates always say that housing is a priority, so it’s one of those things where you have to look into the meat of what they’re actually saying, to see if it’s helpful. Because no one is going to say that housing is not a priority.”

Housing, transit, and other such issues will be major issues of interest for the Toronto government over the coming years. The new Toronto City Council is set to begin its term on 1 December 2022. Dianne Saxe will be taking her seat in the 25-person Council under Mayor John Tory for a four-year term of office.

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