- It’s Election Day, and it is a tale of two elections for Toronto voters.
- All signs continue to point towards a convincing re-election for John Tory in Toronto’s mayoral race, as polls consistently show him with a significant and stable lead over his main challenger, Jennifer Keesmaat.
- At the same time, Toronto has rarely seen such a hotly-contested slate of races for City Council, a direct result of the Province’s decision to reduce the number of seats from 47 to 25. As many as 10 wards could see elections decided by a handful of votes as incumbents square off in neck-and-neck races for re-election to Toronto’s streamlined City Council.
- With a consistent lead in the final week of the campaign, Tory spent time re-iterating various campaign promises at stops throughout the city, dropping by a selection of seniors’ homes, and meeting with community business leaders.
- In the final week of the campaign, Keesmaat continued to hammer on her campaign’s core theme that unlike Tory, her mayoralty would put good policy ahead of politics – voicing her plans on improving the city’s stormwater management and implementing better city agency oversight. Both are areas where Keesmaat has tried to argue that the Mayor skirted bold policy decisions in favour of a politically-expedient one – a similar refrain to her position on the Gardiner Expressway and Yonge-Sheppard plan.
- Although the Toronto Star’s Heather Mallick penned an endorsement for Keesmaat, the paper’s editorial board ultimately endorsed Tory for mayor late Friday afternoon. The Toronto Sun also endorsed the incumbent Mayor, repeating its 2014 endorsement of Tory, despite not seeing eye-to-eye with him on several issues during his first term.
- At a community event in Regent Park last Thursday, Keesmaat picked up endorsements from four NDP MPPs: Doly Begum (Scarborough Southwest), Marit Stiles (Davenport), Suze Morrison (Toronto Centre) and Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale).
- With only a few days left to sway undecided voters, both Keesmaat and Tory sat down separately with CityNews reporter Cynthia Mulligan during the CityVote Election Special to discuss their positions on some of the key topics framing the election, including transit, gun violence, and affordable housing.
- While at times heated, this year’s mayoral campaign has focused primarily on issues of policy over personality, bucking the trend that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in recent years federally, provincially and around the world.
Each week, Counsel will be previewing the local City Council races as candidates across the city hustle for votes as they seek to be elected in one of Toronto’s 25 new wards.
We’re wrapping up our election preview with Toronto’s remaining seven wards. Comprising downtown and much of the old City of Toronto, this is home turf for most of City Council’s left-wing bloc. Swept by the NDP in the June provincial election, they represent the strongest base of support for Jennifer Keesmaat’s mayoral bid. This fact is not lost on the Keesmaat campaign, who’ve focused much of their attention on issues that resonate with these residents: overburdened transit, city-building opportunities, and a strong check on Premier Doug Ford. Amidst retirements, and despite a few high-profile challengers, these wards are expected to return a largely familiar set of incumbents to City Council.
Ward 4 – Parkdale-High Park
- Sarah Doucette (Ward 13) [not seeking re-election]
- Gord Perks (Ward 14)
- Gord Perks (incumbent)
- Kalsang Dolma (community activist)
- David Ginsberg (small business owner)
The decision by incumbent High Park councillor Sarah Doucette to not seek re-election has put council firebrand Gord Perks in the pole position to represent the new Ward 4. A seasoned activist, Perks has consistently demonstrated a talent for getting – and keeping – his priority issues on the public radar. He’s being challenged by several worthy contenders, including community activist Kalsang Dolma and local restauranteur David Ginsberg – both of whom hail from the Parkdale community as well. But High Park – representing half the combined ward and new turf for Perks – remains the wildcard. With no high-profile High Park candidate in the race, will Perks’ city-wide reputation help him make a strong showing here as well?
Ward 9 – Davenport
- Cesar Palacio (Ward 17) [not seeking re-election]
- Ana Bailão (Ward 18)
- Ana Bailão (incumbent)
This was the race that was, and then wasn’t. Under Toronto’s anticipated 47-ward council, redrawn boundaries in the Davenport area pitted incumbents Cesar Palacio and Ana Bailão against each other in the only race where two sitting councillors were expected to face off. Enter Doug Ford. The decision by the provincial government to consolidate the size of council still saw the two incumbents facing off, but in a larger ward covering the entirety of both their current districts (the 47-ward model was somewhat more favourable to Bailão). Exit Palacio, who quietly withdrew from the race in late September, leaving Bailão with a clear path to re-election. Welcome news for Bailão, an influential centrist and swing vote on council, following a closely-won re-election in 2014.
Ward 10 – Spadina-Fort York
- Mike Layton (Ward 19)
- Joe Cressy (Ward 20)
- Lucy Troisi (Ward 28)
- Joe Cressy (incumbent)
- Kevin Vuong (city-builder)
The more things change, the more they stay the same. With several of the combined wards cutting across multiple existing wards, the left-of-centre incumbents have largely co-ordinated to avoid running against each other. Incumbent Joe Cressy, former assistant to Olivia Chow and one of the left’s rising stars, will run against a plethora of challengers to represent the western half of downtown and City Hall itself. He has built a notable local and media reputation in just his first term that should foreshadow his re-election. All this comes naturally to Cressy – the son of not one but two former Toronto councillors. His strongest challenge comes from Kevin Vuong – a city-builder and naval officer who was one of two Canadians honoured by Queen Elizabeth II with the Queen’s Young Leaders award last year.
Ward 11 – University-Rosedale
- Mike Layton (Ward 19)
- Joe Cressy (Ward 20)
- Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27)
- Mike Layton (incumbent)
Another downtown ward that spans wards currently held by several incumbents, the new Ward 11 should be an early call on election night. Mike Layton, son of former Toronto Councillor and Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton, has represented the western portion of this ward for the past four years. He’s drawn a very slim slate of challengers, none of which is likely to pose a significant obstacle to his re-election. Layton’s biggest challenge has – and will be – introducing himself to thousands of new residents across the ward, two-thirds of which is new territory for the incumbent. The Layton name should be an effective ice breaker.
Ward 13 – Toronto Centre
- Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27)
- Lucy Troisi (Ward 28)
- Kristyn Wong-Tam (incumbent)
- Lucy Troisi (incumbent)
- George Smitherman (former 2010 mayoral candidate and Ontario Liberal minister)
There’s just something about Toronto Centre that makes it irresistibly magnetic to those seeking elected office. The new ward has attracted no less than 19 candidates for its council seat. Leading the way are incumbents Kristyn Wong-Tam and Lucy Troisi, as well as former mayoral candidate George Smitherman, who represented Toronto Centre at Queen’s Park for 13 years. In her eight years on council, Wong-Tam has become one of the most influential left-of-centre councillors while earning wide plaudits for her effectiveness and pragmatism. Signs show that it is translating into support at the ballot box. Two polls have shown Wong-Tam with a solid lead over Smitherman, with appointed incumbent Troisi well behind. Should Wong-Tam win a convincing re-election, speculation about a 2022 mayoral bid won’t be far behind.
Ward 14 – Toronto-Danforth
- Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29)
- Paula Fletcher (Ward 30)
- Mary Fragedakis (incumbent)
- Paula Fletcher (incumbent)
- Lanrick Bennett (community activist)
- Chris Budo (community activist)
Toronto-Danforth is the only seat where two incumbent councillors traditionally associated with Council’s left-of-centre bloc are going head-to-head. Paula Fletcher and Mary Fragedakis are both experienced, multi-term incumbents, with Fletcher in particular being one of the informal caucus’ leading figures. Both are facing credible grassroots challengers in their own backyards: former Queen’s Park staffer and activist Lanrick Bennett (Fletcher) and local resident Chris Budo (Fragedakis). Polling from Mainstreet Research suggests that both insurgents are drawing a comparable percentage of votes – about 10 per cent – but Fletcher nevertheless is poised for a convincing re-election over neighbouring incumbent Fragedakis.
Ward 19 – Beaches-East York
- Janet Davis (Ward 31) [not seeking re-election]
- Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32) [not seeking re-election]
- Matthew Kellway (former NDP MP)
- Brad Bradford (urban planner)
- Diane Dyson (non-profit leader)
- David Del Grande (former Green Party of Ontario candidate; son of former Councillor Mike Del Grande)
The only truly wide-open ward contest in this final preview, Ward 19 is shaping up to mirror its traditional political rivalries at the provincial and federal level. The retirements of both incumbents, Janet Davis and Mary-Margaret McMahon, has cleared the way for a new face on council. A poll by Mainstreet Research finds former single-term NDP MP Matthew Kellway ahead of leading rival Brad Bradford, around whom the ward’s Liberal establishment has largely coalesced. With both candidates trading endorsements from the retiring incumbents – Kellway from Janet Davis, Bradford from Mary-Margaret McMahon – Bradford also saw a big boost from a high-profile endorsement by John Tory. With late momentum difficult to gauge, this will be a race to watch after the polls close.
Quotes of the Week
“[Toronto doesn’t] need a leader who thinks the solution to every problem is to throw more money at it […] We need a mayor who understands the job is to provide taxpayers with the best possible municipal services at the lowest possible costs and to, realistically, move the city forward […] When voters go to the polls on Monday, our view is John Tory is the only mayoral candidate with a proven track record and ability to lead the city forward.”
October 17, 2018
Toronto Sun Editorial Board, endorsing John Tory
“Jennifer has a vision for Toronto that is inclusive and progressive. Jennifer has the experience and commitment to improve transit and build the world-class system that our city desperately needs. Jennifer also has ambitious and realistic plans to build affordable housing and tackle our housing crisis. I am proud to support Jennifer Keesmaat for Mayor..”
October 18, 2018
University Rosedale MPP Jessica Bell, endorsing Jennifer Keesmaat