Mayoral Race


  • Last week’s polls showed little movement in the Toronto mayoral race, as John Tory continued to hold a wide lead over main challenger Jennifer Keesmaat.
  • Tory and Keesmaat’s differing opinions on what should be done with Toronto’s aging Gardiner Expressway became a hot topic in the mayoral campaign, generating editorial play in the country’s top newspapers (including the Globe and Mail and National Post) as well as an editorial cartoon in the Toronto Star.
  • Though he typically shies away from endorsing council candidates, Tory made his first endorsement of the municipal election campaign last week, offering his public support for Brad Bradford in the Beaches-East York council race. Tory noted that Bradford was someone who would work with others to move the city forward, rather than participate in the “the acrimonious…rehashing of issues” such as rebuilding the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway.
  • In a speech to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) last Wednesday, Keesmaat responded to Tory’s promise to hold property taxes at, or below, the rate of inflation by proposing a plan for a rent-to-own housing program as a solution to Toronto’s affordable housing crisis, offering to fund the program with a tax on luxury homes. Tory, in his own speech to the board on the same day, stressed his record on building provincial and federal partnerships for attracting investments in transit, and helping Toronto meet its affordable housing targets for the first time. Both candidates have yet to directly address the city’s growing budget gap, however.
  • Candidates John Tory, Jennifer Keesmaat, Saron Gebresellassi and Knia Singh faced off in last week’s Black Community Mayoral Debate in Scarborough, discussing a range of topics including transit, affordable housing, and safety. Singh called for the Toronto Community Housing Corporation to start a rent-to-own program, while Gebresellassi took Tory and Keesmaat to task about how each had failed to address the city’s affordable housing issue, promising to build 20,000 affordable housing units and declare a state of emergency on housing if she is elected.
  • Tory and Keesmaat also unveiled different approaches to hiring local talent last week, with Keesmaat pledging to implement mandatory community benefit agreements for city developments which could result in the creation of 12,000 jobs, and Tory announcing a plan to hire local tech companies to revamp the city’s website into a “one-window online service” to interact with city services such as 311 requests. Keesmaat also pledged to introduce gender parity requirements on City of Toronto boards and senior staffing positions within the civil service if elected mayor.
  • Taking advantage of the mild weather on Thanksgiving Monday, Keesmaat trekked to the Upper Rouge Trail Park with her family to announce a proposal to convert three city-owned golf courses – Don Valley, Dentonia Park and Scarlett Woods – into publicly accessible greenspaces.


Latest Polls

There are no new polls.

Councillor Races

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.

Today, we look at Toronto’s sprawling eastern borough of Scarborough. It’s six diverse wards that have a complex political fabric and represent an important battleground for both the Tory and Keesmaat campaigns. Transit remains top of mind for many Scarborough voters as the never-ending saga of the Scarborough subway and the future of Mayor Tory’s SmartTrack plan continues to unfold. Scarborough also has a long tradition of political unpredictability – with voters more willing to judge a candidate for their local impact and profile than where they sit on Council’s left-right spectrum. Scarborough brings a mix of hotly-contested races and done deals to the October 22nd election.

Ward 20 – Scarborough Southwest


  • Michelle Holland-Berardinetti (Ward 35)
  • Gary Crawford (Ward 36)

Notable Candidates:

  • Michelle Holland-Berardinetti (incumbent)
  • Gary Crawford (incumbent)

Counsel’s Preview:

Scarborough Southwest’s race is a showdown between two incumbents. As Budget Chief and a member of Executive Committee, Gary Crawford remains one of Mayor Tory’s key council allies – an important one in light of his reputation as a broker on council. Michelle Holland-Berardinetti has seen her profile on Council rise as the city’s Chief Advocate for the Innovation Economy. With a near 50-50 split in the combined geography of the new ward, it’s worth keeping an eye on the handful of other candidates who might pull away small, but meaningful, numbers of votes from either incumbent.

Ward 21 – Scarborough Centre


  • Michael Thompson (Ward 37)
  • Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38) [not seeking re-election]

Notable Candidates:

  • Michael Thompson (incumbent)

Counsel’s Preview:

What was shaping up to be a marquee match-up between two of the Mayor’s closest council allies and Executive Committee stalwarts has fizzled out. Deputy Mayor Glenn De Baeremaeker, citing the unfavourable ward boundaries of the new consolidated Scarborough Centre, opted not to seek re-election. This decision left Michael Thompson without a serious challenger for re-election. Expect a smooth road to re-election for council’s Economic Development committee chair.

Ward 22 – Scarborough-Agincourt
  • James Karygiannis (Ward 39)
  • Norm Kelly (Ward 40)
Notable Candidates:
  • James Karygiannis (incumbent)
  • Norm Kelly (incumbent)
Counsel’s Preview:
Scarborough-Agincourt is shaping up to be a tough slog between two local political institutions. Both Jim Karygiannis and Norm Kelly have represented parts of the new Ward 22 as Liberal MPs: Kelly for a stint in the 1980s prior to joining Toronto council in 1994, and Karygiannis for 26 years before turning to municipal politics in 2014. Both councillors carved unique niches for themselves on Toronto City Council. After serving as a steady Deputy Mayor as former Mayor Rob Ford battled personal demons and health issues, Kelly re-emerged as an unlikely social media star with a cult millennial following as the “6Dad.” Karygiannis in turn established himself as council’s resident populist curmudgeon. Early polling released by Mainstreet Research suggests that the race will be a nail biter, with Karygiannis narrowly ahead of Kelly on the strength of slightly more favourable geography in the new ward. Expect this one to go down to the wire on election night.
Ward 23 – Scarborough North
  • Migan Megardichian (Ward 41) [not seeking re-election]
Notable Candidates:
  • Maggie Chi (constituency assistant)
  • Cynthia Lai (Past President, Toronto Real Estate Board)
Counsel’s Preview:
Scarborough North is as close to a wide-open seat as it gets in municipal politics. Three-term incumbent Chin Lee resigned his seat in the spring in an unsuccessful bid for the Ontario legislature. His appointed replacement, Migan Megardichian, likewise opted not to seek election to the seat. With no current or former MP, MPP, city councillor or school board trustee in the race, there’s no obvious favourite based on name recognition. Among a field of varied candidates, an edge goes to Ward 41 constituency assistant Maggie Chi and former Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) President Cynthia Lai.
Ward 24 – Scarborough-Guildwood
  • Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38) [not seeking re-election]
  • Paul Ainslie (Ward 43)
Notable Candidates:
  • Paul Ainslie (incumbent)
Counsel’s Preview:
Scarborough-Guildwood is likely to be a predictable outcome on election night. With Glenn De Baeremaeker opting not to seek re-election in either part of his now sub-divided ward, incumbent Paul Ainslie doesn’t have a high-profile challenger for his re-election. Not that he won’t be pressed hard on the issues. A small but determined crop of local residents have put their names forward to run against the three-term incumbent, and they’ll be sure to grill the councillor from the left on issues like transit, housing affordability and youth opportunity.
Ward 25 – Scarborough-Rouge Park
  • Neethan Shan (Ward 42)
  • Jim Hart (Ward 44) [not seeking re-election]
Notable Candidates:
  • Neethan Shan (incumbent)
  • Jennifer McKelvie (2014 runner-up, Ward 44)
Counsel’s Preview:
After years of unsuccessfully seeking to represent northeastern Scarborough at the municipal and provincial level, former Ontario NDP President Neethan Shan finally triumphed in the 2017 by-election to replace outgoing councillor Raymond Cho. With neighbouring appointed councillor Jim Hart honouring his pledge to not seek election, Shan is the odds-on favourite to win a full term on council. Being part of Council’s left-of-centre bloc shouldn’t cause him any issues, as the PCs and NDP ran neck-in-neck here in the June provincial election. Shan, as Toronto City Council’s first Tamil-Canadian member, will once again lean on Ward 25’s significant Tamil community to spearhead his re-election bid.

Quotes of the Week

“Nobody in history approved more Toronto luxury condo units than Ms. Keesmaat did as chief planner.”

October 1, 2018
John Tory
During the Black Community Mayoral Debate.


“In the past, John Tory has suggested the way to bring more women into the workforce is for young women to learn how to play golf. My approach is simpler and more direct: I’d hire them.”

October 5, 2018
Jennifer Keesmaat
On her plan to bring gender parity to City Hall.