The election begins on Monday. No, the other election. The municipal election, where Torontonians will elect or re-elect a mayor and 25 city councilors to oversee and guide Canada’s largest city for a four-year term.
Given its overlap with the much shorter provincial election campaign – which begins Wednesday and ends June 2 – Torontonians can be forgiven if the municipal vote on October 24 is not a priority.
And yet. Candidates will line up at City Hall on Monday morning, eager to start telling outsiders how they can improve their lives in a booming city still reeling from a pandemic that has exposed stark inequalities.
Here are five things you need to know about the Toronto municipal elections:
1. Who is running for mayor?
John Tory has announced that he will run for a third term. Dozens of people will come forward against him. In the last elections, 35 people ran for mayor. At the moment, he has no well-known rival. The city council’s progressive faction told the Star that they don’t know of any leftist standard bearers willing to challenge Ontario’s former Progressive Conservative leader. However, that could change: In 2018, former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat entered the mayoral race almost at the last minute.
2. Who is — and who is not — running for city council?
After a chaotic election in 2018 that saw the number of wards change mid-campaign, this time we know there are 25 seats up for grabs. There will be at least two races without starters, as Joe Cressy in Ward 10 Spadina—Fort York and Kristyn Wong-Tam in Ward 13 Toronto Center leave City Hall. If Michael Ford wins his provincial race, his seat on Etobicoke North Ward 1 Council will be open. Some council candidates, including several who ran last time, did not wait until registration day to publicly announce their intentions. In the last elections, 242 people fought for the 25 seats.
3. What happens on Monday?
Beginning at 8:30 a.m., people 18 or older who live or own land in Toronto can register to run for city council or mayor. Candidates must have official endorsements from 25 people and pay a fee — $100 for council candidates and $200 for mayoral candidates. Once registered, they can start soliciting money for their campaign and also spend money on it. Although there is an initial wave of registrations, people have until August 19 to apply.
4. What are the main issues of this election?
It’s a subjective question, but mayoral candidates are likely to take a stand on the high cost of housing and homelessness; armed violence and other public safety issues; ways to stop climate change; public transport; property taxes; poverty reduction and equity measures; pandemic recovery and economic development; the safety of pedestrians and cyclists; and the efficiency of government services such as garbage collection. Issues will vary at the neighborhood level, depending on the part of the city, but concerns about development loom large in many neighborhoods in Toronto.
5. Why should I care?
Many Canadians who mark ballots in federal and provincial elections don’t care about municipal votes. In the last Toronto election, voter turnout was 41%, compared to 76% federally and 58% provincially. Yet the decisions made by the mayor and councilors affect the lives of Torontonians the most, from garbage collection and public health to bike lanes, policing, building codes and environmental protection. floods. In addition, Toronto City Council does not resemble the city it represents. Poet Pier Giorgio Di Cicco wrote, “Toronto is a city that has not yet fallen in love with itself.” This town can and will break your heart, but the elections are your chance to make it better, whatever that means to you.
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