On June 26, Toronto will elect a new mayor, more than four months after the resignation of former mayor John Tory.
The abrupt departure of former-Mayor Tory has sparked plenty of debate about the future of the city, the issues that matter to voters and the implications for Toronto going forward.
More than 100 candidates formally entered the race, and with less than a week to go before ballots are counted, front runners have emerged to separate themselves from the pack in most public polls.
- Olivia Chow
- Mark Saunders
- Ana Bailão
- Josh Matlow
- Mitzie Hunter
- Brad Bradford
- Anthony Furey
The race so far
Nearly from the moment Olivia Chow entered the race for Toronto mayor, she emerged as the front-runner and has largely held that position throughout the campaign.
While there is a large field of mayoral candidates, so too is the field of contenders to challenge Chow, making it hard for any one other candidate to emerge as a clear alternative. With one week to go in the election, none of the contenders have yet pulled away from the pack to give Chow a bigger challenge heading into election day.
Olivia Chow, herself a former Toronto city councillor and NDP member of parliament, is being challenged by two current city councillors, Josh Matlow and Ana Bailão, who look to attract more centrist voters, and Mark Saunders, the former chief of police for the Toronto Police Service, who looks to capture voters more centre-right. Among the top contenders in the campaign, a ballot split across ideological lines has kept Olivia Chow at the top of most public polls.
Other higher-profile candidates have not been able to separate themselves from the pack and include another city councillor, Brad Bradford, former MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood Mitzie Hunter and former Sun Media columnist turned True North Centre vice-president, Anthony Furey.
While recent news in Toronto has been filled with stories of increased crime, particularly as it relates to crime on public transit on the TTC, most candidates have spent their time talking to Toronto voters about housing and affordability. Candidates have also focused on city services, bike lanes, the future of Ontario Place and what to do with the Gardiner Expressway.
Olivia Chow has promised to expand a pilot project with teams made up of mental health professionals who respond to some non-violent 911 calls for people in crisis to serve the entire city. She has also committed to forming an Emergency Response Transformation Team to explore new ways to improve 911 response times.
Mark Saunders has said he would ensure at least 200 special constables are assigned to TTC stations across the transit network, enhance the mental health training of special constables and provide them with body cameras. He has also said he would integrate TTC special constables with the Toronto Police Service over the long term.
Ana Bailão has committed to expanding the Toronto Community Crisis Service pilot project across the city and introduce new Mobile Mental Health Clinics in high-priority neighbourhoods and transit stations. She has promised to push for bail reform to keep repeat offenders off city streets.
Josh Matlow has pledged a $115 million community health and safety fund to pay for a series of initiatives aimed at addressing the causes of violent crime. This includes the expansion of mental health crises teams for the TTC and the creation of new safe spaces for at-risk youth. The initiatives would be funded through a freeze of the Toronto Police Services budget at $1.6 billion for three years and withholding budget increases to match inflation. Matlow would also increase funding for Toronto’s Vision Zero road safety plan by 150 per cent and redesigning the most dangerous intersections and roads in the city.
Olivia Chow has pledged to build 25,000 homes on city-owned land, with the city of Toronto acting as developer, a minimum of 2,500 of those units would be rent-geared-to-income. Chow would double the reach of the rent bank to 5,500 people every year and expand the scope of the eviction protection program. Chow has said she would raise Toronto’s vacant home tax to three per cent and invest the additional proceeds into affordable housing initiatives. She has also said she would increase the land transfer tax on homes sold for more than $3 million in order to support programs for people experiencing homelessness.
Mark Saunders has promised to speed up the approval process for residential construction to allow new projects to be approved within one year and digitize some processes. He would also work with local unions to encourage more skilled trade workers. He has promised to explore tax and other incentives for purpose-built affordable rental projects and a “last-mile” grant program to top-up funding for projects in need of loans.
Ana Bailão has released a $48.5 million housing plan, which would be funded through proceeds from an existing city building tax levy. The plan purports to help build 285,000 new homes by 2031, with a minimum of 20 per cent of those units being purpose-built rentals. Bailão has also pledged to temporarily freeze any demolition proposals for existing rental apartment buildings. She would establish a specialized Anti-Displacement and Evictions Prevention Unit within the municipal licensing and standard department.
Josh Matlow has released a $407.6 million housing plan, including the creation of a new agency responsible for building housing on city-owned property. Public Build Toronto would receive $300 million in start-up funding and be supplemented by a plan to approve nine-storey buildings on some designated avenues “as-of-right.” Matlow also wants to allow up to three rental units to be added to all existing homes and encourage purpose-built rentals through a new, lower property tax rate for multi-unit rental dwellings. He has also committed to putting $50 million towards supporting the purchase of affordable apartment buildings considered to be under threat and given to non-profit operators.
Olivia Chow has pledged to build an at-grade boulevard to replace the Gardiner Expressway, which she claims would save hundreds of millions of dollars which could be put toward transit projects. She also promises to fight the redevelopment of Ontario Place and withhold a parcel of city-owned land to prevent the province from developing the land into a large spa. She would also fight the province’s plans to relocate the Ontario Science Centre and preserve the existing facility.
Mark Saunders has pledged to support the renaming of Yonge-Dundas Square to honour late musician Gordon Lightfoot. Saunders has said that as mayor, he would remove bike lanes from University Avenue, reverse the decision to make the Yonge Street bike lanes permanent, and suspend all bike lane expansions until a new consultation process is in place.
Ana Bailão would push the Ontario government to assume responsibility of the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway in order to save Toronto taxpayers approx. $250 million each year. She would also expand the city’s BikeShareTO program to include the entire waterfront, Toronto Islands and the Etobicoke hydro corridor.
Josh Matlow has pledged to scrap the rebuild of the Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis Street in favour of a ground-level boulevard, which he believes will save the city $500 million and make five acres of land available for new housing. He is also opposed to the provincial government’s planned redevelopment of Ontario Place and, as mayor, would withhold 16 acres of city-owned land at the site. Matlow has also committed to make a “true city-wide network” of bike lanes as part of the solution to gridlock. This includes plans for new walking and cycling trails in Scarborough which would transform a portion of the existing Scarborough RT elevated rail line to a green walking and cycling trail, modelled on the High Line trail in New York City.
Property tax and affordability
Olivia Chow has pledged to raise the municipal land transfer tax on luxury homes with graduated rates for homes sold for more than $3 million. She would also raise the vacant homes tax to three per cent and use the revenue for affordable housing initiatives. Chow would support an increase to the City Building Fund paid by property owners and a modest increase to property taxes to fund important services, though has not committed to a specific increase.
Mark Saunders has committed to not raising property taxes more than the rate of inflation.
Ana Bailão has pledged to keep property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation and give breaks to those who rent their spaces at or below market rates to arts organizations. She has said Toronto needs a fair deal with other levels of government, including the province assuming responsibility for the DVP and Gardiner Expressway to make up the city’s budget shortfall.
Josh Matlow has proposed a two per cent property tax increase to fund a dedicated “City Works Fund,” which would bring approximately $390 million in additional revenue over five years. He has also pledged a commercial levy on parking lots to bring in an estimated $200 million a year. As well, as mayor, he plans to double the land transfer tax on the purchase of a second residential property for both domestic and foreign buyers.
Olivia Chow has promised to build a dedicated busway to replace the Scarborough Rapid Transit line and pay for the busway with money saved by building an at-grade boulevard to replace the Gardiner Expressway from Cheery Street to the Don Valley Parkway, instead of rebuilding it. She also plans to reverse recent service cuts to the TTC to make service more reliable and expand cellular service across the TTC network.
Mark Saunders has promised to extend TTC Line 4 (Sheppard) to McCowan Road and to speed up a study on extending the line west to connect with Sheppard West Station at Dufferin Street. He has said he will work with other levels of government to expand the subway network. Saunders would end the streetcar right-of-way on King Street by reopening the road to all traffic and allow seniors to ride the TTC for free on Mondays.
Ana Bailão has promised to build a dedicated busway to replace the Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT) line, reverse services cuts and hire more TTC staff at stations, roll out cellular service across the TTC network, increase security camera scheduled and increase cleaning schedules. Bailão also wants to increase security camera coverage and cleaning schedules across the system.
Josh Matlow has committed to a $1.2 billion transit plan for Scarborough funded through his promised parking lot levy and the money saved by removing the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway in favour of a ground-level avenue. The Scarborough Moves plan includes a 23-stop LRT line on Eglinton East from Kennedy Station to Malvern Town Centre, a nine-stop LRT from McCowan subway station to Neilson Road on Sheppard East, and a busway to replace the former Scarborough RT line. He would also reverse TTC service cuts and restore transit service to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the term.
Olivia Chow has committed to creating new 24/7 respite spaces and expanding street outreach, warp-around support services and drop-in programming for vulnerable people. She would also commit more than $14 million to the rent supplement program to help 1,000 households exit the shelter system and find stable housing.
Mark Saunders has said he would provide space in unused city buildings at no cost for non-profits that already provide addiction treatment services. He has committed to launching a Mayor’s Wellness Circle as an approach to the drug crisis and would cancel a request by the city to decriminalize drugs for personal use in Toronto. He would move away from the use of supervised injection sites.
Ana Bailão platform commits to expanding services for people in crisis, mobile mental health care clinics and supports for people escaping domestic violence. Councillor Bailão would also provide food banks with access to vacant city space to help lower costs and set up a new funding stream for food security programs. She has promised to transform green spaces into community gardens with the help of community partners.
Josh Matlow has committed to putting $5 million towards a year-round respite service for the most vulnerable residents, instead of warming centres during extreme cold events. He would also add 2,000 new rent supplements and expand the qualifying criteria for the program for an additional cost of $30 million. He has also committed $15 million to review and improve standards in the city’s shelter system.