Toronto Mayoral Election: The Final Countdown

Dan Carbin is a young(ish) professional who has been actively engaged in politics in three countries for more than two decades. He pays his bills working as a public affairs consultant in Toronto.

For the past month we’ve been breaking down the major Toronto mayoral candidates: John Tory, Doug Ford, and Olivia Chow.  And last week we brought you a guide to the home stretch.

Well, the election is only three days away and it’s time to throw caution (and votes) to the wind and take a guess as to which way the city is going to swing come Monday…   

If campaigns truly do matter, John Tory will be elected mayor of Toronto on October 27th. 
Tory has run a focused, disciplined, and controversy-free campaign that helped overturn the significant lead enjoyed by Olivia Chow when the contest began. By avoiding the gaffes that have plagued his previous electoral forays and relentlessly communicating the benefits of his SmartTrack transit plan, Tory has positioned himself as the most credible alternative to another Ford mayoralty.  

When the campaign began in the spring, it seemed to be Olivia Chow’s for the taking. Chow was ideally positioned to capitalize on the wave of antipathy toward Rob Ford and advance an alternative progressive vision for the city. 

Unfortunately for Chow, she has stumbled badly during the campaign.
Her initial public communications were unfocused and unclear. Her team made some policy miscalculations (such as failing to forcefully push the downtown relief line). Perhaps the biggest strategic blunder was Chow’s decision to shift to the centre of the political spectrum in an effort to grow her vote. The effect was disastrous for Chow. She alienated some of her core support while eliminating the opportunity to effectively differentiate herself from John Tory – a real centrist candidate.  

Over the past month, Chow has changed strategy. She released a progressive and well-received policy platform and has become more vocal in championing social equity issues. If she had run this type of unapologetically progressive campaign from the outset – as Bill De Blasio did in New York City – she might still be in the lead today. As things stand, the change in strategy is clearly too little, too late. Chow appears destined to finish the race as a distant also-ran to both Tory and Doug Ford. 

Doug Ford is realistically the only candidate who has a chance to overtake Tory at this stage. 
His campaign has unleashed relentless attacks on Tory over the past month to try to convince putative Tory voters to change their mind and back him instead. Doug Ford has tried to reprise his brother’s successful strategy from 2010 by positioning himself as the defender of the “common man” standing against the elitist establishment as embodied by John Tory. While it may appear odd to have the brother of the current mayor railing against the power of the establishment, this message does appear to be resonating with those who feel alienated and marginalized in Toronto’s civic life. If Doug Ford is able to translate this disenchantment into votes on election day, the final vote could end up much closer than many analysts are expecting. In 2010, most pollsters significantly under-predicted the number of votes Rob Ford would receive. It is not beyond reason to think the same thing could happen again.  

But whatever happens, what remains most important is that you, young professionals, exercise your civic right on Monday and get out and vote. We don’t care who you cast your ballet for – just vote. Apathy has never been one of the qualities that makeToronto one of the greatest cities in the world.    


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