John Tory has been overwhelmingly elected to a second four year term as mayor of Toronto, defeating former chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat.
Tory garnered just over 63 per cent of the vote while Keesmaat was a distant second just over 23 per cent of ballots cast.
Tory joins Mel Lastman and David Miller in winning back-to-back terms since amalgamation.
While Tory will receive more votes this time out than in the previous two times he ran for mayor, voter turnout is expected to be the lowest since 2006 with just over 41 per cent of eligible voters casting ballots.
“I want to say thank you, first, to Toronto. They’ve given me a mandate and they’ve allowed me to continue to serve in this job which is such a privilege,” Tory said in his victory speech. “I want to say thank you to the people of Toronto for their confidence, for their support and for their inspiration and for this historic mandate that they’ve given me tonight.”
Unlike four years ago when he started the mayoral campaign a distant third, Tory was the clear front runner from the start and never in any danger of relinquishing that role to his primary challenger, Keesmaat.
“I want to acknowledge Jennifer Keesmaat, who brought ideas forward which I’m sure we’ll discuss in the coming days,” said Tory.
Keesmaat was lauded for her bold ideas and progressive approach to keeping Toronto at the forefront of change. However, her vision did not resonate with the majority of the electorate in a campaign that never seemed to materialize, having been overshadowed by the controversial decision by the Ford government to cut the size of city council from 47 seats down to 25.
“Mr. Tory has worked hard his whole life in political office, and I’m sure that our mayor will return to office determined to make his time there count,” Keesmaat said in her concession speech. “We’ll eventually figure out ways for people to afford to live here.”
The lack of any real debate on the issues currently facing the city also played into Tory’s hands. He pitched a steady-as-she-goes program, stressing the need to build upon the progress already achieved in his first four years rather than the “unrealistic” proposals put forth by Keesmaat.
“We have to be a city of hope, not a city where you lose hope,” said Tory.
“It seems to me that job one, over the next few years, is to continue the work of connecting Toronto up in many different ways. To bring opportunities closer, to bring people closer, to bring us closer to our ultimate goal which is a truly great, 21st century city. A livable, affordable city with opportunities for everybody.”
Tory also touched on the issue of gun violence in the city, saying he will make a renewed effort to end it by investing in programs to break down barriers.
“No child comes into this world wanting to hurt others.”
Analysis: Political strategist Bob Richardson joins Cynthia Mulligan to discuss how John Tory’s second term will be different and the challenges he faces in dealing with Premier Doug Ford going forward
While Tory was rather vocal about the Ford government’s unexpected decision to change the city’s electoral boundaries, the slimmed down council could actually work in his favour as he attempts to push his agenda forward. He now likely needs 13 like-minded councillors to guarantee votes pass rather than 24 under the previous system.
Three of the four councillors Tory supported in this race managed to win a seat. Mark Grimes, the Exhibition Board chair, easily won re-election in Ward 3 while in Ward 6 James Pasternak defeated Maria Augimieri, who had consistently voted against Tory. Political newcomer and city planner Brad Bradford won his bid in Beaches-East York, which was one of three wards that did not have an incumbent. Tory had tabbed Bradford to be his champion for the downtown Relief Line subway.
Tory’s lone setback came in the riding of Toronto-St. Paul’s where Joe Mihevic, who was backed by Tory, lost to Josh Matlow, who has loudly challenged Tory over moving ahead with the Scarborough Subway.
Two of the four councillors who declared their support for Tory – Frances Nunziata and Denzil Minnan-Wong – both won re-election while Christin Carmichael-Greb and Jon Burnside went down to defeat.
The makeup of the new council – and its various political leanings – will determine the future course of some key projects facing the city, such as the one-stop Scarbourough subway extension. Tory has been a staunch supporter of the plan. Updated costs for the project are expected to be released in the new year and if it soars beyond $3.3-billion, will that cause the new council to revist the plan or continue ahead.
There also the King Street pilot project and plans for more bike lanes. Both are often issues that divide downtown left-leaning city councillors and more suburban councillors on the right.
The new, slimmed-down council will also have to grapple with how to pay for the $29-billion in unfunded capitol projects. The left-leaning councillors often call for tax increases or other revenue tools while Tory has vowed to hold the line on property taxes at or below the rate of inflation.
“I am ready to get back to work with the new council, with the other governments, with the people to get things done. We are just getting started in getting this city moving and getting it connected and bringing opportunities closer to home,” said Tory.