Almost three dozen candidates are vying to be mayor of Toronto in the 2018 municipal election but realistically the race has come down to incumbent John Tory and his primary challenger Jennifer Keesmaat.
Unlike some of the races for city council, there is a definite contrast in platforms between Tory and Keesmaat — more so than four years ago when Tory was pitted against now-Premier Doug Ford.
“It’s time for bold ideas and real leadership” – Jennifer Keesmaat
Keesmaat’s campaign has been one of bold ideas. The former chief city planner from 2012-2017 jumped into the race with a tweet calling for the city of Toronto to secede from Ontario in the midst of the political chaos created by the province with its decision to slash the size of council in half.
While she has since backtracked on that headline grabbing idea, Keesmaat has used her background in city planning to put forth a number of progressive proposals she says will help keep Toronto at the forefront of change and innovation.
Supporters have praised her vision which includes replacing part of the Gardiner Expressway with a boulevard, assigning a dedicated team to fast-track work on a downtown Relief Line subway, build affordable housing on city-owned land such as golf courses and launch a rent-to-own housing program financed by a surcharge on properties worth more than $4 million.
Critics have panned her policies as unrealistic and have questioned how she would fund her promises.
“I’m not trying to be on the front page of every newspaper with some pronouncement every day with giant headlines. I just really want to get things done.” – John Tory
Tory’s platform has been one of “steady as she goes,” touting his track record while steering clear of what he calls the “politics of polarization, the politics of show business.” It is somewhat ironic that in 2014, it was Tory who put forth bold proposals — such as SmartTrack — which helped set him apart from Ford.
While he may not be out there making bold statements, Tory says he stands by progress made on key issues such as public transit, pointing to the fact the city has secured $205 million in funding from various other levels of government to the downtown Relief Line subway.
On affordable housing, Tory points to a continuation of his “Open Door” policy which has built just under 4,000 new units since he’s been in office with a realistic goal of 40,000 over 12 years, while criticizing Keesmaat’s target of 100,000 new homes over the next decade as unrealistic.
Tory has also pledged to combat the gun violence that has plagued the city with the additional hiring of 200 new police officers this year and 200 more officers the following year while committing to match recent provincial investment of $25 million towards community safety programs.
Tory has also been adamant when it comes to holding the line on property taxes, vowing to keep property taxes at or below rate of inflation — something he says Keesmaat won’t be able to do if she plans to properly fund her proposals.
While Keesmaat’s vision may have earned praise in some quarters, it has not resonated with a majority of the electorate as recent public opinion polls show Tory has a comfortable double-digit lead over her. In the waning days of the campaign, Keesmaat acknowledged the David vs. Goliath situation she finds herself in.
“That’s really been the heart of this campaign, making that contrast really stark between someone who is a politician for a politician’s sake … versus someone who’s about city building,” she told The Canadian Press.