Toronto byelection reaction: Chow elected mayor, Ford issues statement

Former police chief Mark Saunders concedes and congratulates Olivia Chow after finishing third in the Toronto mayoral election.

Olivia Chow is the 66th mayor of Toronto, edging out Ana Bailão in what turned out to be a two-candidate race after both women received over 200,000 votes each.

Bailão, who was endorsed by former mayor John Tory days before Toronto residents headed to the polls, emerged strong out of the gate and led Chow for a portion of the evening.

“The time is now to come together as a city to solve our biggest challenges,” Bailão said.

In Chow, voters have elevated a progressive — and the first woman of colour — to lead Toronto, ending more than a decade of conservative rule at city hall.

She maintained a steady, commanding lead in the polls for most of her campaign, and her front-runner status made her a target for most other leading candidates in the race.

Former police chief Mark Saunders, who placed third in Toronto’s byelection with over 61,000 votes, often targeted Chow as he recognized her as public enemy number one.

Here are some notable moments and reactions to Chow’s win.

John Tory and Justin Trudeau

Tory issued a statement on Monday night, saying Chow’s experience will serve her well as Toronto’s new mayor.

“We are so fortunate to live in Toronto, and I know Ms. Chow will work with council and with other governments to make our city even better,” Tory said.

The 69-year-old Tory resigned as the city’s mayor in February after admitting to an affair with a former staffer. Before that, Tory was re-elected to a third term in 2022, defeating urbanist Gil Penalosa.

The Gong Show and Chris “Sky”

Chris Saccoccia, known as Chris Sky, received over 7,700 votes in Toronto’s byelection. He made a name for himself after organizing rallies against COVID-19 public health orders across the country during the pandemic.

Saccoccia commented on the results as they trickled in, saying he “exposed the largest act of fraud in Canadian history.”

On June 13, Saccoccia posted a video to social media where he claimed he was turning himself into Toronto Police 53 Division. He was charged with uttering death threats stemming from an incident earlier in the month.

Xiao Hua Gong, who became a household name due to his many lawn signs and heavy marketing, had roughly 2,900 votes from members of the city.

Gong saw some success in various business ventures, including manufacturing health supplements, creating media channels, commercial property and running beauty pageants. However, he has been mired in controversy in recent years.

All eyes are on Ford after Chow’s win

Ontario Premier Doug Ford publicly endorsed Saunders ahead of Monday, saying the former police chief had his vote as he’d make the best mayor. He also chastised Chow, going as far as to label her potential win as an unmitigated disaster.

“You know, I’ll tell you, if you want my opinion, if Olivia Chow gets in, it’ll be an unmitigated disaster,” Ford said on June 21. “Businesses are going to be fleeing Toronto as far as I’m concerned.”

Ford’s glowing recommendation of Saunders was made after the Premier stated he’d stay out of the race. His office also noted that Ford would work with anyone elected.

Mark Saunders and Doug Ford

Toronto Mayoral Candidate Mark Saunders (centre) walks with Ontario Premier Doug Ford as he greets the crowds at ‘Ford Fest’ in Scarborough on Friday, June 23, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young.

The Premier is expected to speak on Tuesday in Ayr, Ont., but issued a statement after Chow’s win.

“I want to congratulate Olivia Chow on tonight’s election win and on becoming the next mayor of Toronto. Throughout Olivia’s life, she has proven her desire and dedication to serving the city that many of us call home,” Ford said.

Ford confirmed he spoke with Chow following her mayoral win.

A record 102 mayoral candidates lined up to replace Tory, with roughly a half-dozen names rising to the top of the field over the course of the 12-week campaign.

Polls were open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 1,445 voting locations across the city on Monday.

Saunders praises Chow, urges city-wide support of new mayor

Saunders took a moment to congratulate Chow on her win, calling on residents to rally around the 66-year-old as she prepares to take office.

“She fought a tough fight, and at the end of the day, she came out victorious,” Saunders said on Monday night. “We have to support Olivia Chow in that position of manner.”

A cop for nearly 38 years and Toronto police chief from 2015 to 2021, Saunders positioned himself early in the campaign as a tough-on-crime candidate who could save the city from “out-of-control” lawlessness.

He cited his experience managing the police force’s more than $1-billion budget as proof he could manage city finances.

Bailão, other notable names speak out on Chow’s win

Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, who took over mayoral duties after Tory resigned in February, congratulated Chow on her win over Bailão, whom she endorsed ahead of the byelection.

“On behalf of all Toronto residents, I want to congratulate Olivia Chow on being elected our city’s next Mayor tonight,” McKelvie said.

“Earlier this evening, I spoke to Mayor-elect Chow and committed to supporting an orderly transition of the Mayor’s Office in the coming days.”

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