Why 101 candidates, including a dog, are running for mayor of Toronto

Toby Heaps and Molly in front of City Hall

Following the removal of the city's longtime mayor due to extramarital affair allegations, Toronto will soon elect its new mayor. There is no shortage of candidates to choose from; in fact, a record-breaking 102 names, including Molly the dog, will be on the ballot.

The wolf-husky dog, age 6, and her owner, Toby Heaps, are campaigning under the slogan "Stop the Salt Assault" on city roads in the winter.

Mr. Heaps contended that Molly's sensitive feet could be harmed by the excessive use of salt on the roads during the winter. In addition, his campaign calls for a tax increase on businesses with annual revenues over $1 billion, a fix for the housing affordability problem, and a ban on fossil fuel heating systems in new residences and commercial structures.

If he prevails, he promised to name Molly the city's first honorary canine mayor.

According to him, city hall would make better decisions if an animal was present, he told the BBC.

Mr. Heaps claimed that in addition to wanting change, this election represents a chance that he simply cannot afford to pass up.

Since seven municipalities merged to create what is referred to as the "mega-city" informally 25 years ago, this is the first by-election in Toronto's recorded history. Following John Tory's resignation as mayor of the city for the previous six years, the election was called.

Rob Ford's administration, which made headlines around the world after he admitted to smoking crack cocaine while in office, was seen as a welcome diversion when Mr. Tory came to power in 2014.

However, Mr. Tory has come under fire for failing to articulate a compelling vision for Toronto and for escalating inequality in one of the most expensive cities in the world. He was "rarely inspirational and far too frequently overly cautious," according to a Toronto Star column.

As the city works to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, he is also held accountable for managing Toronto, which appears to be at a critical point. During his administration, many have noted an increase in gun violence, homelessness, housing costs, and violence on public transportation.

Despite these complaints, Mr. Tory won three elections, the most recent of which was in October 2022. When he was first up for reelection, only a handful of people dared to challenge him.

That is, up until his own scandal a few months later forced him from office.

The Toronto Star reported in February that the 68-year-old married mayor had an affair with a 31-year-old staff member during the Covid-19 pandemic. After it was released, he abruptly resigned.

According to Nelson Wiseman, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Toronto, the upcoming by-election on June 26 is "a wide open race" without him in it.

Prof. Wiseman said, "The difference between last time and this time is that we don't know who is going to win.

Surprisingly little is required to enter the race. Torontonians can run for mayor by paying a fee of $250 ($189) and collecting 25 signatures. In contrast to other major North American cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, candidates do not run along party lines, so there is no nomination process to narrow the field.

According to Karen Chapple, director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, with the field so open, some people are drawn to run merely to see if they have a chance.

According to her, the scene has a slight gambling vibe and a Las Vegas aura.

This, combined with Toronto's consistently low voter turnout in mayoral elections, means that the majority of successful candidates already require a good deal of name recognition.

Olivia Chow, Doug Ford, and John Tory in runup to 2014 mayoral race
Olivia Chow (on the left) is accustomed to politics. 2014 saw her run for mayor but lose to John Tory (right). In addition to running, Doug Ford (center) is currently Ontario's premier.

Olivia Chow, John Tory's political opponent and the widow of Jack Layton, the most illustrious leader in the history of Canada's left-leaning New Democratic Party, is currently in the lead in the race. Many of her rivals are former city council members who have established reputations in the neighborhood.

The breadth and diversity of the candidates this time, which range from Molly the dog to an 18-year-old just out of high school, however, tells a story about how divided the city has grown, according to Ms. Chapple.

Toronto is the fourth-largest city in North America and consistently ranked as one of the most diverse cities in the world with a population of just under three million, many of whom are newcomers and immigrants. However, there are a variety of viewpoints on the kind of city Toronto should be because of all those people from various backgrounds.

While others live in basement apartments with roommates, some can afford the city's exorbitant real estate market. Downtown residents jostle for space on the subway, while commuters from the city's outskirts battle daily traffic. The pool of candidates exhibits those various points of view. Mark Saunders, a former police chief, pledged to increase the city's police spending to combat crime, while Ms. Chow concentrated her promises on Toronto's housing crisis, promising to construct homes on city-owned land.

According to Ms. Chapple, "you're sort of seeing a reflection and microcosm of what Toronto is as a city.".

In the meantime, Chloe Brown, a young policy analyst who has devoted the majority of her career to serving underserved communities, has stated unequivocally that "Toronto does not need more policing" and pledged to pay for mental health supports instead.

More than 100 candidates on the ballot has been cited as having potential benefits and drawbacks by experts and candidates alike.

One benefit is that it makes sure a variety of viewpoints are heard and considered.

On the other hand, Ms. Chapple pointed out that it also means that the choice of Toronto's next mayor will probably be made by a very small portion of the populace.

"You might find yourself in a situation where an extreme minority is essentially making decisions for the city," she warned.

With so much opposition, Molly's owner, Mr. Heaps, acknowledged that he might not be elected Toronto's next mayor. He claimed that a conversation he had with his 7-year-old son was the catalyst for him to decide to run.

You know there's a good chance we won't win, so I said, 'Okay. How would you feel at that time?' Mr. Heaps recalled.

"I'd be angry, I'd be sad, but I'd be glad that you tried," he declared. ".

"For me, that was sufficient.

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