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Battle lines in Toronto mayoral race drawn in campaign's first major debate: experts


City hall watchers says the first major debate of Toronto's mayoral byelection appeared to set out the battle lines for the campaign's second half, as Olivia Chow defended her frontrunner status against a field looking to make up ground.

Myer Siemiatycki, professor emeritus at Toronto Metropolitan University, says Chow handled the brunt of questions from the other four top contenders who attended last night's debate.

It offered a preview, he says, of the coming weeks as those four candidates -- Josh Matlow, Ana Bailão, Mitzie Hunter and Brad Bradford -- try to separate from the rest of the other top tier candidates and establish themselves as Chow's main challenger.

Former police chief Mark Saunders represented the lone holdout for the debate, hosted by the Daily Bread Food Bank, which invited the top six candidates based on polling data to discuss their plans to tackle poverty and affordability.

Already halfway through the abbreviated 12-week race to the June 26 byelection, Siemiatycki says it's a "high anxiety time" for the candidates playing catch up.

Zachary Spicer, a political science expert at York University, says some candidates who share policy positions will likely face pressure to bow out of the race to support those seen as standing a better shot at overtaking Chow, a former federal lawmaker and a long-standing member of the left-wing New Democratic Party.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2023. Top Stories

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