Penny-pinching Etobicoke city councillor Rob Ford is leading all other candidates in the race to become Toronto's next mayor, but many voters are still undecided, according to a new poll.

The Nanos Research poll, conducted for CTV, the Globe and Mail and CP24 shows that Ford has the support of nearly 18 per cent of voters, which is almost two percentage points ahead of his nearest rival, former provincial cabinet minister George Smitherman.

However, with a margin of error of about three per cent, the two candidates are in a statistical tie. The Oct. 25 election is now just over four months away.

Ford -- a latecomer to the race, entering on March 25 -- has made reining in spending at City Hall the singular focus of his campaign.

At a picnic in Centennial Park on Monday, Ford said his spending control message is resonating. "They know I'm a no-nonsense type of guy, I'm gonna watch every dime that is spent at city hall, and they say: 'Thank God. It's about time'."

Smitherman is in China attending a conference of mayors and couldn't be reached for comment.

But in a news release, Smitherman responded to Monday's poll results suggesting that Ford's proposal to cut the number of city councillors from 44 to 22 is only possible if council,ors agree to it and will not result in savings until 2014.

"Rob Ford has tried to use these imaginary savings to pay for his promise to spend $15 million a year to hire 100 police officers and put them in schools," Smither man said in a news release. "Over four years, that's $60 million in new spending before we see any savings."

The poll does reveal that Toronto voters are very concerned about taxes, transit and Toronto's debt load.

Mitchell Kosny, a professor of urban planning at Ryerson University, said the poll might sharpen the race.

"Candidates have to say something," he told CTV Toronto. "You're not going to back your way in or cakewalk or move all the way through the next five months without articulating something. So whether you're for something or against something, people want to know that."

The poll ranks support for the candidates as follows:

  • Rob Ford at 17.8 per cent
  • Ex-deputy premier George Smitherman at 15.9 per cent
  • Deputy mayor Joe Pantalone at 10.1 per cent
  • Former Liberal insider Rocco Rossi at 9 per cent
  • Business leader Sarah Thomson at 5.8 per cent
  • Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti at 2.5 per cent

"Slow and steady wins the race, and I'm delighted that we have a race," said Rossi, a first-time political candidate.

But there is lots of room for movement. While respondents were asked to choose from a list of the top six candidates, 38.9 per cent of those polled said they were undecided.

"With that number of undecided voters, we know that historically that those voters tend to vote on how the candidates and their campaigns tperform, which means they're going to be sizing up the candidates and trying to see who would likely make the best mayor for Toronto," said pollster Nic Nanos.

The poll also suggests a divide between the central residents of Toronto and those living in the surrounding boroughs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough.

For example, in his home turf of Etobicoke, Ford leads Smitherman by more than 13 percentage points. Ford also enjoys a considerable lead on Smitherman in North York and Scarborough.

Meanwhile, Smitherman leads all candidates with 22 per cent of support in the region defined as the old city of Toronto. By comparison, Ford has 12.9 per cent.

Ford's supporters are also more likely to be male and over the age of 60.

The poll was a random telephone survey of 1,000 voters and can be considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The polling took place between June 7and 11.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Alicia Markson