'Let’s get to it': John Tory wins second term as Toronto mayor
John Tory has been handed a second term by voters, easily defeating former city planner Jennifer Keesmaat.
CP24 declared his victory at 8:24 p.m., just minutes after the first batch of results started to filter in. With more than 99 per cent of polls reporting, Tory appears to have secured about 63.5 per cent of the vote compared to 23.5 per cent for Keesmaat. His margin of victory was about 300,000 votes.
“Over the next four years my goal is to make sure that no one anywhere in the city feels like opportunity is a distant point on the horizon,” Tory told his supporters during a victory speech at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel on Monday night. “We must continue to make sure that Toronto is a place of hope for everyone and not a place where people lose hope.”
Tory won the majority of votes in every single ward in the city, performing particularly well in Scarborough, Etobicoke and North York.
Keesmaat tended to do better downtown but was only able to surpass the 40 per cent threshold in two wards (Davenport and University-Rosedale). Meanwhile, her support cratered in ridings further from the core, such as Scarborough-Rouge Park (14.4 per cent) and Etobicoke North (14.3 per cent)
In his speech to supporters Tory, called the mandate from voters “historic” and promised to immediately get to work on “breaking down barriers” and building a “truly great 21st century city.”
He said that Toronto must be “a place of hope for everyone and not a place where people lose hope.” He added that he has “heard the message loud and clear” that the city needs to work to increase the supply of affordable housing while continuing its efforts to “connect more people with opportunity,” either through transit or employment initiatives.
“Let’s get to it. Let’s get at it. I am going to be calling on absolutely everyone. Together I think we can get things built, we can tear down barriers and we can make sure this city reaches its full potential,” he said.
Tory ran largely on strength of record
Tory ran largely on the strength of his record over the last four years, billing himself as someone who will forge productive relationships with the other levels of government while continuing to “move the city forward after decades of inaction.”
On the campaign trail, he touted his success in obtaining $9 billion in transit funding from other levels of government and repeatedly asserted that he has done more to advance work on the relief subway line than any of his predecessors have over the past “30 years of talking.”
Keesmaat entered the race at the 11th hour, in the wake of Premier Doug Ford’s abrupt decision to slash the size of city council nearly in half.
With the support of many of council’s left-leaning members, Keesmaat ran a progressive campaign centered around a few key ideas – tearing down the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway and replacing it with a “grand boulevard,” and building 100,000 affordable housing units over the next decade, partly through a rent-to-own program financed by a surtax on multi-million-dollar homes.
Polls did indicate that many of her proposals were popular with voters but she was never able to translate that into support and trailed Tory by 35 points in the final pre-election poll that was released by Dart Insight on Friday.
“I am proud of the campaign that my team put together and I led. We brought forward a whole variety of bold ideas and the campaign was really about introducing a new way of thinking about the city,” Keesmaat told CP24 in an interview following her defeat. “I think the challenges that we discussed and raised in this context of this campaign haven’t gone away. We are the most expensive city in Canada in which to rent. It is something we need to fix.”
As Keesmaat tried to cut into Tory’s double-digit lead over the last few months, she often criticized Tory as “weak” and a “ditherer” and suggested that Toronto needs a mayor with a more ambitious vision for the city. But Tory brushed that criticism aside, pointing out that many of his key accomplishments were ones that Keesmaat spoke glowingly of while serving as chief planner. He also suggested that Keesmaat would look to “re-debate, rehash and restudy” some of the projects that he worked hard to advance over the last four years.
His comfortable victory means that he will now get a chance to see through, or at the least advance, much of his agenda.
In April, council voted to spend $1.46 billion to construct six new stations on GO lines, which will effectively form the basis of a dramatically scaled down version of Tory’s ‘SmartTrack’ plan from his successful 2014 campaign.
Work is also well underway on the relief subway line. The province recently green-lit the project following an environmental assessment, but its estimated $6.8 billion capital cost remains unfunded.
The Scarborough subway extension is also likely to be back before council in early 2019. It recently surpassed the 30 per cent design threshold and staff will soon report back on whether the estimated cost has risen beyond $3.35 billion.
“I got a huge mandate city-wide and the people have spoken very clearly in saying build up those partnerships, get that affordable housing built, get that transit built and don’t start debating the plan all over again; just get on with it,” tory told CP24 in a one-on-one interview following his victory speech.
Much different council
Tory returns to a dramatically slimmed-down council that now has just 25 members following Ford’s decision to slash the number of wards in the middle of the campaign.
A total of 13 incumbents were defeated on Monday night as a result, including longtime councillors like Norm Kelly, Giorgio Mammoliti and Joe Mihevc.
Tory had endorsed several candidates in the lead up to the election, including former city planner Brad Bradford in Beaches-East York and current city councillors Mark Grimes and Joe Mihevc in Etobicoke-Lakeshore and Toronto-St Paul’s, respectively. Of that group, only Mihevc lost.
Speaking with CP24, Tory said that he is confident that the “vast, vast majority” of those elected “have the city’s best interests at heart” and are people he can work with to advance the city’s interests.
As for how a smaller council will function, it remains largely unclear.
During the campaign, Keesmaat said that she would create new positions on community councils to ensure that residents continue to have a voice at city hall and Tory has indicated some willingness to consider that idea. He has also talked about expanding a pilot project for participatory budgeting as a way to further ensure that residents are heard, even with municipal wards that are now made up of more than 100,000 people.
Keesmaat’s future unclear
While Tory has said that he is ready to get back to work as early as Tuesday morning, the immediate future for Keesmaat is less clear.
A few months before jumping into the mayoral race, she took a job with a consortium of developers that were behind a proposal to build 50,000 new affordable housing units in Toronto and Vancouver. She could return to that role or look for another in the private sector. A return to the political arena also can’t be discounted.
“I am going to take a little break, spend some time with my family, get to know them again after three really intense months and then whatever I do, I can tell you that I will be working collaboratively with Torontonians to ensure that we are making a better city,” she told CP24.
There were 35 people running for mayor, including Tory and Keesmaat. The other 33 candidates split the final 12.9 per cent of the vote. Faith Goldy, a candidate best known for being fired from her job at a right-wing website after appearing on a white supremacist podcast, finished a distant third with about 25,000 votes (3.4 per cent).
The projected voter turnout was 41 per cent, which would be down significantly from the 54.7 per cent turnout recorded in 2014 but roughly the same as the turnout in the last election won by an incumbent mayor (2006).