Elections Toronto 2010

After a long year of campaigning and a very close race between the top two candidates, Rob Ford, a former city counsellor, emerged victorious on October 25, 2010 with an unprecedented 47% of the vote. George Smitherman, his closest competitor, and former Ontario deputy premier, took 35%, and Joe Pantalone, the deputy mayor, came third with 12% of the vote.

Rob Ford emerged as the leader in September, when a poll showed him in the lead by 25% above George Smitherman. Smitherman appeared to be gaining ground recently, though, and more recent polls showed him only a few percentage points behind Ford.

Ford’s victory is the result of a hard fought and vicious campaign. His platform consists of a number of promises, with ranged from mildly controversial to hotly contested. These promises include plans to slash expenses by reducing the number of municipal employees and decreasing funding for public services and the arts, remove and cancel plans for bike lanes, and reduce the number of immigrants allowed into our city. He also took every opportunity to attack George Smitherman, the only person who had a chance of beating him, known as the anti-Ford candidate.

Five candidates took quick leads in this race: Ford, Smitherman, Pantalone, Rocco Rossi, and Sarah Thompson. Thompson, former editor of the Woman’s Post left the race on the 28 of September, and threw her support behind Smitherman. Rossi, former CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, left the race on October 13. He left due to his poor showing in the polls.

Pantalone said that he was in the race to win it. This was unlikely from the start, however, because many Torontonians see him as Mayor Miller’s man, who would continue the policies of the last 4 years. Most voters are looking for change.

Rob Ford provided this change.  He is the first right wing mayor of our city in many years, and his policies ideas and politic ideology differ in almost every way from Mayor Miller’s. There was also a change in the makeup of city council this year, with a shift from Miller’s right wing-dominated council to a more left wing council, and the defeat of many of Miller’s key supporters. 15 of the 44 councillors are new this year, one of the largest changes in the history of our city.

Council races across the city were hotly contested. Many incumbent counselors were defeated. Former North Toronto Trustee Josh Matlow was elected to council, filling the seat vacated by veteran councilor Michael Walker.  NT’s new trustee is Shelley Laskin, who was also a trustee from 1997-2003. 6 incumbent councilors were defeated, including Cliff Jenkins in nearby Ward 15 Don Valley West, and Adam Giambrone, the former head of the TTC, in Ward 18 Davenport.  Doug Ford, Rob Fords brother, was also elected to council for the first time, in Rob Ford’s former ward, Ward 2. He is expected to support and advise his brother.

Many councillors and voters do fully support Rob Ford, though. As Rocco Rossi put it, the city was divided between, “those who want to stop what Mr. Ford describes as ‘the gravy train’, and those that want to stop Mr. Ford.” “Stop the Gravy Train” was the slogan that made Ford famous. It expresses what he sees as the need for drastic change from Mayor Miller’s policy. Rossi also implied that most Smitherman or Pantalone supporters voted for him not because they supported his platform, but because he was the least objectionable alternative to Ford.

Ford’s major supporters included most of the people who would be most negatively affected by his proposed cuts and new laws. These include recent immigrants, and poorer Torontonians, those who most rely on the TTC and public services.

Due to the close, exciting race between Rob Ford and the anti-Ford, voter turnout increased this year to 52% from 38% in 2006. This is the largest voter turnout since amalgamation, when North York, East York, York and Toronto formed the GTA. The number of eligible voters, however, decreased, as almost 250 000 Torontonians were not allowed to vote due to questionable citizenship.