‘I love our city and I love working for the people of our city:’ Toronto hands John Tory a third term

John Tory has been re-elected to a third term and will now have a chance to become Toronto’s longest serving mayor provided he remains in office for the full four years.

CP24 declared Tory as the winner at 8:20 p.m., shortly after polls closed. With nearly 99 per cent of polls reporting Tory appears to have secured about 62 per cent of the vote, easily defeating urbanist Gil Penalosa who is currently in second with about 17.9 per cent of the vote. Chloe-Marie is a distant third with 6.3 per cent of the vote. 

Tory’s share of the overall vote is comparable to the 2018 election, which he won with 63.5 per cent of the vote.

For a full breakdown of Toronto’s 25 city council races follow this link.

“Serving as your mayor in this great city continues to be the honour of a lifetime. I love our city and I love working for the people of this city, that is why I ran for re-lection in the first place,” Tory told supporters during a victory party at the Fairmont Royal York on Monday night. “We have come so far over the last eight years but we have unfinished business that I am absolutely determined to see through. We have made so much progress on getting transit and housing built and growing our economy and now we have a strong mandate to continue with that progress.”

Tory is currently ahead by approximately 240,000 votes with some polls still left to report.

The overwhelming victory means that Tory will have an opportunity to surpass Art Eggleton as Toronto’s longest serving mayor. Eggleton spent a total of 11 years in office from 1980 until his retirement from municipal politics in 1991.

More importantly, Tory will get to continue work on a number of major infrastructure projects that either began during his tenure or were heavily advanced under his leadership, including a $28 billion transit plan for the Greater Toronto Area that he helped negotiate with the Ontario government.

That plan includes the Scarborough subway extension, the Ontario Line and the Eglinton Crosstown West extension, all of which are in various stages of completion.

The former Rogers cable executive will also have significant new powers that could allow him to push forward more of his agenda.

Those so-called “strong mayor” powers introduced by the Ford government will give him sole responsibility for preparing the city budget as well a veto on matters of provincial priority that can only be overridden by a two-thirds vote at city council

He will also have more control over personnel, including the ability to hire and fire department heads without council approval.

“We are going to work with the provincial and federal governments to keep getting the big things done,” Tory promised on Monday night. “We are going to get housing built, we are going to get the $28 billion transit plan built, we are going to do everything we can to keep our city affordable for the residents who live here and those who want to live here and we are going to do everything we can to keep our city safe and support the police as they continue to modernize.”

John ToryRace lacked high-profile challenger

Tory was one of 31 candidates running for mayor but the race lacked a high-profile challenger, outside of perhaps Penalosa.

Penalosa, who is the founder and chair of the non-profit organization 8 80 Cities, had the backing of former city councillor and current NDP MPP Kristyn-Wong Tam as well as ACORN, which is an organization that advocates for low- and moderate-income tenants.

He campaigned on cancelling a $1.4 billion plan to rebuild the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway and to instead turn the portion of the elevated highway east of Jarvis Street into an at-grade boulevard, freeing up land for up to 8,000 new homes in the process.

He also promised to build 62 kilometres of separated, high-speed bus lanes and another 30 kilometres of bus-only lanes as a means to supplement the city’s public transit network.

Speaking with supporters on Monday night, Penalosa said that “too many people are leaving Toronto because they cannot afford to live here.”

He said that Tory’s job over the next four years needs to revolve around making sure Toronto “is good for everyone.”

“One thing I heard (during the campaign) was that the city wasn’t good for everyone. People said ‘Oh Toronto is good but for others.’ The young people said ‘it is good but for boomers,’ I talked to the boomers and they said ‘it is good but for the young people,’ I talked to people downtown and they said ‘it is good for the people in the suburbs.’ Everyone thinks it is good but for someone else,” he said. 

Tory campaigned largely on record

Penalosa did not previously have any political experience as a candidate but garnered support from a number of well known progressives following his decision to enter the race this summer.

Tory, meanwhile, campaigned largely on the strength of his record.

He ran advertisements suggesting that “now is not the time for inexperience” and presented himself as the only candidate positioned to get transit built and begin to address Toronto’s housing crisis.

During the campaign, he even held a press conference to specifically reaffirm his commitment to the transit plan negotiated with the provincial government, noting that one of his primary reasons for seeking a third term in the first place was to make sure the “once in a lifetime transit expansion gets done.”

He also touted a five-point plan to create more housing, which includes a proposal to introduce a “use it or lose it” policy for developers sitting on approved, but undeveloped, land.

“Together what we did is not that usual in this day and age. We ran a positive, responsible, honest campaign, one that goes against the prevailing negative divisive trend and I am very thankful for that because that is the kind of campaign that I wanted to run,” Tory said on Monday night. “Talking about what we are going to do and some of our ideas and doing it in a positive way, positive about the ideas and positive about the future of the city.”

Toronto faces $875M budget shortfall

While Tory will get a chance to celebrate his victory tonight, the party is likely to be short-lived.

Toronto has an $875 million shortfall in its 2022 budget that staff had hoped would be filled through another round of funding from the provincial and federal government to offset financial impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But neither government has come to the table so far and the city has already had to put $300 million in planned capital projects on hold while it awaits further clarity on the matter.

It also remains unclear what impact an ongoing housing correction will have on revenue the city brings in through its land transfer tax, though Tory has argued that he can addresses the city’s fiscal challenges without significant property tax increases.

On Monday night he said that he will ensure that city hall “is focussed on the nuts and bolts services” that the people of Toronto rely on every day, while making sure that “Toronto’s economy comes back stronger than ever.”

“I knocked on literally thousands of doors right across the city these past few months and most of those people were filled with pride and hope for their city. But many of them are tired, they are still recovering from the dark days of the pandemic and they are feeling the pressures of the affordability crisis,” he said. “They did feel that their mayor and their city government supported them through those days but they are now looking for continued support from their city government, support for communities which remain distant from the opportunity that is Toronto. Toronto is opportunity, it is opportunity all over the place but people feel distant from that opportunity sometimes.”

Mark Grimes is the only incumbent city councillor who was defeated in Monday night’s election, losing to Amber Morley in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. 

The race in York South-Weston was too close to call for most of the night but longtime councillor Frances Nunziata eventually eeked out a 65-vote victory over Chiara Padovani.

In total, there will be at least nine new faces on city council following decision by a number of longstanding incumbents to step aside. 

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