Toronto elects John Tory next mayor in tight race over Doug Ford

Matt Coutts
Daily Brew
Toronto elects John Tory next mayor in tight race over Doug Ford

Looking for a fresh start, Toronto has elected John Tory the next mayor. Tory beat Doug Ford, the brother of current mayor Rob Ford, in a tight race Monday night, severing the city from the past four years of scandal, embarrassment and mismanagement.

Tory, the former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader, defeated Ford’s brother, one-term councillor Doug Ford, and former NDP MP Olivia Chow to end a contentious nine-month campaign that came on the heels of an even more contentious four years of city council.

Tory’s victory secured a tight victory over Ford, holding 39 per cent of all cast votes with only a handful of polling stations left to calculate. Ford, meantime, held nearly 35 per cent, while Olivia Chow placed a distant third with just under 23 per cent of the vote.

Marcel Wieder, president of the Aurora Strategy Group, says John Tory’s successful campaign can be attributed to two main ingredients: money and organizers.

According to Tory’s campaign donor list, he received more than 5,000 donations totally $2.48 million, more than Olivia Chow’s campaign and significantly more than Doug Ford, whose campaign only ran for one month.

As for Tory’s organization, it was led by key Ontario liberal Tom Allison, who was the brain behind Kathleen Wynne’s successful campaign for premier.

"He’s got some of the top brains working for him. He went out and recruited key liberals," Wieder told Yahoo Canada News. “In order to win Toronto you need the backing of the Liberal machinery. In the last provincial election, they won all but three seats in Toronto.”

Tory campaigned heavily on his vision for Toronto’s transit futre, specifically his promise to build the current Scarborough subway extension and his SmartTrack above-ground rail system – a 22-stop trail line stretching from Etobicoke to Scarborough and south to Union Station.

Tory’s SmartTrack plan, and his promise to deliver the project in a mere seven years, captured the attention of Toronto’s electorate as well as his opponents. Chow and Ford spent much of the final leg of the campaign attacking the details in Tory’s transit promise. But with their own transit plans lacking depth – Ford promised to build subways everywhere with no meaningful funding plan while Chow’s plan was a combination of bus improvements and LRT lines that failed to garner much hype – Tory’s strategy sat as the only plan that felt both reasonable and inspiring.

Tory’s election platform also promised he would build a more affordable and functional city, proposing a tax benefit to help spur growth along the impending Scarborough subway line and installing a council code of conduct that would put an end to the mismanagement and distractions that marred the previous four years.

Tory is a lawyer by trade and the former CEO of Rogers Media. He remains on the board of Rogers Communications, but has said he will ensure there is not conflict while he sits as mayor.

Tory was the leader of Ontario’s PC Party between 2004 and 2009 and the leader of the Official Opposition for two of those years. He was an MPP for two years before losing the seat in 2007 to now-Premier Kathleen Wynne and governed from outside Queen’s Park after that.

He previously ran for Toronto mayor in 2003, losing to David Miller by less than 40,000 total votes. Tory was also widely rumoured to be considering a bid in 2010, but ultimately stayed off the ballot that resulted in Rob Ford’s mayoralty.

Much of the nine-month campaign appeared to be a referendum on Rob Ford’s time in office, specifically the distractions and international embarrassment brought on by his issues with alcoholism and drug abuse. Tory and Chow have battled to position themselves as the anti-Ford since they joined the race, Chow by being the progressive option and Tory by being the rational conservative alternative for voters.

When Doug Ford replaced Rob on the ballot in September, he attempted to tap into his popular brother’s base of support while simultaneously distancing him from his campaign.

“Anyone who knows Doug Ford knows I am not Rob Ford,” he told the Toronto Sun editorial board during the home stretch of the campaign.

“We’re night and day. That doesn’t mean Rob’s bad, we’re just different people, absolutely different people.”

Nine months ago, when Rob Ford first filed his intentions to run for re-election, this final result seemed entirely unlikely. But after a seemingly-endless series of debates, campaign announcements, abandoned campaigns and swapped candidates, the final chapter of the 2014 Toronto mayoral election has finally been written.

Here are the four key phases of an epic campaign.

The First Five

The early days of the Toronto mayoral election appeared to be a five-way race between left-leaning Olivia Chow and four conservative candidates: John Tory, Rob Ford, councillor Karen Stintz and former Toronto budget chief David Soknacki.

This phase of the campaign featured a great deal of jockeying between those conservative options. In February, Stintz officially entered the race and was expecting to be greeted as a primary candidate thanks to her high-profile split from Ford’s agenda while head of Toronto’s transit agency.

Instead, her nomination was buried by Tory’s own announced candidacy a few hours later. A Forum Research survey conducted that day suggested Tory held 39 per cent support and Stintz 15 per cent support. Stintz failed to reach half that number in any poll rest of her campaign.

Chow officially entered the race shortly after, securing an immediate lead in the polls and forcing Ford and Tory into a battle for right-leaning voters.  That was the narrative that appeared set to dominate the next seven months of the campaign. Until Rob Ford dropped a bombshell.

Rob Ford Enters Rehab

Toronto politics was rocked in late April by another scandal from Rob Ford, who had recently admitted to smoking crack but denied having a substance abuse problem. The Toronto Sun and Globe and Mail released reports hours apart detailing new instances of Ford’s drug use and public drunken behaviour – including smoking crack in his sister’s basement and making racist and sexist comments while drunk in a bar. These reports ultimately pushed Ford to take a break from the campaign and enter rehab.

Confidence in Ford’s ability to govern appeared to have been shaken and support began to leak to Tory’s campaign during his months-long absence. The mayor’s campaign bottomed out, falling behind both Chow and Tory in the polls, as his backing was reduced to only the most ardent supporters. For the first time, the notion of a Doug Ford mayoral run was openly considered.

The ‘Real’ Campaign Begins

When Ford returns from rehab in at the end of June, campaign manager Doug Ford declared the real campaign was about to begin. Much of that debate surrounded Toronto’s transit system – identified as the key campaign issue. Tory’s recently released SmartTrack, an $8-billion surface rail proposal, took centre stage. Chow continued to campaign against the Scarborough subway plan and for a combination of bus improvements and new rail systems, while Ford vowed to build subways everywhere, slotting a downtown relief line as his third priority.

By late August, Stintz had withdrawn from the campaign and Soknacki followed shortly after, setting up what was expected to be a three-horse race. But on Sept. 12, Rob Ford announced he would also remove his name from the ballot after doctors found a tumor in his abdomen. With his blessing, Doug Ford took his place in the mayoral campaign.

Mayoral Candidate Doug Ford

With the final ballot set, Toronto’s mayoral campaign entered its final stage. Tory had secured the lead in most major polls, while Doug’s nomination buoyed the hopes of a continued Ford dynasty. Chow had lost much of her early momentum and, with Tory now viewed as the legitimate anti-Ford vote, her campaign dipped into a distant third. A string of key endorsements further elevated Tory’s campaign. The editorial boards of Toronto’s four major newspapers unanimously backed Tory as the best candidate. Ford, meantime, returned to the anti-establishment narrative his brother so successfully rode to success in the previous election.

In the past, Tory has unsuccessfully run to be Toronto’s mayor, and unsuccessfully run to be Ontario’s premier. With Tory ending that losing streak, the title of his story now becomes: “Third time’s a charm for Tory.”

In a previous interview with Yahoo Canada News, Tory said those experiences shaped the man, and politician, he has become.

“I would say you learn more from losing than you do from winning. Winning you think you are on top of the world and have all the answers,” Tory told Yahoo. “When you lose you reflect on these things. I’ve learned that it’s important to be honest and to stick to what you believe in.”

Now we will learn what Tory has learned since he first run to become Toronto’s mayor more than a decade ago. Now we will learn what comes next for Toronto.