Longtime city councillor Josh Matlow running to be Toronto's next mayor

Coun. Josh Matlow is currently serving his fourth term at city hall. (Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit)
Coun. Josh Matlow is currently serving his fourth term at city hall. (Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit)

Four-term Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow said Tuesday he will join the crowded race to be the city's next mayor, with his first priority being a new "City Works Fund" paid for with a dedicated property tax.

"I know and believe in the promise Toronto holds for so many. But for far too long, our political leadership at City Hall has held this city back from reaching its full potential," Matlow said in an open letter Tuesday announcing his candidacy.

Matlow made his candidacy official on the same timeline as former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders, who announced his intention to run in an op-ed for the Toronto Star. Read on for a fuller picture of who's running to replace John Tory as mayor. 

Matlow went on to say that the city has seen a noticeable decline in key services like snow-clearing and public transit, and that skyrocketing rents and high house prices are driving young families and newcomers away.

"The deterioration of our city was not inevitable. It was a choice. The past decade of leadership has kept taxes artificially low by starving the services that made Toronto the incredible city I grew up in," the letter continued.

Matlow said his new fund would cost the "average homeowner" about $67 per year and generate some $390 million over five years to improve city services. The proposal comes as the city faces a nearly $1.5-billion budget shortfall coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic — one a new report, heading to the city's executive committee suggests could worsen in the years to come.

"Over the next 10 years, the City of Toronto faces known operating and capital fiscal pressures of $46.5 billion that, without serious attention from City Council to address, are likely to threaten the City of Toronto's fiscal stability and the sustainability of its service levels," the report's executive summary states.

Matlow was a vocal critic of former mayor

First elected to council in 2010, Matlow has represented the downtown ward of Toronto–St. Paul's for four terms. In the 2022 municipal election, he won his seat with nearly 85 per cent of the vote share, with his closest rival picking up just 7.6 per cent of the votes. He previously served for seven years as a trustee for the Toronto District School Board.

Matlow was one of former mayor John Tory's most persistent and vocal critics, with the two frequently butting heads over policy on the council floor.

He often criticized Tory's signature policies, such as Tory's repeated commitments to keep property tax rate increases at or below the rate of inflation and his vote to maintain the elevated eastern stretch of the Gardiner Expressway to the tune of billions of dollars.

During the 2018 election Tory endorsed Matlow's primary opponent, in doing so taking some thinly-veiled swipes at the councillor during a campaign stop.

Matlow has been strongly hinting at a mayoral run for weeks. Earlier this month, a group calling itself "Friends of Josh Matlow" that includes some notable Torontontians publicly released an open letter urging him to get into the race.

The upcoming June 26 mayoral byelection (that timeline still needs to be approved by city council) was triggered by Tory's sudden resignation last month, which came after he admitted to an extramarital relationship with a former staffer in his office.

Candidate nominations are set to open on April 3 at 8:30 a.m. and close May 12 at 2 p.m.

Who's in, who's out so far

It's shaping up to be a crowded field in the race to replace Tory.

On Monday, former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders announced his candidacy. Meanwhile, last week former three-term councillor and top Tory ally Ana Bailão said she would also run.

Days earlier, former Toronto councillor Giorgio Mammoliti announced he's planning to join the contest. Mammoliti lost his council seat in the 2018 election and moved to Wasaga Beach, where he launched an unsuccessful bid to become the mayor of that town.

Other current councillors are also positioning themselves for a mayoral run, including Brad Bradford and Stephen Holyday, though none have said definitively that they're "in."

Some who ran in the last mayoral election are also set to run again, including Gil Penalosa, Chloe Brown and Blake Acton.

Then there are those currently outside the city hall orbit. Provincial politician Mitzie Hunter is exploring options, telling Queen's Park reporters she's "thinking about it." Meanwhile, former Toronto Sun columnist Anthony Furey has announced his own bid for the mayor's chair.

Plenty more Torontonians are expected to put their name forward in the weeks to come. In the last election, 31 people ran for mayor only to see Tory cruise to victory.