Ward 2 By-Election Today

It's voting day in Toronto's Ward 2 (c) City of Toronto.

When former Mayor Rob Ford died in March, he was a sitting Councillor in Toronto. His passing left a vacancy on Toronto City Council that will be filled in a By-election Monday July 25. Most polls in Ward 2 (Etobicoke North) open at 19 am and close at 8 pm, with live results being streamed on the city's website.

Who's going to win?

There are 12 candidates running in the By-election, four of whom are running somewhat professional campaigns: Chloe Marie Brown, Jeff Canning, Michael Ford and Christopher Strain. I invited all four of these candidates onto my NEWSTALK1010 radio show for a round table discussion on Sunday. Brown and Strain joined me live in studio and our discussion can be heard in the Soundcloud clip that appears above.  Both Canning and Ford declined.

Both Brown and Strain are well-spoken candidates, with Brown seeming to be more confident and effective in her speaking style.  Strain is thoughtful and likely to develop his speaking confidence with more experience.

Ford and Canning are the clear front-runners in this race.  A brief drive through Ward 2 on Saturday shows hundreds of campaign signs dotting front yards in most neighbourhoods.  I saw three Strain signs along the streets I drove, with the remaining hundreds being split between Jeff Canning and Michael Ford.  Ford signs seemed to me to be slightly more numerous than Canning's.  I saw no signs from any of the other Council candidates. (There is also a School Board Trustee By-elecation being held simultaneously and a few signs appear for those candidates)

Frankly, if I was involved in one of these front-running campaigns, I would have declined the radio opportunity too.  On the day before E-Day, the candidate's time and focus is better spent in the ward, knocking on doors, meeting constituents, making critical calls, motivating Election Day volunteers, etc.

Does planting more signs mean the candidate is going to win? Absolutely not.  But, being able to plant more signs indicates the candidate has an effective organization – an organization that will be important on Election Day when it's time to get out the vote.  So signs are not meaningless.

I've never met Canning, but I've seen him in a TV debate; he looks good and he's a good communicator.  His campaign is being professionally run and he's a bonafide contender.  Can he overcome the Ford Nation bias in Ward 2 – especially in a By-election to replace the ward's first choice (Rob Ford) after his untimely death?  That's a tough one.

All four have a future in politics

My call:  Ward 2 will go to Michael Ford for largely sentimental reasons.  He'll have two years to prove his value to the community, because the respect for Rob Ford may recede before the general election in 2018. Jeff Canning, however, is a guy to watch in 2018.  If he does well in this election, he'll be able to build on it in two years.

Chloe Marie Brown is young, smart, black and female.  I think she'll have a bright future in politics if she chooses to pursue one.  She's someone to watch in future elections at the municipal and provincial levels.

Christopher Strain, I suspect, will continue to be a player in politics at all three levels. Whether that's as a future candidate for the NDP or as a campaign manager depends on how comfortable he feels with his name on the ballot after this race is over.

Good luck to all 12 of the candidates and thanks, for having the guts to put your names forward and take the unique and unrelenting heat of being a political candidate.  I know how difficult and risky that is.  But, our democracy wouldn't work without you. Thank you all.