Thursday’s provincial election creates a new political challenge for Toronto Mayor John Tory. His path to re-election just got a lot more difficult.
Prior to the Ontario election, John Tory had a wide, clear, easy path to re-election in October.
When Doug Ford was his most likely competitor, Tory shifted tactically to the left, cozying up with NDP members of Council, championing their causes, sharing photo opportunities with them, helping to raise their profile. All this, to forestall the emergence of a strong left-wing contender for the mayoralty. The thinking being: if Tory delivered almost everything the left wanted, they’d be less likely to risk their jobs on council to take a run at him. Having shored up his left flank, he could afford to lose some support on the hard right wing to Ford.
Then, Ford ran for and won the leadership of the PC Party of Ontario. Now, he’s been elected premier. He’s not coming back to challenge Tory for the mayoralty. So, Tory is free and clear. Right?
Take a look at the political map of Toronto. After Thursday’s election, 11 provincial ridings south of Eglinton are bright NDP orange. That’s about 22 city wards – almost half of them. These ridings elected NDP members of provincial parliament this week. Their NDP-leaning voters and all their campaign volunteers have tasted victory. They’re on a high. NDP campaigns in neighbouring ridings were disappointed. They’re hungry to share that success. The NDP is highly motivated to keep on winning.
It won’t be hard to mobilize a strong NDP campaign behind a credible left-leaning champion to take on John Tory for the mayor’s job in October. I expect someone to emerge. Who could it be?
It’s a risk for a sitting councillor to run for mayor. If she loses, she’s unemployed. When the provincial government changed the municipal election calendar to postpone the beginning of the municipal campaign period to May 1st(instead of the beginning of January) – it also shortened the nomination period. Nominations for mayor and council will close on July 27 (instead of sometime in September). That means councillors can’t run for mayor – then drop out if they don’t do well and still run for council. They’re all in for mayor – or all out.
Some names to consider:
Shelley Carroll resigned her seat on council to run provincially in Don Valley West. She lost, but still did well. She’s got better name recognition than many others who might run. Although she ran provincially as a Liberal, she’s a very far-left liberal that might be acceptable to the NDP crowd.
- Phil Trotter ran for the NDP in Etobicoke Lakeshore and lost to the PC Candidate, but beat out the Liberal incumbent, former city councillor Peter Milczyn. Trotter received almost 19,000 votes. He doesn’t have city-wide name recognition, but he could probably get NDP support and that would help a lot – especially in the downtown 11 ridings (22 wards) that went orange.
- Olivia Chow could make another attempt at a comeback, but she’s always been a lousy candidate and there’s no likelihood she’s changed much. I’m not sure she could raise the $2.5 million necessary to beat John Tory.
- Jennifer Keesmaat, the former Toronto City Planner has said she’s not interested. That was before. Now it’s now. Who knows?
So, John Tory could bleed a lot of votes to a strong, organized NDP campaign behind a left-wing champion. And that would open him up to an attack from the right.
et tu, Denzil?
Former Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong didn’t give up his seat on council to run provincially. He didn’t win the MPP seat in Don Valley East, but still secured 12,000 votes and has toyed with a mayoralty bid before. If a strong NDP candidate emerges, he may be emboldened to take a run at the mayor from the right.
With strong contenders on both the right and the left, Tory would be challenged to hold onto the middle ground and make something of it. Even in this scenario, the odds remain in Tory’s favour, but campaigns matter. His road to re-election could, suddenly, became very interesting to watch.