On Monday, October 22, municipal elections were held across Ontario. Comment contributors discuss candidates, issues, and the significance of the Toronto municipal election.
Tory’s centrism is his greatest strength
No matter where your vote landed Monday night, John Tory’s re-election as mayor is surely justified. Without question, he is neither a flashy politician nor someone whose charisma exceeds the likes of Keesmaat’s or Gebresellassi’s. He is neither a bigot nor a great fighter for civil liberties. Rather, he sits comfortably in the middle of the road.
In the current political climate, it may be that a politician who sets out to please as many people as possible is not a liability. In fact, his greatest strengths lie perhaps in his political ambiguity and willingness to forgo dogmatic stridence.
Putting aside political affiliation, Tory’s past as a leader of the provincial Progressive Conservatives has also equipped him with the ability to make alliances and receive substantial funding. In his first four years as mayor, he proved able to work effectively with people who transcended partisan lines. He stuck to much of his 2014 campaign platform and should be given the chance to realize his mandate.
He is not, however, immune to criticism. In the past, he has made comments about mental health in relation to shootings and about the authority of police officers that were disrespectful and pandered to the popular sentiment of the day.
To many, his plan for 40,000 affordable housing units seems to pale in comparison to Keesmaat’s promise of 100,000 units. Tory is, however, more readily able to receive the funding necessary for such a project and actually deliver on the promise.
The final point that seems to have been overlooked is his opposition to Premier Doug Ford. It may be upsetting to some that we have settled for a centrist politician. However, if we look at many of the other elected officials right now, he may in fact be the greatest asset for our municipal government. A middle-of-the-road approach that seeks to please all constituents may just be the opposition that Ford needs.
Coulter Jennings is a second-year History student at University College.
Gebresellassi would have been an ideal Toronto mayor
John Tory’s re-election as mayor of Toronto may have been more ideal than the election of some other candidates, such as white nationalist Faith Goldy, but it is still not the optimal choice.
Human rights lawyer Saron Gebresellassi would have been a better mayor for the city of Toronto. Her priorities were everything the people of Toronto needed for a better, more livable city.
Gebresellassi promised to ensure that every Toronto resident would have access to affordable housing, a right to which every Torontonian is entitled. Toronto’s housing market is extremely heated. Her campaign to tackle this problem was in the best interest of U of T students.
She also promised to ensure that Torontonians have access to an inexpensive and efficient transit system. Indeed, a functional transit system in which overcrowding and delays are not a constant source of complaint is crucial — especially as many U of T students depend on public transit.
Candidates who were genuinely concerned about the well-being and betterment of our city were not elected. I hope that, during the next municipal election, a suitable mayor will be voted into office to cater to the needs of the people of Toronto from all walks of life.
Shukri Mohamed is a first-year Social Sciences and Humanities student at UTSC.
Keesmaat’s loss is a blow to gender equity
In a country dominated by men in politics, Toronto could have seen its first female mayor since amalgamation elected on Monday. Sadly, those vouching for Jennifer Keesmaat or any of the other female candidates will have to wait another four years. Keesmaat won 23.59 per cent of the votes across Toronto, while John Tory, the leading male candidate, won with 63.49 per cent of votes.
Keesmaat was deemed the frontrunner against John Tory, despite constantly polling significantly behind him. All cameras were on her to see if she would succeed the incumbent from the moment she announced her intention to run three months ago.
It was a long campaign, and Keesmaat campaigned on many policies that focused on issues that Tory and other male candidates seemed to neglect, including policies that would have advocated for gender parity across City of Toronto Boards and many community safety programs.
For young women, it has been increasingly hard to become involved in the political scene. Having equal representation is crucial; female politicians offer insight to the world through different lenses. History has shown that female politicians tend to advocate for stronger policies protecting women, whether it is regarding equal pay or a comprehensive sex education curriculum.
Having unequal representation means that policies that directly affect women may be glossed over, or deemed insignificant — the most recent example in Ontario being the reimplementation of intoxication as a usable defence in sexual assault trials.
The results of the election are bleak and discouraging in terms of equitable gender representation. Out of the 25 wards, only eight elected councillors are female. In terms of gender parity, Toronto has failed. Women of all ages should be encouraged and mentored so that we can see changes in the next election.
Gabrielle Cotton is a fourth-year Equity Studies, Political Science, and Urban Studies student at Woodsworth College.
To create change, our voter turnout needs to be better
On October 22, I did not vote. I had walked past the bright yellow signs pointing to the various polling stations, but I didn’t enter because I’m currently ineligible to vote — I am a permanent resident. However, I know for a fact that I will be in Hart House, ready to cast my vote at the first opportunity I get.
On the evening of the election, I sat down on the couch, glancing periodically up from my readings to peek at CBC anchors pointing to various figures and maps of projected results. The figure that perhaps most disheartened me — even more than the fact that Faith Goldy, a white nationalist, somehow managed to get 3.4 per cent of the vote — was the fact that only 41 per cent of all eligible Toronto voters cast their ballots. This was the lowest voter turnout since 2006 and a major drop from the 2014 elections, when 60 percent of Torontonians voted for who would represent them in City Hall.
I understand that this was not the most glamorous of elections. There were few controversies. Platforms, for the most part, dealt with tough and nuanced issues. Housing, transportation, and public infrastructure were at the forefront of the election, and none can be satisfied by easy or partisan answers. Thus, making a distinction between candidates and caring about the distinction between candidates was hard.
Nonetheless, municipal elections are vitally important to every Torontonian. No level of government is more directly responsible for serving our local community than our elected municipal officials. If we want to be able to buy a condo in the GTA in the next few years, to get onto a train at rush hour without feeling like a sardine, or to have accessible and helpful city services for all, we have to step up.
Young people are Ontario’s largest voting cohort, outnumbering baby boomers. Yet, the largest voting block still tends to be those over 65, and the smallest consists of those from 18–25.
I believe that our generation is diverse, passionate, and ready for change. But in order to incite that change, we must care to do our duty as democratic citizens. We can do better. I hope to vote in the next federal elections and I look forward to seeing the U of T community filling out ballots alongside me.
Ori Gilboa is a first-year Humanities student at Victoria College.
Hoping for a better, affordable transit system
The municipal elections are over, and Progressive Conservatives John Tory and Patrick Brown are entrusted by Ontarians to serve their cities with honour and pride. The juxtaposition between the mayor who was praised for his policies and the mayor who was condemned for his alleged sexual misconduct is apparent. However, there was one election issue that numerous GTA Ontarians had in mind: public transit.
The transit plan of Patrick Brown, the mayor-elect of Brampton, is to push for Ontario to have a two-way all-way GO transit line that connects Brampton to Toronto. John Tory, the incumbent mayor of Toronto, intends to complete the TTC Relief Line.
I believe that Brown should push to have at least two express trains that run toward Union Station from Brampton in the morning rush hours. Tory should only construct the relief line in downtown Toronto and make it an east-west rectangular loop, similar to that of Chicago. This would easily connect commuters from all corners of downtown.
Both Brown and Tory should implement policies to make transit free for students so that they can focus on paying their tuition fees. Students would benefit from this, since it allows them to move around campus by transit for free. The only concern they should have is allocating time for commuting to school and back home.
Bryan Liceralde is a third-year Political Science student at St. Michael’s College.