Voting day is a year away, but with three people announcing their intention to run, the race for mayor of Toronto is already heating up.
And one political expert says the early announcements could hint at people’s thoughts on the possibility of Mayor Rob Ford’s reelection.
TTC chair Karen Stintz confirmed to Torstar News Service on Sunday she will campaign for the city’s top job, saying she wants to move the city forward instead of standing still.
“I believe in the fiscal agenda of Rob Ford, but I worry that another four years of Rob Ford may not move the city forward,” Stintz said. “And I want to continue to build our city.”
The Ward 16 (Eglinton-Lawrence) councillor has long been rumoured to be planning a mayoral bid, and early polls have her beating Ford in a head-to-head race.
Former councillor David Soknacki has already announced his planned mayoral bid, and Ford has made it clear he wants to keep his job, telling Newstalk 1010 host Jerry Agar that he’s anticipating “Ford more years.”
Several others are said to be considering throwing their hats into the ring as well, including MP Olivia Chow and radio host John Tory.
Having such a deep pool of credible candidates so early in the race sends an interesting signal, said Myer Siemiatycki, a professor in Ryerson’s Department of Politics.
“People think Mayor Ford can be beaten,” he said.
“This is going to be a very fiercely contested mayoralty contest.”
On his radio show Sunday, Ford said anyone running for mayor better be prepared to stick it out.
“They should make a rule that once you’re in, you’re in,” he said, noting several candidates took their names off of the ballot during the 2010 campaign.
Still, Ford said he encourages everyone who’s interested to join the race. “The more the merrier,” he said.
The challenge for the newest confirmed candidate will be a particularly large one, Siemiatycki said. Stintz will need to position and distinguish herself from Ford.
“I suspect she’ll try to, essentially, put herself across as the kinder, gentler Rob Ford,” he said.
A councillor since 2003, Stintz acknowledged that while voters are very familiar with Ford, they don’t know her as well. Entering the race early will give her a chance to change that, and show people she’s just like them, Stintz said.
“I’m a working parent with two children and a mortgage and I struggle just like everybody else in the city to get around and get things done and make ends meet. So I understand what it means to live in a big city and what the challenges are.”
Her formal campaign, to be launched in the new year, will focus on keeping taxes low, reducing congestion and building neighbourhoods, Stintz said.
Initiatives to integrate GO transit and the TTC will also be important, said Stintz, who was appointed chair of the TTC by Ford in 2010.
Councillor Doug Ford has since called the decision the mayor’s “biggest mistake.”
Despite her focus on transit, Stintz came under fire recently after voting in favour of the Scarborough subway, though she’d initially supported an LRT.
But Stintz said council had built consensus around the subway.
“Consensus doesn’t mean everybody’s happy,” she said. “But I believe it means that we have plans that will remain. And now we can look toward new initiatives and new investments.”