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Winner of Toronto’s Mayoral Race Could Finish With Record-Low Votes: Analyst

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Torontonians elected right-leaning mayors in the last two elections, but so far the polls show that a left-wing front-runner is leading the race for the mayor’s chair as the city heads toward election day on June 26.

“Toronto is a balance of right and left,” Mike McGregor, an associate professor of politics and public administration at Toronto Metropolitan University, told The Epoch Times. Some areas, such as Etobicoke, are very conservative, he said.

“We kind of get a back-and-forth between left and right that you don’t see in some places.”

That heterogeneity shows in recent polls with former NDP MP Olivia Chow taking the lead, but a more modest one than any previously elected mayor.

Some of the other front-runners in the ideologically opposite camp, such as Mark Saunders and Anthony Furey, are saying they are the only ones who can beat Chow, in a bid to rally more votes to their base.

The ideological diversity, combined with other factors such as voter turnout, could lead to the winner becoming mayor with record-low margins.

McGregor says the winner will have possibly only a third of votes cast by a small portion of voters if turnout is low. But while becoming mayor with potentially the smallest margin of votes in Toronto’s history, the winner would have the most power compared to predecessors thanks to the new “strong mayor” powers created by the provincial government.

“It’s a fascinating contrast,” McGregor said.

Provincial legislation approved in December 2022 gives the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa “strong mayor” powers to enact certain bylaws with only a minority of councillors in favour. Other powers include the ability to hire and fire department heads and to prepare the city’s budget instead of it being done by council.

Voter Turnout

It’s especially hard to predict voter turnout this time around, McGregor said, because this election is unique.

“We don’t know anything about a mayoral byelection in a big city like Toronto, right? We have no historical precedent here. So anybody who talks about turnout, it’s just speculating, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Former mayor John Tory resigned in February over revelations that he had an affair with a former staffer, and council called a byelection to replace him. Usually, the mayoral election is part of citywide elections including city councillors and other positions.

There’s also usually an incumbent in the mayoral race, and they tend to get a large portion of the votes. Without an incumbent, this race was more open from the start, Nelson Wiseman, political science professor at the University of Toronto, previously told The Epoch Times.

Since April, Chow has had the lead in public polls. If voters think she is sure to win, they may be less likely to cast their ballot, McGregor said. They may think their vote won’t have an impact on the mayoral race, while there are no other positions to vote on.

Although advanced voter turnout was relatively high, McGregor said that’s no indication that turnout will be high overall.

Advanced voting is about a group of voters who were sure to vote deciding to do so early, he said, adding he doesn’t think that an uptick in advanced voting means overall turnout is going to increase.

With a small number of votes, a majority of Torontonians may have a hard time getting behind the new mayor.

“I think that a lot of people want a mayor to be seen as legitimate to win a big majority,” McGregor said. “I think if you have a situation like this, where someone wins all of the power with a small minority of the vote, people start to question our electoral institutions.”

That’s when conversations begin about changing the electoral system, forming parties, or having fewer candidates running, he said.

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