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Who could be Toronto's next mayor? The race's top contenders at a glance

John Tory walks away from the Toronto city hall podium on Friday February 17, 2023. The race to replace former Toronto Mayor Tory — who stepped down in February over an affair with a former staffer, after nearly a decade in the city's top job — has already started heating up.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — The race to replace John Tory, who stepped down as Toronto's mayor after an affair with a staffer, is heating up. 

Several candidates – including Tory allies, rivals and a former police chief – have now declared their intentions to run or indicated they are strongly considering competing for the city's top job. 

While the official nomination period isn't set to open for weeks, here's a look at some of the high-profile contenders in Toronto's mayoral byelection:

Josh Matlow

Matlow, a longtime city councillor and frequent Tory critic, made his much-anticipated entry into the race on Tuesday, saying he's hoping to end years of leadership that he says "kept taxes artificially low" by starving city services.

Matlow said his first act as mayor would be establishing a "city works fund" – a dedicated property tax costing the average homeowner $67 a year and contributing over $390 million to services over five years.

"The City Works Fund will ensure that buses and streetcars run on time. Libraries are open when your family needs them. Warm places are available for unhoused people to go when it's cold outside," a written statement announcing his candidacy said. 

Matlow, who has represented Toronto-St. Paul's since 2010, is being championed by the progressive left as an answer to the city's past 12 years of moderate and right-leaning leadership.


Mark Saunders

Saunders, who served as Toronto's police chief from 2015 until his resignation in 2020, announced his bid for mayor on Monday evening. He was the city's first Black police chief and led the force during some of the city's largest crime events, including the Toronto van attack and the Danforth Avenue shooting in 2018. 

Saunders was also the city's top cop when serial killer Bruce McArthur was arrested in 2018. Toronto police's handling of the case was heavily criticized by the city's LGBTQ community, with many saying the force should have acted sooner on the disappearances of several men from the city's gay village. 

In late 2020, Saunders was appointed to the province's COVID-19 vaccine task force. Saunders ran in the 2022 Ontario general election under a Progressive Conservative banner but lost the Don Valley West seat to Liberal Stephanie Bowman.

Saunders has said he's uniquely positioned to tackle crime given his experience and is vying for the mayor's chair during a time when safety in schools and on public transit are significant issues for voters. 


Ana Bailão

Bailão – who represented the Toronto riding of Davenport on city council from 2010 to 2022, and acted as deputy mayor from 2017 until the end of her tenure – announced last week she was returning to politics to run for mayor.

She's touting her council and leadership experience, as well as pragmatism, in her bid for the job. She also managed Toronto's housing portfolio as chair of its planning and housing committee.

Bailão has said she wants to continue working on building affordable housing and fixing services in the city she loves. She's also said she wants to reverse public transit service cuts and offload municipal highways to the province. 

She was a close political ally of Tory's during her time in office, often voting in line with him.


Brad Bradford

While the Beaches-East York councillor hasn't officially announced his run for the top job, Bradford is considering the move. 

He assembled an advisory committee that includes individuals connected to both Progressive Conservative and Liberal backgrounds, including some who have worked on campaigns for Premier Doug Ford.

Tory endorsed Bradford, who has a background in urban planning, when the councillor ran for election in 2018. The former mayor later assigned Bradford some plum roles, including naming him to executive council and appointing him commissioner of the city's transit system.

Bradford is the city's current housing chair. Critics, however, have dubbed him "Two-Faced Brad" for his flip-flopping statements and voting record on housing, transit and policing issues.


Mitzie Hunter

A current Liberal MPP for the Scarborough-Guildwood riding, Hunter has said she's still mulling a run. 

She is the Liberal party's deputy leader and a former education minister under Kathleen Wynne's government.

Hunter recently declined to run for the party's leadership, but said she was actively considering competing for the mayor's seat. 

She said many have contacted her about running for the city's top job, and promised she would have an update on the matter soon.


Gil Peñalosa

The progressive urbanist, who came a distant second to Tory in October's municipal election, announced almost immediately after the former mayor's resignation that he would run again.

Peñalosa said he will run largely on the same platform he pitched last time, which focuses on improving affordability including social services and housing, as well as enhancing parks and public spaces.

Despite new "strong mayor" powers given to Toronto through provincial legislation, Peñalosa has said he will not approve measures without at least half of council's support.


Giorgio Mammoliti

Former longtime councillor Mammoliti announced he was running last week, saying he thinks the "city's dignity is gone." 

Mammoliti represented Toronto's York West riding from 2000 until being defeated in 2018, and unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2010. Last year, he ran for the mayor's seat in Wasaga Beach, Ont., but came in third.

Mammoliti previously made headlines as a councillor for some controversial proposals, including suggesting a citywide 11 p.m. curfew for youth and arming bylaw officers.

He has said that as mayor, he'd help business owners recover from COVID-19 and increase the city's stock of affordable housing.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.

Tyler Griffin, The Canadian Press

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