On October 27, 2014, eligible voters in Toronto will elect the city's mayor, as well as 44 city councillors and several dozen school board trustees (for the public school board as well as the English and French Catholic school boards). All will serve a four-year term; the next election will be held in October 2018.

The ballot contains 67 candidates for mayor. Of those 67, three — John Tory, Olivia Chow and Doug Ford — are considered the frontrunners. Most polls suggest that Tory has a sizeable lead over Ford, his closest opponent, with Chow a distant third.

It all goes down on Monday, so let's see what happe— yes, Doug Ford, not Rob. Looks like a lot's happened since the last time we talked about this. Did you read those writeups? Are you sitting comfortably? OK.

In brief

Things trudged on as they always had; the ongoing controversy swirled over Rob Ford and his councillor brother, Doug, as they both insisted that "everything's fine." The municipal campaign had unofficially begun. Doug had opted not to run for re-election as councillor for Etobicoke's Ward 2, instead focusing on managing his brother's second mayoral bid. (N.B. Rob Ford's 2010 campaign manager is working for John Tory this time.)

In the spring, two Toronto newspapers dropped related-but-different bombshells almost simultaneously. The Toronto Sun reported that a cell-phone video had surfaced depicting the mayor at a local bar, completely intoxicated and saying offensive things. I mean legitimately offensive things — dropping racial slurs like it was nobody's business and saying he'd like to "jam" councillor (and then-mayoral candidate) Karen Stintz.

Shortly thereafter, the Globe and Mail reported that two of its reporters had seen a second video of Ford smoking what seemed to be crack cocaine. Much like the Toronto Star had done a year earlier, the Globe refused to pay the video dealers for the file. But they did negotiate a price for screengrabs, and ran a still image of what was undeniably the mayor holding what was undeniably a pipe.

Ford announced he was going to rehab, and he checked into a program at a facility about a two-hour drive north of the city. It was a program that allowed its patients to leave the facility for brief periods during the day, and Ford was seen around the small town, posing for photos and chatting with residents. When he returned to Toronto, he was noticeably trimmer. Council had stripped many of his mayoral powers shortly after he admitted to having used crack cocaine, but he partook in election debates and returned to campaigning. He continued to poll well. He had a real shot at a second term.

Then he was diagnosed with cancer.

Ford checked himself into the hospital after recurring stomach pain worsened and became "unbearable." A scan revealed a mass in his abdomen, which a biopsy concluded was malignant. Hospital officials released this information with Ford's permission, presumably because there was initially some doubt among members of the public as to whether he really had gone to rehab. (The main point of contention here was an interview Ford gave, from inside rehab, to Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington shortly after leaving the city. Ford claimed that rehab was going really well and reminded him of the football camps of his youth. This did not sound like most people's impressions — or memories — of rehab, and so the seeds of doubt were sewn among some.)

This is where things get complicated. Rob had been running for mayor. Doug had opted not to seek re-election as councillor. Rob and Doug's nephew, Michael Ford, was the family's new standardbearer in Ward 2. Rob was no longer well enough to run for mayor. You'd be forgiven for asking questions about this, but he was apparently deemed well enough to run for council, and so he withdrew his candidacy for mayor and registered as a council candidate in Ward 2. Michael Ford withdrew his council candidacy and registered as a school board trustee in a neighbouring ward. And Doug registered to run for mayor.

So, the election...

Yeah, it took on a bit of a weird turn after the Ford Bros. switch. Rob Ford underwent two rounds of chemotherapy but remains a candidate in Ward 2. He's gone out campaigning, spoke at "Ford Fest," a free barbecue the family holds on the city's suburban edges every year, and was recently told to leave advanced polling stations because he was allegedly campaigning there, which is against municipal rules.

Rob Ford will not be mayor of Toronto for the next term, that much is certain. Any decent human being (and I like to think I'm one) would want him to make a full and complete health recovery (and I sure do).

Doug Ford is running largely on his brother's platform, with a few small differences. Asked about Rob's personal troubles, Doug says that those were Rob's troubles and that he isn't Rob. Doug is a polarizing figure; no one is ambivalent towards the man. During his four years as a city councillor, he accused the police chief of leaking information to the media to compromise his brother (and got sued for it), told the father of a boy with autism who objected to his comments about a group home for teenagers with autism to "go to hell," called a jogger who tore a strip off Rob Ford during a street parade "racist" (because "you can be racist against people who eat little red apples") and so on. He is a proponent of smaller government and lower taxes, and he says he helped implement both at city hall. (He also wanted to build a monorail and Ferris wheel on the waterfront.)

John Tory is a former corporate executive who tried his hand at politics in the early aughts. He made an unsuccessful run for the city's mayoralty in 2003, coming second to David Miller. Following that loss, he entered provincial politics and won the leadership of the provincial Progressive Conservatives. The 2007 Ontario provincial election should have been a slam dunk for the PCs, with the governing Liberals having broken an explicit campaign promise not to raise taxes early on in their mandate. But Tory led a campaign that included a controversial promise to extend public funding to all religious-based schools (at present, only Catholic and public schools are publicly funded), and the PCs went down in flames. Tory didn't even win a seat. He narrowly survived a party leadership review and, when he finally convinced a PC MPP to step aside so he could run in a byelection, the riding went Liberal. He left politics and continued to do a lot of impressive community work on his own time. There had been speculation that he would run in 2010, but he endorsed the Fords, a fact Doug Ford makes hay out of during this campaign.

Olivia Chow was a city councillor before quitting municipal politics to become a federal member of parliament in 2006. She had also previously run in 2004 but failed to win her riding. Chow was the subject of a great deal of speculation when the mayoral campaign unofficially began at the beginning of 2014, but she didn't quit her federal seat and annouce her intentions until the spring. Despite that speculation, Chow's campaign stalled fairly early on. Her initial strategy seemed to be to attempt to shed some of her social democrat persona, ostensibly an effort to woo fiscal conservatives who were dissatisfied with the Fords. This led to dissatisfaction from some within her own base. Chow shifted more towards her natural position as the more left-leaning candidate once Rob Ford dropped out and Doug Ford took his place.

The fact is that with Rob Ford gone, the mayoral campaign's focus shifted to Tory, the frontrunner. Chow and Doug Ford have gone after him for his lack of political experience, particularly at the municipal level. Then everyone attacks everyone else's platforms.

I'm not sure the minutae of Toronto municipal politics is terribly interesting to the average noder, so I won't go too deep down the rabbit hole. Suffice it to say that Ford is portraying Tory and Chow as tax-and-spend liberals, Chow is painting Ford and Tory as out-of-touch conservatives, and Tory's claiming to bring the fiscal conservatism one half of the city wants alongside the social liberalism the other half wants. He's probably going to win, buoyed at least somewhat by strategic voting by people who originally planned to vote for him strategically to keep Rob Ford from winning a second mandate, and by people who find him inoffensive enough to lend their support.

And Rob?

The incumbent mayor represented Ward 2 for years, and could easily win despite not being well enough to be fully active in his own campaign. Regardless, he will no longer be mayor. The era ends not with a bang, but with a sad whimper. But on the day his cancer diagnosis was announced, people who had devoted their time and energy to defeating him at the ballot box came together to wish him well. Tory and Chow held a joint press conference to do the same.

And I was damn proud of this city.


  1. Voter turnout was around 64 per cent (compare with 2010's 51 per cent). That is high for a municipal election. Compare with Ottawa's 38 per cent on the same night.
  2. John Tory won with approximately 40 per cent of votes cast. Doug Ford netted about 33 per cent. Chow was far back with just under 23 per cent.
  3. Rob Ford won the Ward 2 council seat with about 58 per cent of the vote. That's landslide-esque, but not as big of a margin as his previous wins. He attended the family's election night rally despite being ill and vowed that the Fords would reclaim the mayoralty in 2018. "The campaign starts now," he said.

Now let's never speak of it again.

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