What if the 2014 election had employed a ranked ballot electoral system?

Municipalities in Ontario have recently been granted the authority to abandon the existing first-past-the-post electoral system in favour of ranked balloting. In this post we speculate as to the outcome of the 2014 mayoral election had a ranked ballot electoral system been in place. In such a system, voters are able to rank multiple candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of first place votes, then the second preferences of those voters who supported minor candidates are counted. This process continues until a candidate breaches the 50% threshold and is declared the winner.

TES data reveal that John Tory would have won the election under a ranked ballot electoral system, defeating Doug Ford in the last round of counting by a large margin.

Background

In June 2016, the Government of Ontario granted municipalities the authority to use ranked ballots in future elections, permitting voters to select as many as their top three options on a single ballot. The Province was responding to a grass-roots movement to reform voting at the local level (which was accompanied by a high-profile national debate on the issue of electoral reform). Ranked ballots are used in municipal elections in several American cities, including San Francisco (and a number other cities in California), Minneapolis, and Portland, Maine. The decision to adopt the system at the municipal level in Ontario is thus not without precedent. This is the same system widely believed to be supported by the Federal Liberal Party prior to the abandonment of their promise to reform the electoral system in 2017. This is also the electoral system used by all of Canada’s major federal parties for selecting leaders.

Organizations such as Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto (RaBIT) have argued that ranked ballots would prevent mayoral and council candidates from winning elections with less than a majority of the vote, eliminate vote splitting, and reduce strategic voting at the municipal level (rabit.ca). Proponents of the change hoped to address such issues as low voter turnout and a sense among voters that their vote would not count if they did support the winning candidate. The putative motivation for this movement is the sense that current electoral systems in municipalities are unable to translate residents’ sentiment and preferences into an elected body that accurately represents their interests.

Despite the fact that all municipalities in Ontario were given the option to adopt ranked ballots for the 2018 election cycle, only one, London, did so in advance of the provincial deadline of May 1, 2017. For its part, the City of Toronto did originally support the adoption of ranked ballots; in 2013, city council was at the forefront of the battle for ranked balloting, having petitioned the province to allow for ranked ballots at the local level (provincial permission is required for such a change). However, council reversed its decision in 2016, in a 25-18 vote led by rookie city councillor Justin Di Ciano, who argued that a ranked ballot voting system is too costly, overly complex, and that there is limited public support for the system (Di Ciano 2017). For at least another 4 years, therefore, ranked ballots will not be used to determine the outcome of elections in Toronto.

A debate over the merits of various electoral systems aside, it is interesting to consider if and how election outcomes might have changed under different electoral systems. To that end, we consider here how the 2014 Toronto Mayoral election would have unfolded under a ranked ballot electoral system.

Results

The TES includes a question that allows us to speculate as to the outcome of the 2014 election had ranked balloting been in place. In the campaign period questionnaire, respondents were informed that the province had passed legislation that would allow the city to used ranked ballots in future elections, and ranked balloting was described to them. They were then asked to rank the mayoral candidates as they would if ranked balloting were currently in place. Table 1 shows the results of this question, showing how many first, second and third place votes each mayoral candidate would have received. We consider the three major candidates for mayor, as well as an ‘other’ category to capture all minor candidates simultaneously.

Table 1: Ranking of Mayoral Candidates

Ranking Candidate
Ford Chow Tory Others
First
31.4%

20.6%

45.1%

2.9%
Second
14.5%

35.9%

34.0%

15.6%
Third
17.1%

23.8%

14.8%

44.3%
Fourth
37.0%

19.7%

6.1%

37.3%

N = 1,385

Not surprisingly, the first place rankings in Table 1 fairly closely mirror the actual election outcome. Tory, who received 40.3% of the vote on election-day, was ranked highest among 45.1% of TES respondents. Ford was ranked first by a further 31.4% of respondents, which closely matches the 33.7% of votes he actually received. For her part, Chow was the most preferred candidate of 20.6% of Torontonians, and received 23.2% of the actual vote.

Another striking observation from Table 1 is that, among those who did not rank him first, Doug Ford performed extremely poorly. In fact, the brother of the outgoing mayor was ranked last (fourth) by many more respondents than were Chow and Tory combined. He was also the recipient of relatively few ‘second place’ rankings. Fewer than one in six voters who preferred a candidate other than Ford listed him as their second choice. In contrast, both Chow and Tory were the recipients of greater than one-third of second place votes. These patterns suggest strongly that Ford would not have fared well had the 2014 election been fought under a ranked ballot system.

So how would the result of the election have unfolded under ranked balloting?  Based upon the information from the same survey question used to create Table 1, we can speculate as to what the election result would have been.

Under ranked balloting, several rounds of counting may be necessary, depending on the system of ranked balloting employed for the election. Under a system similar to the one in San Francisco, if no candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round, the candidate who receives the fewest first place votes is removed from the candidate pool, and the second choice votes of those who ranked them first are counted. This process continues until a candidate reaches 50% + 1 vote. Table 2 shows the result of this process in the case of the 2014 mayoral election.

Table 2: Ranked Balloting Results by Round


Ford

Chow

Tory

Others

Round 1

31.4%

20.6%

45.1%

2.9%

Round 2

31.6%

22.3%

46.1%

Round 3

34.7%



65.3%


N = 1,385

In this instance, multiple rounds of counting would be required, as no single candidate received greater than 50% support in the first round. After round 1 of counting, the ‘other’ category would be dropped, and the second place preferences of those voters would be reallocated to the other candidates. Note that we pool all ‘other’ candidates here, thus only require one round of counting to ‘drop’ them all. In reality, many more rounds of counting would be necessary to drop these candidates, as the 2014 contest included 65 contenders.

Based upon TES data, we can conclude with a high degree of certainty that John Tory would have won the 2014 Toronto mayoral election had the contest been fought under a ranked ballot electoral system. In the second round of counting all three minor candidates would receive a modest boost in support, as the second place votes of those who supported ‘other’ candidates are counted. No candidate would reach the 50% threshold, however. When Chow is eliminated in round three, however, Tory leaps past the 50% mark, receiving the support of 65.3% of electors, as compared to 34.7% for Ford.[1]

Though one can certainly imagine instances where election outcomes might hinge on the type of electoral system in place, the 2014 Toronto election is not such a case. It is hard to imagine an electoral system under which John Tory would not have won the 2014 Toronto election. His margin of victory, however, is even greater under ranked balloting than it was first-past-the-post system. Such a finding may help to explain the mayor’s dissatisfaction with council’s decision to abandon ranked balloting in advance of the 2018 election.

 

[1] Counting in the second round is straightforward, as we simply need to consider the second place votes among ‘other’ supporters. Round three calculations are somewhat more complex, however. In this round, the third place preferences of those who ranked ‘other’ first and Chow second would need to be counted (among this group, 13.6% ranked Ford third, while the remaining 86.4% assigned Tory a third place ranking).  The third place preferences of those who ranked Chow first and an ‘other’ candidate second must also be counted (in this instance 82.0% and 18.0% ranked Tory and Ford third, respectively.

Campaign Effects in the Post-Nomination Period

It is well established that campaigns have significant potential to affect the attitudes and behaviour of electors. The 2014 Toronto mayoral campaign, a marathon compared to federal and provincial contests, lasted nearly 10 months, from January 2nd to Oct. 27th. The purpose of this blog post is to test for the presence of campaign effects during the final weeks of the campaign. That is, we test for changes in public opinion, under the assumption that such changes must be driven by some campaign period stimulus. We do so using TES data, collected during the final 38 days of the campaign period (after the candidate nomination deadline). In doing so, we find little, if any, evidence of campaign effects. All indications are that the outcome of the election would have been the same had the election been held on any of the dates covered by TES data.

The Theory

The scholarly consensus on whether and how campaigns affect voters has evolved significantly in past decades. Early studies of voting behaviour (Lazarsfeld et al., 1948; Campbell et al., 1960) contended that campaigns had ‘minimal effects’ upon voters. That is, scholars widely believed that campaigns were rarely able to overcome knowledge and prejudices held by voters at the start of the campaign period. In more modern times, however, this view has been challenged to the point that it is now widely accepted that campaigns, and new information which voters might be exposed to during the course of campaigns, have the potential to significantly affect voter attitudes and behaviour (Jacobson 1983; Fournier 2004).

It has been well-established that campaigns have the potential to have a significant effect upon voter attitudes and preferences at the federal level in Canada (Johnston et al 1992, Blais et al. 2003). If campaign effects are to be observed at the municipal level in this country, one might expect them to be particularly noticeable in Toronto. Though municipal politics tend to receive significantly less attention than do other orders of government, the 2014 Toronto election was one of the most high profile municipal contests in Canadian history. Electors were bombarded with images and stories about the contest for months leading up to election day, and each one of these messages had the potential to affect voters and influence attitudes. Given the exceptional publicity afforded the race, therefore, if campaign effects are to be observed in a municipal setting, all other things equal, we might expect to see them in Toronto 2014.

Alternatively, an argument can be made that we should expect relatively little in the way of attitudinal change during the campaign, at least in the weeks leading up to election-day. The fact that the official campaign was so lengthy (nearly 10 months), and because the election and its candidates were extremely high-profile, attitudes towards the candidates may have been relatively well anchored long before election day. Zaller’s (1992) Receive-Accept-Sample (RAS) model of decision making suggests that attitudes are formed as a result of the summation of considerations, or beliefs or pieces of knowledge relevant to some decision (such as vote choice). During a campaign, new considerations are combined with existing ones.  All else equal, the more considerations are present, the more strongly anchored a belief may be, and the less likely it is that new considerations will change one’s opinion. In the context of a lengthy, high-profile campaign, such as the 2014 Toronto race, it stands to reason that many voters will already have a great number of existing considerations by the nomination deadline. In such a scenario, attitude change may be particularly unlikely in the later stages of a campaign. In short, the substantial length of the Toronto campaign may very well mean that voter attitudes and preferences will solidify well in advance of election day. Campaign effects in the final weeks before election day may therefore be muted in Toronto, as compared to federal and provincial contests.

It is between these two possibilities that we adjudicate. To do so, we employ TES data to map several attitudinal measures during the course of the final weeks of the campaign (a period comparable in length to federal and provincial campaigns). Did the campaign affect voter attitudes and preferences in the final weeks of the 2014 Toronto Municipal Election, as has been found to be the case in other levels of elections in Canada, or were opinions and knowledge levels relatively stable during this time?  

The Data

The pre-election wave of the TES was designed to employ a rolling cross-sectional design, meaning that surveys were conducted in such a manner than they are staggered throughout the weeks leading up to the election, with a portion of the sample being collected each week.[1] This repeated cross-sectional approach means that new respondents were interviewed each week. In essence, this is what pollsters do when they collect new samples every few days to measure and track public opinion. For our purposes, such a design allows us to monitor potential opinion changes during the final month-and-a-half of the campaign.

We map four different types of attitudes when testing for the presence of campaign effects, including perceptions of the competitiveness of candidates, candidate ratings (‘feeling thermometer’ questions), responses to a question which asked whether there was a candidate for whom respondents would not consider voting, and finally, vote intention. Changes across time with respect to any of these attitudes could suggest the presence of campaign effects.

The figures above reveal several noteworthy findings.  For example, though Olivia Chow came in third place in the election, she had the second highest rating among the three major candidates.  Additionally, though Ford came in second in the race, there were more voters who would never consider voting for him than is the case for the other two candidates combined. Finally, the graphs above show that Tory dominated through the entirety of the period under consideration here. He was consistently the highest rated, had the greatest support among voters and was perceived all along as the front runner.

For the purpose of this post, however, the most important finding from above is that there is little, if any, evidence of campaign effects during this period. Competitive perceptions were fairly constant from mid-September until election day. Aside from the divergence of Chow and Ford after Sept. 18, there is little observable change to report.

The feeling thermometer scores also tell a story of consistency over time. Throughout this entire period Tory is rated most highly of the three candidates, followed by Chow, and then Ford. At no point do the candidates change positions with one another.

Responses to the question of whether there is a candidate one would not consider voting for are also remarkably consistent. Candidate ordering remains constant throughout the weeks leading up to election day, and there is little change over time in the share of the population that holds negative sentiments towards each contender. Anti-Ford sentiment is constant throughout this period (with no statistically significant change). Anti-Chow and anti-Tory attitudes see a modest decrease and increase, respectively, in the period from October 13th to 19th, though both changes are temporary and return to previous levels in the week before the election.

The flip side of anti-candidate views, and indeed the most important variable in the field of voting behaviour, is vote choice. For the most part, vote intentions largely mirror the consistency of candidate ratings and anti-candidate sentiment. The exception is the period from October 13th to 19th, where we see a temporary dip and jump in support for Tory and Chow, respectively. However, Tory is consistently ahead of the other two candidates for the entirety of the final weeks of the campaign, and the level of support pledged for each candidate is statistically indistinguishable from the first and last time period considered in the figure.

Explaining the Absence of Effects

The story of the last weeks of the 2014 Toronto mayoral campaign is that this part of the campaign had little, if any effect upon either the voter attitudes or the outcome of the election. All indications are that the outcome of the election would have been the same had the election been held on any of the dates covered by TES data.

The absence of campaign effects in the last weeks of the Toronto mayoral election is noteworthy, and bears some consideration. Indeed, the period covered by TES data is of a similar length to federal and provincial contests, during which there are often major swings in public support. We suggest that the most likely source for this relative inactivity during the late stages of the campaign is the length of the official campaign period. At nearly 10 months, the official campaign dwarfs those of other levels of government. During the eight months prior to the nomination deadline, electors had ample opportunity to learn about the candidates and their policies, and likely had fairly well formed attitudes of the candidates by the time the nomination deadline rolled around. In terms of Zaller’s (1992) RAS model (discussed above), voters had two-thirds of a year to collect and store considerations. Any new information obtained during the final weeks of the campaign that might be inconsistent with existing beliefs (and thus which may affect attitudes) thus had to compete with a tremendous number of other, older considerations.

That said, it is doubtful that that the length of the campaign itself is responsible for the absence of late-campaign effects. In municipalities with lower profile elections, voters may receive relatively little information on municipal politics. In Toronto, however, the attention paid by the media to the 2014 campaign was nothing short of unprecedented; the highly publicized antics of the outgoing mayor put the politics of Toronto in the spotlight like never before. Though the data are unavailable to test this contention, it thus stands to reason that Torontonians were relatively enlightened with respect to municipal politics, relative to their counterparts in many other cities. In sum, we suspect that it is this high level of existing knowledge, combined with the great length of the mayoral campaign, that contributed to the absence of late-campaign effects in Toronto in 2014. 

 

[1] Note that there is some variation in the number of respondents interviewed during each week of the campaign. These differences, however, should have no effect upon the patterns observed here, as the figures presented here indicate confidence intervals, which are a function of sample size. The sample sizes are as follows: Sept. 19-28 = 1,000, Sept. 29-Oct. 5 = 598, Oct. 6-12 = 529, Oct. 13-19 = 392, Oct. 20-26 = 480. Note also that all data have been weighted to population average for age, gender and education for each week/group represented in all figures, to maximize representativeness of the sample and comparability between groups.

Strategic Voting in Toronto 2014

Strategic (or tactical) voting, often a hot topic among voters and pundits during close election campaigns, is also a fertile topic in political science literature.  The three candidate race in the 2014 Toronto Mayoral contest was seemingly an ideal context for strategic voting to occur.  The candidate polling in second place (Doug Ford), was highly polarizing, and there was much discussion in the media about how Chow supporters might abandon her in favour of Tory, in order to prevent a Ford victory. Perhaps surprisingly, TES data reveal that rates of strategic voting were relatively low in this election, and strategic voting certainly did not have a decisive impact upon the election outcome.  We suggest that the low rate of strategic voting is largely due to the fact that Chow supporters had unrealistic expectations about her chances of victory.

The Theory

A strategic vote is a vote for a party or candidate that is not one’s favourite, cast in the hope of affecting the outcome of an election (Blais et al., 2001).  More specifically, the goal of a strategic voter is to use his/her vote to prevent a party/candidate that is disliked from winning.  Such voters believe that their most preferred party/candidate has little or no chance of victory (and so voting sincerely would have no effect on the outcome), and support the party/candidate that has the best chance of defeating their least preferred competitive option.

Strategic voting has been studied extensively at the federal and provincial levels in Canada and elsewhere.  One setting in which strategic voting has gone more or less unconsidered, however, is municipal elections, specifically those not contested by parties.  This is despite the large number of municipalities in Canada, the United States and elsewhere in which political parties do not officially participate in elections. One might expect rates of strategic voting to be different in a setting where voters are not weighed down by the anchors of party loyalty and the knowledge of previous contests between the parties.

The 2014 Toronto mayoral election furnishes an excellent opportunity to study this phenomenon. Toronto’s controversial and deeply-polarising incumbent mayor, Rob Ford, may have prompted anti-Ford voters to consider carefully the prospect of not voting sincerely (for his brother Doug), and to determine which candidate they would support in order to defeat him.

In this post, we calculate the rate of strategic voting in the 2014 Toronto mayoral contest. In line with the classic approach to identifying strategic voters, we use what Blais et al. (2005) refer to as the “direct” method of measurement, which employs measures of candidate rankings, perceived competitiveness, and vote choice. Voters are categorized as strategic if they meet two criteria. First, their most preferred candidate must be seen as least competitive of the three major candidates. Second, these individuals must vote for their second preferred candidate.

We then consider whether the rate of strategic voting was sufficient to overcome John Tory’s margin of victory. Tory won 40.3% of the popular vote, Doug Ford received the support of 33.7% of voters, while Olivia Chow came in third, with 23.2% support. Tory’s margin of victory was therefore 6.6%, meaning that at least that much strategic voting must have occurred in order for it to have impacted the outcome of the election.

The Data

Most polls in the days and weeks leading up to election showed Tory and Ford as the clear front-runners, and much of the discussion in the media was about how Chow supporters might abandon her in favour of Tory to prevent a Ford victory.  TES data suggest that this discussion may have been warranted. In the pre-election wave of the TES, respondents were asked to estimate the chances of each candidate winning the election, as well as to rate each candidate (both on a scale from 0 to 100).  The following figure shows the average values for responses to these questions for each candidate, among voters.

 Candidate Ratings and Evaluations of Competitiveness

On the whole, voters saw Chow as the least competitive of the three major candidates, giving her a 34.8% chance of winning the election. Tory was seen as the most competitive, with a 69.1% chance of victory, while Ford was in the middle, at 42.1%. Not surprisingly, the candidate seen as most competitive also received the highest rating from voters; Tory had an average rating of 60.4. However, though Chow was seen as the least likely to win the election, she did not receive the lowest rating (47.2). This distinction belongs to Ford, who received a score of only 35.5. TES data therefore confirm media speculation that this election was a case where one might expect to see strategic voting, particularly among Chow supporters. Though Chow was the second most popular, she was also seen as the least competitive. If voters did indeed see Tory as the best option for defeating Ford, Chow supporters might reasonably have decided to opt to support him, instead of their most preferred candidate.

The estimated rate of strategic voting in the election, according to the procedure outlined above, is a mere 1.3%.  This value is considerably lower than estimates calculated for federal and provincial elections (according to Blais (2002, 445), rates of strategic voting in such settings are “typically around 5 percent”). Nonetheless, John Tory was, as expected, the largest beneficiary of strategic voting, receiving 81.1% of such votes. Ford and Chow received some support from strategic voters, but captured only 15.9% and 3.2% of strategic votes, respectively.

The 1.3% of ballots cast strategically were obviously not enough to overcome Tory’s 6.6 point margin of victory, even if all such votes had been taken away from Tory and given to Ford (the second place candidate).

So why was strategic voting so uncommon? The reason appears to stem from the fact that many survey respondents had a poor understanding of how competitive their most preferred candidates were.  Indeed, a mere 5.2% of voters saw their preferred candidate as the least competitive. Blais (2002) has identified a misunderstanding of competitive circumstances as an important reason why rates of strategic voting are not higher in national elections, and we find the same pattern in Toronto 2014. The following table shows how competitive each candidate was perceived to be by those voters who ranked them as first, second or third preferences.

Candidate ranking and perceived competitiveness

Most preferred candidate
Ford Chow Tory
Chances of winning Ford 71.5% 32.1% 32.4%
Chow 26.7% 53.5% 31.9%
Tory 57.1% 60.7% 78.6%
N 344 300 747

The above table provides compelling evidence that candidate preference was strongly related to perceived competitiveness. While Chow supporters did not see her as having the best chance of winning, on average, they did believe that she was more likely to win than Ford (despite the fact that polls had indicated as much for basically the entirety of the election campaign). Similarly, Ford supporters believed that he was the most competitive of the three candidates. Voters cannot be expected to abandon their first preference for strategic reasons if they do not believe that candidate is uncompetitive, and the failure of Chow supporters to recognize this, in particular, seems to have contributed to a very low rate of strategic voting in this election.

Partisanship and Ideology in a Non-Partisan Election

In this post we examine if, and to what extent, Torontonians viewed the 2014 mayoral contest in ideological and partisan terms.  Both ideology and party labels are known to be significant drivers of political behavior, but in this officially non-partisan race, it is uncertain whether voters associated candidates with ideologies or parties.  Toronto Election Study data reveal that, despite the non-partisan nature of the race, voters saw clear ideological differences between the candidates, and most associated the candidates with the major federal or provincial parties.

The Theory

It is well established that parties have a significant impact upon the way that citizens view and participate in the political process.  According to Dalton (2002), political parties “define the choices available to voters” and “shape the content of election campaigns.”  Indeed, how voters relate to parties is a central component of our understanding of voting behavior.  Many voters form a long-standing, psychological attachment to parties, known as ‘partisanship.’ For partisans, their attachment to a party can act as an anchor, providing a default preference over candidates, issues and policy positions.  Not surprisingly, the majority of research on voting behaviour considers voter predispositions toward parties when attempting to explain the way they behave politically. 

For the most part, however, political parties do not contest municipal elections in Canada, and such is the case in Toronto.  Without parties, do voters understand municipal contests in ideological terms, simply without party labels and “teams?”  Even in the absence of formal party labels, do voters associate candidates with parties?  The logic of the spatial voting model (Downs 1957) predicts that, when ideological positions are known, voters will prefer parties or candidates that are closer to them in ideological space.  If voters do not view candidates in ideological terms, however, it makes little sense to expect them to be drawn to candidates closest to them on a traditional left-right ideological scale.  Similarly, the Michigan Model of vote choice, with its emphasis on long-standing partisan loyalties, assumes that voters use party labels as a heuristic, or shortcut, when making their vote choices.  If candidates are not associated with a party, however, such a cue cannot be employed.

The Data

To begin our analysis, we start with assessing the degree to which voters differentiate the candidates in terms of their ideological positions. We draw on a question from the TES which asks respondents to position the three major candidates on a scale from 0 (left) to 10 (right).  For comparison, we perform the same analysis using data from recent federal and provincial elections.  We can therefore compare the perceived ideological positions of the candidates to those of the three major parties from recent partisan elections.  Federal estimates are based upon Canadian Election Study data from 2011. For provincial estimates we draw on data from the 2011 Ontario election collected by the Making Electoral Democracy Work project.  The following table includes the results of this analysis, and shows the mean and standard deviation values for the perceived ideology of the Toronto mayoral candidates and the federal and provincial parties.

Table 1:  Perceived Candidate and Party Ideology




Mean

Std. Dev.


Toronto
N = 2033

Chow

2.96

2.58

Tory

6.53

2.17

Ford

7.38

2.72


Ontario
N = 1337

NDP

3.41

2.06

Liberal

5.02

1.98

Progressive Conservative

7.19

2.52


Canada
N = 1025

NDP

3.06

2.22

Liberal

4.60

2.18

Conservative

7.03

2.39

The above table shows clearly that Torontonians differentiated between the mayoral candidates in terms of ideology.  Chow was perceived as being on the left, while both Tory and Ford were both placed on the right.  Importantly, Ford was seen to be to the right of Tory.  Interestingly, the ideological placements of two of the mayoral candidates were, in fact, quite similar to those of two of the parties at the federal and provincial levels.  Estimates of Ford’s ideology were similar to those of the provincial Progressive Conservative and federal Conservative parties – all had values above 7.  On the other side of the spectrum, Chow was clearly closest to the NDP, both provincially and federally.  John Tory was the sole outlier.  Respondents placed him at 6.53 on the scale, closer to the federal Conservative and provincial PC parties than the centrist Liberals, but further from the right-wing parties than Ford. 

Did these ideological perceptions translate into partisan associations?  Although the election was officially non-partisan, some of the candidates had party ties and many voters associated the candidates with parties.  The following table shows the responses to the following TES question: Which political party, if any, would you associate with (Doug Ford/Olivia Chow/John Tory)?  Note that N = 2850.

Table 2:  Perceived Candidate Party Ties




Olivia Chow

Doug Ford

John Tory

None

5.6%

14.7%

6.8%

Conservative

2.4%

46.2%

55.8%

Liberal

4.8%

10.1%

15.5%

NDP

68.5%

2.0%

1.2%

Green

3.2%

1.8%

1.7%

Other

0.6%

1.9%

0.9%

Don't know

14.9%

23.3%

18.2%

The results of our second table reveal an intriguing association with the ideological observations from the first.  Most voters (68.5%) associated Chow with the NDP, which is unsurprising given her past ties with the party, but also because she had a similar ideological placement to both the provincial and federal parties in Table 1.  The Conservative Party was the modal response for both of the other candidates, though fewer people (46.2%) associated Ford with the Party than Tory (55.5%) (likely due to Tory’s former affiliation with the provincial PCs).  Few voters associated any of the candidates with the Liberal party, though Tory was perceived as a Liberal by more respondents than Ford. 

On the whole, therefore, ideological placements line up well with partisan perceptions.  It appears that many voters understood the 2014 Toronto Election in much the same way as any other partisan contest.  The left wing candidate was associated with the leftist NDP, and the right-wing candidates were associated with the right-leaning Conservatives.  What seemingly makes this election different from those at the federal and provincial level, however, is that partisan perceptions were far from uniform in Toronto.  Only a minority of respondents associated Ford with the Conservative Party, and almost a quarter of voters did not associate him with any party.  Even Olivia Chow, who resigned as an NDP MP in early 2014 in order to run in the mayoral contest, was only associated with the NDP by fewer than 70% of voters.  While there were clear patterns to partisan perceptions, party information was uneven, and in some cases, nonexistent.

Unfortunately, we were unable to carry out the same type of analysis for the hundreds of council candidates that ran in the election. Given the significant lack of information about council candidates and campaigns relative to the high profile mayoral race, it’s likely that party information for candidates would be even more uneven, or entirely absent, except for high profile candidates, especially those with former ties to parties at the provincial and federal levels, and incumbents.

 

Incumbency and the Importance of Campaigns

In many settings, incumbents have a significant, often almost insurmountable advantage at election time. While there is a significant amount of research on the sources of incumbency advantage, little is known about how the presence of an incumbent affects voters during the campaign period.  Toronto Election Study data reveal that the presence of an incumbent councillor decreases voter attentiveness to ward elections.  Additionally, voters in wards with incumbents tend to make their decisions much earlier, and their preferences remain relatively stable.  These findings suggest that the impact of campaigns depends heavily upon the presence of an incumbent.

The Theory

Incumbency has been long recognized as a major predictor of candidate success in US federal and state elections, though its effect is noticeably weaker in Canadian federal and provincial contests.  In both countries, the incumbency advantage tends to be particularly strong at the municipal level, to the extent that many studies have shown that incumbency is the strongest predictor of candidate success in local elections.  The results of council races in the 2014 Toronto Municipal election would seem to confirm this - voters returned 36 of the 37 incumbent councillors (97.3 percent) that sought re-election to City Council. Of the re-elected incumbents, 67.6 percent of these incumbents won with a majority of the vote, and the average vote share of incumbents was 59.8 percent.

Incumbents have a significant edge when it comes to election campaigns—they have name recognition, track records to tout, prestige, and all of the trappings of office when they set out to court voters.  While there is a significant amount of research on the sources of incumbency advantage, little is known about how the presence of an incumbent affects voters during the campaign period.  Do voters in wards with an incumbent assume that the race is uncompetitive and simply tune out during a campaign?  In elections that many see as having low stakes and with limited availability of information, do voters simply choose the ‘devil that they know,’ saving themselves from the effort involved in paying attention during a campaign?  Does such a pattern lead to early vote decisions, and stable vote preference when an incumbent is present? 

The TES allows us to examine the effect of incumbency upon the importance of campaigns in two ways.  First, we compare voters in wards with an incumbent candidate to those without to test whether the presence of an incumbent leads to lower levels of attention on the part of voters.  Second, we examine whether the presence of an incumbent influences the timing of vote decisions.  Early decisions indicate that the campaign had no influence on vote choice, and could also be taken as a sign of disengagement—all other things equal, voters who know long before an election for whom they will vote have less of a need to be attentive during the campaign than do undecided voters.  By considering how the presence of an incumbent affects campaign attentiveness and the timing of vote decisions, we address the effect of incumbency upon the importance of campaigns themselves.  

The Data

The first question we consider is whether the presence of an incumbent affects attentiveness. TES data reveal that voters are less attentive during the campaign period when an incumbent is present. Voters in wards without an incumbent reported an average attentiveness score of 6.2 (on a scale from 0 to 10). In wards with and incumbent the average attentiveness score was 5.8 (the difference is significant at p < 0.05). As a point of comparison, attention to the mayoral campaign, which is unlikely to be affected by a City Council incumbent, is not significantly different when an incumbent is present (average scores for this variable are 8.1 in wards without an incumbent and 8.0 with an incumbent). Assuming that incumbency influences attentiveness, rather than the reverse, these findings suggest that voters are more likely to tune out from council races if they live in a ward with an incumbent candidate.

We can also consider whether the presence of an incumbent, and the accompanying incumbency cue, leads to early vote decisions. At most, campaigns will serve to only affirm the choices of those who make an early vote decision that does not change.  At least, they have no effect at all on such voters.  Therefore, we are interested in determining whether there is evidence that, when there is no incumbent, voters wait to make their decisions until they have more campaign information. We determine this by comparing voter preferences at the time of the pre-election interview (T1) to post-election vote recall (T2), and grouping individuals according to the typology established above:  early deciders, late deciders, and switchers.

Wards without incumbent Wards with incumbent Difference
Stable preference from T1 to T2
(early decider)
46.3% 60.7 14.4%
Change in preference from T1 to T2
(unstable)
13.9% 12.2% -1.7%
Undecided at T1
(late decider)
39.8% 27.1% -12.7
N 231 1122

The above table shows clearly that residents in wards with incumbents are more likely to form early vote preferences than their counterparts in wards without incumbents. At the time of their pre-election TES interview, only 27.1% of voters in wards with incumbents were undecided (late deciders, in our typology), as compared to 39.8% in wards without an incumbent (this difference of 12.7 points is significant at p < 0.05).  Unsurprisingly, the majority (64.4%) of early deciders in wards with incumbents supported their current councillor.  Voters in incumbent wards were also less likely to be switchers, or change their vote preferences between questionnaire waves.  60.7% of voters in wards with incumbents displayed a stable vote intention from T1 to T2, while the value is only 46.3% in wards without incumbents (this difference of 14.4 points is significant at p < 0.01).  The presence of an incumbent is therefore associated with early, stable vote decisions.

So what does all of this mean for the incumbency advantage?  In low information settings such as council races, voters in wards with an incumbent pay less attention during the campaign period, make earlier vote decisions, and tend to support the incumbent. In short, campaigns matter less in these settings, which means it is particularly difficult for challengers to attract the attention and support of voters, thus unseating an incumbent.  Such a finding adds further evidence of the advantages that incumbency brings. 

Economic Influence: Perception vs. Reality

We have shown previously that Torontonians factored economic evaluations into their vote choice in the recent Mayoral election.  Those individuals who believed the city’s economy had improved in the year prior to the election seemingly were willing to reward Doug Ford for his brother’s performance.  The question such a finding raises, however, is why the city’s economy mattered for decisions in the mayor race.  Municipal governments and politicians have far less influence over the economy than do either federal or provincial governments.  As such, the question we consider in this blog post is whether citizens differentiate between the impacts of different orders of government on economic conditions?  Are they aware of the relatively economic impotence of municipal governments?

The Theory

Canada’s federal and provincial governments have constitutionally entrenched and clearly specified scopes of authority over a variety of economic policies.  Both levels of government have available to them a great number of levers that provide the potential to influence economic conditions.  Such levers include the ability to set tax rates (corporate, personal and sales taxes), go into deficit to spend and potentially stimulate the economy, and the ability to borrow money from both domestic and international sources.  At both levels, then, governments typically have significant and tangible authority to impact the economic conditions of their geographic area.

Do local governments, and specifically the City of Toronto, have an independent ability to influence economic conditions?  Municipal governments in Canada have far less independent authority than do their federal and provincial counterparts. Comparatively speaking, the financial tools available to municipalities are severely limited, and their power is highly constrained by the provincial governments that create and ultimately control them. For most municipalities, the property tax is the only major economic lever they have the authority to set. While property tax and other minor sole source municipal revenues, such as user fees, are useful for funding basic municipal services (e.g. snow removal, garbage collection, water) they do little to allow municipalities to implement, on their own, policies that could directly influence their local economy.

The economic influence of municipal governments is further limited by provincial laws that restrict municipal capital debt and prevent municipalities from running an operating deficit. Provincial and federal governments are able to spend and run deficits to help boost the economy during recessions.  Canadian municipalities, like their American counterparts, do implement economic development policies. For instance, many large cities have development corporations responsible for the development of city-owned land. While some of these corporations focus solely on the development of said land (e.g. Build Toronto), others are also tasked with stimulating development in declining areas of the city (e.g. CentreVenture in Winnipeg). However, there is little evidence, even in the United States where municipalities have a greater variety of tools at their disposal, that local economic development policies work.  Municipalities in Canada, therefore, have little, if any, ability to stimulate their own economy, and most certainly their influence is dwarfed by both the federal and provincial orders of government.

The Data

As noted above, Canada’s federal structure and the fact that municipalities have no constitutional standing and relatively little policy setting power suggest that the decisions of municipal governments should have little effect upon the economy, and certainly less of an impact than either the federal or provincial governments.  It is unknown, however, whether citizens perceive the municipal government’s power in such a manner.  The TES includes questions that ask respondents whether they believe each government has had a positive or negative effect upon the economy, or no effect at all, allowing us to evaluate this proposition.

The following table shows the perceived impact of each level of government upon the economy, based upon the following question:  “Have the policies of the [municipal/provincial/federal] government made Toronto’s economy better, worse, or not made much of a difference?”  Note that N = 2890.

Municipal
Government
Provincial
Government
Federal
Government
Negative impact 25.7% 31.7% 28.3%
Neutral impact 43.0% 40.9% 43.0%
Positive impact 18.0% 13.2% 13.6%
Don't know 13.3% 14.3% 15.2%

The most immediately striking feature of the table is how little variation there is between the perceived impact of each level of government.  Values in the ‘neutral’ and ‘don’t know’ rows are remarkably consistent for each level of government.  The share of respondents who believe each government has had an impact, either positive or negative, is also very similar.  43.7% of respondents thought the municipal government had influenced Toronto’s economy, compared to 44.9% and 41.9% for the provincial and federal governments, respectively.  Perhaps surprisingly, fewer respondents believe that the federal government had an impact upon the city’s economy (either negative or positive) compared to the municipal or provincial governments.  Given the vastly different fiscal and policy setting power of the various levels of government, such a pattern is quite unexpected. 

So what might account for our potentially surprising finding?  One possibility is that political rhetoric may be such that voters are led to make incorrect links between the economy and the government effect.  In other words, it may be the perception of a politician’s economic impact, rather than the objective truth, that matters for vote choice.  The side that does the best job of arguing its economic impact stands to benefit from an issue that should likely not factor into mayoral election outcomes.  Indeed, Rob Ford claimed in the months leading up to the election that “I have transformed Toronto into an economic powerhouse.”  Such specious claims are hardly beneficial for political accountability through realistic economic voting, and they may be damaging the ability of voters to correctly gauge the impact of the municipal government upon Toronto’s economy.

The Economy and Vote Choice in the 2014 Toronto Municipal Election

The direction of the economy is one of the best predictors of vote choice in Federal and Provincial elections.  Little is known, however, about the the impact of this variable at the municipal level.  Toronto Election Study (TES) data reveal that economic evaluations had a significant impact upon mayoral vote choice, but no effect upon ward races, in the 2014 Toronto Municipal election.  Such a finding is perhaps surprising given Toronto’s ‘weak mayor' system and the limited capacity for Canadian municipalities to influence their own economy. 

The Theory

Economic conditions are known to influence electoral outcomes, in that incumbents are more likely to win re-election when the economy is doing well.  The state of the economy is consistently one of the best predictors of vote choice, and the literature on economic voting at the national and provincial levels in Canada is both broad and deep.  However, few scholars have examined the relationship between perceptions of economic conditions and electoral choice at the municipal level.  Do voters hold incumbent mayors or councillors responsible for the direction of a city’s economy? 

The TES allows us to consider this question in the case of the 2014 Toronto election.  The survey included the following question:  Over the last year, has Toronto’s economy gotten better, gotten worse, or stayed about the same?  We can compare the responses to this question to respondents’ vote choice to determine if voters held incumbents responsible for the direction of the economy.

There is good reason to expect voters not to attributed responsibility for the economy to municipal politicians.  Municipal governments have far less independent authority than the Federal and Provincial governments. Comparatively speaking, the financial tools available to local government are severely limited, and their power is highly constrained by the provincial governments that create and ultimately control them.  Municipalities therefore have little, if any, ability to stimulate their own economy, and most certainly their influence is dwarfed by both the federal and provincial orders of government.

One might also reason that the structure of Toronto’s government should make it unlikely that voters will attribute responsibility for the economy to the mayor. Toronto’s mayor is institutionally weak when compared to many American cities and some Canadian ones (e.g. Vancouver, Montreal, and Winnipeg), and certainly compared to provincial premiers or the prime minister. While he/she is elected at large, the mayor counts as only one vote on City Council, and is constantly at the mercy of ever-fluid coalitions of ward councillors.  Although the mayor is the only elected official in the city that can claim to represent the city as whole, in practice City Council holds most of the authority in Toronto.

This ‘weak mayor’ system, coupled with the limited policy making capacity of municipalities, suggests that voters Toronto might be expected assign little responsibility for economic conditions to an incumbent mayor.  The situation is similar for individual councillors.  Each councillor has but one vote on a 45-member council (44 councillors plus the mayor), and without political parties that might structure voting blocs, it is difficult to attribute responsibility for decisions without undertaking a full review of each vote cast. As a result, the institutional structure in Toronto may be undermining the impact of economic conditions on voting for incumbents (mayoral or council).

The Data

Before describing our findings, we should note that retrospective economic evaluations are theoretically only relevant if an incumbent candidate or party is present, and it is our position that Doug Ford (who replaced his ailing brother on the ballot on the date of the nomination deadline) can be viewed as an acceptable incumbent.  Respondents were asked how similar they believed Doug’s policies were to those of Rob, 85.6% thought the brothers’ policies were all the same, 10.6% did not know, while only 3.8% were of the opinion that the platforms of the two brothers were either mostly or all different.  We omit those respondents who believed the policies of the brothers were either mostly or all different and those answered “don’t know” from our analysis of mayoral vote choice and assume that, for all remaining respondents, Doug can be considered the de facto incumbent.  At the ward level we have no such issue, as incumbents were present in 37 of 44 wards; we limit this part of our analysis to these wards only.

So what do the TES data say?  Our analysis reveals, perhaps surprisingly, that economic voting was indeed a factor in the 2014 Toronto election, though only at the mayoral level.  At the ward level, we find no evidence that the economy had a significant effect upon incumbent support for incumbent councillors.  In the mayoral election, however, Doug Ford received a boost of 5 percentage points if voters believed the city’s economy had improved in the last year, as compared to those individuals who believed the economy had worsened.  Despite the good reasons to expect economic voting to not be present in the Toronto municipal election, therefore, perceptions of the direction of the economy did affect support for Doug Ford.

So what might account for this potentially surprising finding?  We can see two potential explanations.  First, Toronto’s non-partisan system may lead voters to search for alternative cues.  They may turn to the economy as a shortcut, despite the many reasons why economic considerations should not factor into municipal vote decisions.  Alternatively, it may be that political rhetoric is such that voters are led to make incorrect links between the economy and the government/mayor’s effect.  In other words, it may be the perception of a politician’s economic impact, rather than the objective truth, that matters for vote choice.  The side that does the best job of arguing its economic impact stands to benefit from an issue that should likely not factor into mayoral election outcomes.  Indeed, Rob Ford claimed in the months leading up to the election that he “transformed Toronto into an economic powerhouse” (Gee, 2013).  Such specious claims are hardly beneficial for political accountability through realistic economic voting.

Election Day: A Look Back with the TES

Election day is here! Though our final weekly campaign news update was on Friday, today we provide one last burst of news and a look back on the highs and lows of this eventful campaign, with an eye to what we can learn from it and what will need addressing once the campaign ends and political life in the city approaches normalcy once again. For anyone still looking to get informed before voting, nonpartisan crash courses in the candidates' platforms are available from Position Primer and Pollenize.

Polls and Voting

Now with the endorsement of the National Post (making a clean sweep of all four major dailies), as well as that of former Toronto mayor David Crombie, John Tory continues to ride high in the last polls to be released in the campaign.  Meanwhile, today's voter turnout rate is projected to be affected by immigrant and visible minority status; areas with a high proportion of immigrants and visible minorities appear to have appreciably lower turnout, which makes the news of campaign trail racism detailed below all the more disturbing. CBC's Vote Compass suggests, though, that Torontonians do support increasing the level of help new arrivals receive in adjusting to life in Canada's largest city; the Vote Compass responses also suggested Torontonians favour a handgun ban and an end to "carding." Finally, Forum has released some limited polling data for council candidates.

Cult of Personality

Personal politics played a central role in the campaign both for candidates and onlookers. Erstwhile Chow staffer Warren Kinsella, after causing a stir in late summer with comments about John Tory's transit plan, has announced he is taking legal action against Tory campaign aide Nick Kouvalis over comments the latter made on Twitter. Meanwhile, council candidate Russ Ford has faced some negative reactions to his surname, though he explains he is not related to Rob and Doug Ford.

Campaign Trail Bigotry

A campaign marred by sexism, racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia ended on a series of ugly, but familiar, notes; heckling, vandalism and abusive campaign literature directed at TDSB trustee candidate Ausma Malik and council candidate Mohammed Uddin were joined by yet more verbal abuse of Ward 2 candidate Munira Abukar. On the eve of the election, the Toronto Sun provoked surprise and controversy when it published an editorial cartoon that appears to caricature Olivia Chow, in Maoist garb, literally riding the coattails of her deceased husband, Jack Layton; Chow called the cartoon both racist and sexist.

The TES at Work

Throughout the campaign, Toronto Election Study researchers have been busily gathering survey information. Our researchers have been in the news commenting on voting disparities between property owners and tenants, the paradox of low satisfaction with council and a high incumbent re-election probability, and strategic voting. TES data have offered insight into the greater support for Ford-style policies than exists for Doug Ford, the high importance of council in a weak-mayor system coupled with the low level of information available on council races and the great advantage of incumbency, the nature of "Ford Nation" and the interchangeability of the Ford brothers, and the issues most important to Toronto voters.

Election Weekend Grab Bag

  • All three major candidates still in the race have now released campaign donation information.

  • The Toronto Election Study Social Media Coordinator's acknowledgements are due to our investigators, Drs. Michael McGregor, Aaron Moore and Laura Stephenson, and our intrepid research assistant, Félix Tremblay, without whose assistance and dedicated news mining these weekly updates would not have been possible.

Weekly Campaign Update, 24 October 2014: Concluding the Campaign

With only a few days remaining before Monday's vote, John Tory is maintaining his long-standing lead in the polls (though not in Twitter mentions), while Doug Ford claims his internal polling shows Ford and Tory in a dead heat and believes that he will win, "embarrass[ing] the pollsters." Talk of strategic voting, including impassioned pleas to avoid it, has become more prominent, while the ugly side of the campaign has never really gone away. At City Hall, meanwhile, security has been intensified following the shootings in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Transit

John Lorinc has argued in Spacing that in the end, the campaign was defined by a John Tory transit plan that in effect promised little more than the province had already planned to deliver, so that the transit debate was dominated by funding and construction details and not a discussion of whether a regional transit plan addresses Toronto's priorities. Meanwhile, even approved light rail transit plans may be torpedoed if the new council is sufficiently hostile to them.

Sexism and Racism

Doug Ford shocked journalists when he was overheard referring to Toronto Star reporter Jennifer Pagliaro as a "little bitch," and would later claim that he was not referring to her. He did not, however, deny that he had made the comment, or specify whom he was talking about. Ward 18 candidate Mohammed Uddin reported on Twitter that some of his signs had been vandalised with xenophobic and offensive graffiti; Ward 10 TDSB trustee candidate Ausma Malik has been the target of multiple xenophobic flyers.

Strategic Voting

While the Star's Haroon Siddiqui suggests some of the possible flow of support from Olivia Chow to John Tory has happened because she did not live up to expectations, the subject of preferential voting has gained more attention as many observers suggest that John Tory is leading because he is the strategic choice to defeat the Fords, a situation that disturbs some candidates and onlookers. While questioning the practice of strategic voting, or outright denouncing it, is fairly common, John Lorinc offers a defence of the practice. Others suggest that progressives who intend to vote for Tory are doing so sincerely. The Star's Royson James argues that the election is, in the end, a referendum on the Fords, and that there is only one viable choice for Ford opponents.

TES in the News

The Toronto Election Study's finding that incumbent councillors are overwhelmingly likely to be re-elected is in stark contrast to the additional findings of low overall confidence in council's performance; TES investigator Aaron Moore discusses this with Jessica Smith Cross in Metro. TES principal investigator Michael McGregor, along with Zachary Spicer of Wilfrid Laurier University and LISPOP, discusses the dramatic turnout disparity between homeowners and tenants in the National Post, and its effects on the political agenda at the municipal level. Don't miss TES investigator Laura Stephenson discussing strategic voting in the Globe and Mail last week.

Campaign Grab Bag

Who is Ford Nation and is Two Fords Too Many?

What a difference two months has made to the Toronto municipal election.  In mid-August, five leading mayoral candidates were competing for votes. Rob Ford had returned from his stint in rehab and began his bid to win back the hearts and minds of Torontonians (or enough hearts and minds to be re-elected as mayor, anyway). Now, the number of front-runners in the mayoral campaign has been reduced to three. And while Torontonians will still have the option to vote for a Ford, that Ford is not Rob, but his older brother Doug. Clearly, the Ford brothers have not conceded defeat in this campaign. With the election date looming, however, the question remains: will Rob’s Ford Nation shift its allegiance to Doug, or is two Fords too many?

To date, the Toronto Election Study has surveyed over 2800 Torontonians, asking them about their attitudes towards mayoral candidates, the most important issues in the election, and their political beliefs, among other things.  While our data collection is ongoing, we can provide some preliminary results from the information we have gathered so far.  More specifically, our data provides us with insight into who makes up Ford Nation, and if voters see Doug as a substitute for Rob.

In our sample, just over a quarter (26%) of respondents indicate they would support Rob if he were running for mayor (more than 10% indicate they don’t know).  Using this value as a benchmark, we can examine the demographics of Ford Nation. We find that Rob has stronger support among Torontonians not born in Canada (34%), men (29%), individuals that attended technical or community college (32%), and those who didn’t vote in the last municipal election (30%). 

In terms of policy, Rob Ford’s hypothetical support varies widely according to which issues voters believe to be the most important.  Rob performs best among individuals who believe property taxes or the city’s finances are the key election issue (41 and 33%).  Conversely, his support is relatively weak among citizens who view public transit or traffic and congestion as most important (20 and 22%).  Individuals who believe that taxes and government spending should be cut are also more likely to support Rob (44%).

But will Rob’s supporters switch their allegiance to his brother Doug? If Rob’s supporters were voting solely on the basis of policy, it seems likely that they would shift their support to his brother.  We asked respondents how similar the policies of the two brothers are and over 85% thought they were all or mostly the same. But what if policies are not the lone cause of the voting decision? Past polls have suggested that voters like Rob better than Doug, a fact that could negatively affect the older Ford. We find, however, that in terms of personal appeal, voters rate the two brothers similarly.  On a scale of zero to one hundred, where zero means the respondents really dislike a candidate and a hundred means they really like him, Rob Ford and Doug Ford’s support is identical at 35. 

So what do these results tell us?  The Toronto voting public thinks the policies of Rob and Doug Ford are similar and citizens have similar attitudes towards the two brothers.  Although we’re still weeks away from election-day, the basis of (Rob) Ford nation gives us some idea of where Doug Ford’s support may come from.  Come election time, Doug Ford’s success or failure may be determined largely by the turnout of certain groups of Toronto voters that support his brother.  Come election might, we will find out if the Fords have tapped in to the right demographic to win.

Weekly Campaign Update, 17 October 2014: Advance Voting Begins

As John Tory appears to draw ahead and stay ahead of Doug Ford in the final stretch, voters have already set a new record for turnout at advance polls. With little time to spare before the election, campaign rhetoric has intensified yet again, with John Tory dubbing Doug Ford "Doug the Divider" and Ford referring in turn to Tory as "Mr. Crispy Clean" while claiming he "come[s] from a Rosedale golf course" and is out of touch. Other campaign attacks and trash talk included Olivia Chow's claim that her mother has been a more trenchant critic of her campaign than the Fords, a new Chow campaign ad that attacks Tory using the well-worn "weathervane" trope, and Doug Ford's comment at a Thursday debate that the council he seeks to lead is a "pack of wolves."

Transit

Olivia Chow directed multiple lines of criticism at John Tory's transit plan this week, arguing that SmartTrack is not feasible and lacks engineering studies showing that heavy rail could be constructed in areas like Mount Dennis and Eglinton Avenue West, then pointing out in a debate that tax-increment financing has never been used in a transit project of this magnitude and is likely to fail. She also argued that the volume of train traffic required for SmartTrack is beyond Union Station's capacity. Media criticism of the candidates' transit plans grew stronger as well, with arguments that Doug Ford's subway plan is "pure fantasy," that the candidates are avoiding discussing car traffic as a main factor in congestion (even as Doug Ford muses about widening the Don Valley Parkway if elected), and that none of the candidates' plans includes any mention of how their operating costs will be paid if they are implemented. Finally, the Toronto Star's Daniel Dale offers an in-depth look at the problems with SmartTrack's proposed financing plan.

Candidate Backgrounds

The National Post offers a profile of John Tory, including the establishment roots and business record Doug Ford has focused on criticising. The Globe and Mail has, meanwhile, published an extensive story on Doug Ford's career at Deco, penned in part by Robyn Doolittle. Ford reacted with a defence of Deco's profitability and proceeded to denounce Tory's business record once more.

More Racism

Ward 2 council candidates Munira Abukar and Andray Domise have discovered that some of their campaign signs have been vandalised with racist graffiti, including "go back home" written on one of Abukar's signs. (Abukar was born in Toronto.) Leading mayoral candidates were quick to condemn the vandalism. Meanwhile, Olivia Chow has released a new campaign ad that incorporates part of her scathing retort to a racially-charged audience question at a recent debate. At a debate specifically regarding racial issues, John Tory caused surprise when he suggested that he does not believe "white privilege" exists.  Finally, John Lorinc argues in Spacing that the abhorrent racism, sexism and homophobia that have tarnished the campaign obscure (and may be related to) a fundamental socioeconomic class cleavage that is not being discussed.

Campaign Grab Bag

Weekly Campaign Update, 10 October 2014: Debate Disinvitations and Remarks on Racism

With advance voting to begin shortly, the mayoral candidates' debate circuit continues to heat up, with harsh talk as well as requests for certain candidates to be excluded and threats to skip debates entirely. While Forum registers a Doug Ford surge, methodological factors may explain why other polls have disagreed. John Tory, in the lead, remains the target of choice for tough criticism, including his past employment.

Transit

While a National Post panel speculates on what issues would be prominent were transit not dominating the campaign, trailing candidates Olivia Chow and Doug Ford have stepped up their criticism of John Tory's rail plan in a week of little news on the transit front.

Crime and Policing

With no public comment until recently from Chief of Police Bill Blair or deputy mayor Norm Kelly on the recent killings in the city's west end, youth crime has nonetheless re-entered the debate, to a limited extent. Olivia Chow has weighed in with the suggestion that her platform's emphasis on child poverty makes her well-suited to address this problem.

Ari Goldkind

While candidate Goldkind rises in profile, he has also become the target of criticism from Doug Ford; this has added a new dimension to this campaign's focus on debate attendance, as Ford's refusal to attend debates from which Goldkind has not been barred has prompted John Tory to say he will not attend debates from which Goldkind has been barred. Meanwhile, confusion over application of the rules regarding debate invitations has caused at least one debate to be cancelled entirely.

Racism and Other Prejudice

The campaign took an ugly and bizarre turn when Doug Ford was asked at a debate to address his brother's past anti-Semitic comments; Ford was booed into silence when he responded with a list of Jewish professionals he employs, including an accountant and doctor, and later defended himself by claiming his wife is Jewish (she does not identify as such, however). Meanwhile, Ford dodged a pointed question regarding his recent comments on children with autism and developmental disabilities, blaming the media for misreporting what he said. Olivia Chow continues to be the recipient of racist as well as sexist heckling and online commentary, while councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam argues that Ford and Tory should be more explicit in denouncing this sort of abuse.

Campaign Grab Bag

Weekly Campaign Update, 3 October 2014: Election Month Arrives!

October has arrived, and the election is mere weeks away. John Tory maintains a significant lead, well ahead of Olivia Chow and Doug Ford, and leads the latter even in what might be considered "Ford Nation" home turf. While polling numbers remained more or less steady this week, rhetoric only intensified.

Transit

While the Toronto Star points to Denver's transit plan as a roadmap, the University of Toronto's Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance has delivered a report that suggests Toronto can barely keep its existing infrastructure in a state of good repair, and that evidence-based transit planning should be the main concern of mayoral candidates rather than transit plans based on politics. The candidates certainly devoted much of this week's discussion to transit; Olivia Chow's full platform, released today, reaffirms her earlier transit plans, including cancellation of the Bloor-Danforth subway line extension into Scarborough and its replacement with an LRT line in accordance with plans that existed before the Fords proposed subways instead. Other promises reaffirmed include immediate bus service increases and construction of a downtown subway relief line, a project Doug Ford has recently stated is his top priority as well. Chow continued to press John Tory for details on how SmartTrack will be funded, its potential impact on the neighbourhood of Mount Dennis, and what contingencies remain should it fail; Tory responded that Chow "will never be happy" with his plan, which she has criticised even in a debate focused on culture and the arts. While Tory has begun to discuss problems with the TTC's bureaucracy, media commentators continue to point out funding and feasibility problems with SmartTrack, though these may not matter much to voters in the end. Finally, Union Station will receive an upgrade over the next three years as a new GO bus terminal is constructed.

Municipal Taxation

Doug Ford has promised to phase out the municipal Land Transfer Tax, intending a 15% reduction his first year in office if elected. John Tory insists that a replacement must be lined up for this revenue stream before it can be eliminated; Olivia Chow stands behind her plan to make the tax more progressive by adding one percentage point to the tax on homes over $2 million. Ari Goldkind argues that he is the only mayoral candidate willing to talk openly about possible tax increases.

Child Care

Olivia Chow's recent proposal to create 3000 more child care spaces as part of a major platform motif was criticised by John Tory, who suggested it would require federal and provincial funding and derided it as a "back of the napkin" plan.

Campaign Trail Exchanges

While John Tory's campaign has rolled out ads aimed at showing he is a uniting figure, Olivia Chow, recipient of the lion's share of abuse directed at candidates via Facebook, excoriated an audience member at a recent debate after his question took issue with her immigrant background. Meanwhile, Doug Ford took a shot at Tory's establishment and business roots and has been insisting Tory is out of touch; Tory has yet to make a point of Ford's own business ties, though he has continued to characterise Ford as a debate-skipping bully. Nonetheless, Ford has only added to his rhetoric aimed at large business interests, and responded combatively to the CBC's Matt Galloway over talk of his attendance record and whether he is a bully.

Campaign Grab Bag

Weekly Campaign Update, 26 September 2014: To Debate or Not to Debate?

While Doug Ford got down to the business of campaigning for the mayoralty this week, Olivia Chow and John Tory have been ramping up the rhetoric they direct at one another, including a running debate over debates (specifically, attendance at mayoral candidates' debates). Tory continues to lead the race, but the size of this lead is open to question, and Chow claims to have "momentum."

Transit

Transportation and gridlock score as the top issue for Torontonians in a recent Nanos poll; 56% of respondents named this issue, unprompted. Doug Ford introduced a transit plan that would use revenue from Build Toronto to fund the construction of subways, though this agency ran at a deficit last year. Meanwhile, John Tory traded criticism with Olivia Chow regarding the time it would take to complete the SmartTrack and downtown relief line projects, respectively; Tory has relied on a slogan based on Chow's mistaken comment that the relief line would take seventeen years to complete (it would not) as compared to seven for SmartTrack (depending on the GO line electrification timetable). Chow, in turn, blamed the Scarborough subway project, which both Tory and Ford support, for depleting funds that would have been used for upgrading accessibility at TTC stations, but the TTC offered clarification that its capital budget is separate from that of the Scarborough subway extension. Chow also criticised Tory's plan for failing to consider recent residential developments on lands and rights-of-way it treats as empty; she insists that existing homes will have to be demolished to allow the plan to proceed.

Policing

Spacing's John Lorinc points out that with the Pan Am Games and their adaptive-sport counterpart, the Parapan American Games, set for next year, Toronto will have to confront the issue of policing during major events, and that the massive security budget for the Games is an issue voters should think about when choosing "the de facto host of the event" in this fall's mayoral election. Meanwhile, a one-year pilot project will see 100 Toronto police officers wearing miniature body cameras, an initiative supported by both Olivia Chow and John Tory.

Pride

Both Olivia Chow and John Tory criticised Doug Ford for failing to give a clear answer on whether, as mayor, he would march in the annual Pride Parade, as his brother has consistently refused to do (claiming a conflict with an annual family event). Last week, Tory surprised onlookers by stating, at a debate hosted by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies, that he would vote to remove funding from Pride if controversial group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid were permitted to march in the annual parade; that night, the issue would resurface at the proudTOvote debate.

Debates and Other Exchanges

Doug Ford would attend his first debate as a mayoral candidate on Tuesday, which quickly became raucous, featuring racist comments by attendees, one of whom heckled Olivia Chow to "go back to China." After the heckler responsible for the comment was identified as a Ford supporter, Ford would quickly condemn the language used and state that people who spoke in such a manner were "not part of this campaign." Ford subsequently skipped both of Wednesday's mayoral debates, continuing a trend that John Tory claims has prompted him to absent himself from debates as well, to Chow's irritation (Tory would roundly criticise Ford at the debates that Ford skipped but Tory did not). Chow would also claim that Tory has taken stances that would hurt the city when campaigning for other positions. For his part, Ford, in calling Tory inexperienced, sarcastically proposed a "Take John Tory to Work Day" and was called a "bully boy" by Tory in return.

Campaign Grab Bag

Weekly Campaign Update, 19 September 2014: Ford Family Fallout and Tough Transit Talk

After the past week's stunning news about Mayor Rob Ford's health, the campaign has taken on a new shape, with news focusing mainly on Olivia Chow and John Tory as substitute mayoral candidate Doug Ford takes some time to support his brother. As the campaign begins to right itself, transit once again is the dominant policy issue of the week, while surprising and high-profile endorsements continue to pop up.

Ford Fallout

The uncertainty concerning Mayor (and erstwhile mayoral candidate) Rob Ford was lessened somewhat as a definitive diagnosis of malignant liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer, was made public along with plans for treatment. Once again, his main opponents were quick to offer support. While Ford is no longer a candidate, his effect on the mayoral campaign is worth considering, as he has already urged his supporters to back his brother Doug, running in his place.

Meet the New Candidate

Last week's shakeup in terms of which Ford is running for which office has generated mixed reactions. Etobicoke residents appear split on the prospect of supporting the Ford family candidate on offer in their region, and Ward 2 candidate Andray Domise expresses his dismay that the ward is being treated as a "consolation prize" by the Ford family. John Lorinc echoes this sentiment in a sharply-critical piece in Spacing, arguing that the Fords' strategy verges on feudal; nevertheless, a poll released shortly after news of the change-up (and therefore perhaps subject to a sympathy or novelty bump effect) suggested that 53% of those polled considered the "switcheroo" to be legitimate. A lawyer for the Ford family has suggested that this was long considered a contingency plan in case Rob Ford's other issues made his candidacy impossible.

All relocated Ford candidates face tight restrictions on their campaign spending according to the rules; they are not permitted to pool funds, or, for example, use funds raised for Rob's mayoral campaign in either Rob's ward campaign or Doug's mayoral campaign. All funds raised for withdrawn candidacies are now off-limits and each candidate must start fresh, though the new candidacies also begin at zero with respect to the campaign spending limits. In other words, starting last Friday, they may spend to the cap if they can raise sufficient funds to do so.

But can Doug Ford win? For obvious reasons, he has begun his campaign in muted fashion. Commentators generally appear to think a "Game of Fords" dynasty, as the Globe and Mail's Marcus Gee terms it, is not particularly likely given the differences between the Ford brothers. Nonetheless, a poll released shortly after his candidacy was announced put him in second place behind John Tory, though once again the possibility remains that a temporary bump effect influenced the result.

Transit

This week's sparring over transit largely excluded an otherwise-occupied Doug Ford. Olivia Chow and John Tory, after a brief lull, resumed criticism of each other's transit plans; while Tory denounced Chow's plan at a campaign speech, Chow expressed her disappointment that the "inexperienced" Tory chose to withdraw from three debates, including one on transit. While Tory insisted no tax increase would be necessary to pay for his transit plan, and promised "hell to pay" should the federal and provincial governments not fund their share, Chow accused Tory of offering "Ford-lite" policy and of moving from a faith-based educational funding plan (as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives) to "a faith-based tax-funding scheme." Renewed criticism of tax-increment financing as a transit funding plan has come from outside the Chow campaign as well. Finally, Chow and Tory differed on plans for improving the city's grid of bike lanes.

Chow vs. Tory, Round 2

The two candidates, in the absence of Doug Ford, remained in contention on a number of other issues, from municipal development and property taxes to "carding" and racial profiling. The candidates appeared to agree on the need to constrain the police budget, while Tory spoke of the need for smarter taxation and spending as well as improved relations with other levels of government.

Campaign Grab Bag

Weekly Campaign Update, 12 September 2014: Rob Ford and David Soknacki Out, Doug Ford In

The campaign was shaken up by departures this week, first Sarah Thompson and David Soknacki and then Rob Ford, who withdrew from the mayoral race following his admission to Humber River Regional Hospital with a suspected abdominal tumour. In the wake of this stunning change in the campaign, mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and John Tory continue to do battle over competing transit visions and how to pay for them.

Mayor Ford's Health

It came down to the wire, as the Ford family, shaken by the news of Rob's newly-discovered tumour, rearranged its candidacies with minutes to go before the nomination deadline.  Mayor Rob Ford is off the mayoral ballot and running for council in Ward 2, less than a week after he boasted he would be mayor for another 14 years, Doug Ford has taken his brother's place on the mayoral ballot, and nephew Michael Ford has withdrawn altogether and will run for the position of school trustee. Other candidates immediately offered their support for the Mayor and his family once the diagnosis became public.

Other Departures

On Tuesday evening, a mere 24 hours before news of Rob Ford's health began to dominate the headlines, David Soknacki, citing an inability to increase his support sufficiently, announced his exit from the race. He subsequently stated that a cat would make a better mayor than Rob Ford, though it should be noted this comment was made well before news of Ford's illness broke. He has since been praised for his honesty and his injection of ideas into the campaign. Sarah Thomson, too, has withdrawn from the race, choosing instead to join a packed race for a council seat in Ward 20.

Chow vs. Tory

While John Tory appears to be busily solidifying his lead at the expense of Olivia Chow, the campaign has changed and both candidates know it. Chow is battling to stay in the campaign against a surging Tory, but Rob Ford's replacement by his brother dramatically alters the race; councillor Joe Mihevc suggests this change could give Chow the win. Chow, potentially hurt by her advocacy of light rail for Scarborough instead of subways, has pointedly criticised the practical and financial aspects of Tory's transit plan, forcing Tory to concede that the SmartTrack plan, touted as an above-ground solution, may actually require some tunnelling. Debates on Monday and Friday were filled with Chow and Tory continuing to spar over transit. Chow's recent radio ads focus on advocating change "now."

Campaign Grab Bag

Weekly Campaign Update, 5 September 2014: Polls and Rails

This week, a new poll shows that mayoral candidate John Tory appears to have taken a commanding lead in the race. Transit remains a defining issue of the campaign, while policing also received discussion and scrutiny.

Transit and Transport

As Toronto's new streetcars make their debut, the mayoral candidates continue to spar over their respective transit plans; Rob Ford has revealed, through an accidental leak hours before a scheduled policy announcement, a $9 billion plan to expand the city's subway system dramatically with 32 kilometres of new lines. John Tory suggests Ford will never be able to secure the federal and provincial cooperation needed to complete the plan, while Olivia Chow argued that the already-approved light rail project in Scarborough remains the superior option. David Soknacki joined the other candidates in criticising the funding proposals for Ford's subway plan, calling the entire project "fantasy." The provincial Liberal government has declined to comment on Ford's plan. Tory's transit plan was not immune to criticism, either, as Chow suggested its funding scheme is implausible, and the CEO of Metrolinx, Bruce McCuaig, has said that electrification of GO lines running through the city—necessary for Tory's SmartTrack plan to work—may not be completed on the original proposed ten-year timeline. In other transit and transport news, a think-tank report from the Pembina Institute argues that Toronto lags behind comparable Canadian municipalities in building transit infrastructure, in part because of a seeming devotion to high-cost options such as subways. Finally, Chow introduced a plan to square off currently-rounded curb corners at intersections in order to slow vehicle turns slightly and make collisions with pedestrians less likely.

Campaign Longevity

Some commentators are bewildered by the continuing resurgence of Rob Ford's highly populist campaign; while Rex Murphy argues in the National Post that "the common man still matters," councillor Josh Colle quips that "my Stockholm syndrome has fully set in and I don’t even know what normal is any more." John Tory appears to have taken a remarkable lead, and may now become the focus of the other candidates' criticism. Meanwhile, David Soknacki has no illusions about his odds, but vows to continue his campaign, evaluating on a biweekly basis whether or not to continue. Sarah Thomson, for her part, is asking her Twitter followers whether she should stay in the race.

Property Taxes

Candidate Olivia Chow says she would raise the Land Transfer Tax by one percentage point on homes that sell for over $2 million, from 2% to 3%, calling it a move towards progressive taxation. The additional revenue would be used to fund school nutrition programs.

Police

Mayoral candidates Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and John Tory have all stated their support for lapel cams on Toronto police officers; Mayor Ford did not offer a position on the issue when asked by the Star. While Ford and Tory would not support a stop to "carding," they did agree with Chow and Soknacki that the practice has had its problems; Chow supports abolition of the practice, calling it akin to racial profiling, and Soknacki is "troubled" by it and suggests a complete review of the city's policing.

Integrity

Mayor Ford has been served a subpoena to testify in the upcoming extortion trial of his erstwhile driver, Alessandro Lisi. Meanwhile, in response to David Soknacki's claim at a recent debate that he had acquired documents through a Freedom of Information request that show Ford has been using city funds improperly for his personal campaign, Ford claimed his conflict of interest is "zero" and displayed his irritation with what he called constant rumours and FOI requests. Finally, complaints to the city's integrity commissioner about unsolicited Ford campaign emails or any other integrity violations will have to wait until the new city council is sworn in, thanks to council regulations that suspend investigations into the complaints during the most intense period of a municipal election.

Campaign Grab Bag

Weekly Campaign Update, 29 August 2014: Council Wraps Up, Campaign Rolls On

This week, commentators weigh in on Rob Ford's electoral viability. Transit issues continue to be front and centre, and some denouement is reached regarding the controversy over Warren Kinsella's comments. Polls show John Tory in the lead, with a resurgence by Rob Ford, along with dipping numbers for Olivia Chow.

Transit

John Tory's SmartTrack plan continues to spur discussion, attracting criticism both of its timeline and the viability of tax-increment financing as an alternative funding source to conventional taxes or fees. Meanwhile, TTC Chief Andy Byford and City Manager Joe Pennachetti have collaborated on a proposal to build the waterfront LRT component of the now-defunct Transit City plan with the help of the provincial and federal governments; former city councillor and current GO chair Gordon Chong argues in the National Post that massive transit expansion is needed, including a Queen Street subway line. Finally, TTC hardware supplier Nova Bus has still not formally notified the TTC of a recall issued in July affecting 80 buses purchased from the supplier.

Police

Mayor Rob Ford and councillor Doug Ford are the only two dissenting votes as council opts to review paid police duty; other options include the "Vancouver model," which entails employing sworn peace officers for these duties at roughly half the cost.

Council

City council began its final session of this term on Monday 25 August. Items up for discussion included the approval of a new practice facility for the Toronto Raptors, opposed only by the Fords; options for restricting excessive motorcycle noise; the decision that council, not councillor Maria Augimeri, will pay legal costs for candidate Gus Cusimano after Augimeri broke conduct rules by calling the candidate a "criminal"; banning e-cigarettes from city property; gender-neutral lyrics for the national anthem; the location of the Cornerstone men's shelter; and the approval of further condominium development, which councillors Joe Mihevc and Kristyn Wong-Tam dub the "Manhattanization" of downtown Toronto. Some councillors wore pink as a form of protest against Rob Ford's performance as mayor.

Campaign Grab Bag

 

Weekly Campaign Update, 22 August 2014: Karen Stintz Bows Out, Warren Kinsella Raises Eyebrows

Another week has seen the shape of the campaign change dramatically, as a major candidate has left the race, potential litigation between the outgoing Chief of Police and the mayor's brother has been avoided, and controversy has erupted over terminology used by a Chow campaign staffer.

Karen Stintz

Mayoral candidate Karen Stintz, mere days after having released a six-point economic plan, has withdrawn from the mayoral race entirely as of Thursday morning citing financial considerations, and will not be seeking re-election to her council seat either. Stintz did not endorse any of the remaining candidates upon announcing her withdrawal, though Mayor Ford has declared his confidence that her supporters will join his camp. The other major candidates provided statements thanking her for her candidacy shortly afterwards. Subsequently, Stintz revealed that she would seek a position as commissioner of the CFL. Friday afternoon, several of her main advisers threw their support to the Tory campaign. Finally, David Soknacki suggested that he, too, is running a campaign on comparatively little funding.

Toronto Police Service

While last week's most high-profile story involving the police concerned Chief Bill Blair's intent to take legal action against councillor Doug Ford for defamation, this week has seen the situation reach an apparent resolution, as Blair accepted an unequivocal apology from Ford and announced that he would not pursue litigation any further. Meanwhile, the Toronto Police Services Board continues the process of finding a successor to Blair, whose tenure as chief will not be renewed when it expires next year. Mayor Ford suggested the new chief would need to find "efficiencies," echoing the tone of reports suggesting that the costs of policing the city are too high; the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) suggested that the costs of providing police and fire services to municipalities in the province are currently "unsustainable."

Transit

On Sunday, Olivia Chow presented her plan for transit, defending it in a special op-ed column in the Toronto Sun that same day. Also on Sunday, the TTC considered, then endorsed a new service plan that would then be presented to city council for approval. While Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and Karen Stintz were receptive to the plan, John Tory was critical, calling the plan "irresponsible" because it did not include a plan to pay for service improvements; Stintz retorted that this is typical procedure for the TTC, and that council has the final say. Mayor Ford offered some support for the plan, but balked at the potential costs of honour-system boarding for streetcars, and subsequently pledged to improve service without making any new hires. Meanwhile, councillor Josh Colle (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) criticised the way in which the plan was unveiled, suggesting that the TTC's board of directors, of which he is a member, is asked to do little more than rubber-stamp reports produced by the TTC's bureaucracy.

Toronto human rights lawyer David Lepofsky has pointed out in a letter to Metrolinx that centre platforms, as planned for the Eglinton LRT, are inaccessible and potentially dangerous for blind riders, who do not have a wall to stand against while waiting for the train to stop moving. Elsewhere, delays in constructing the subway extension to Vaughan may stem from a TTC lawsuit filed over missed deadlines against a company on contract to build one of the new stations. Councillors Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul's) and Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South-Weston) have both argued that the cost per ride of the new rail link between Union Station and Pearson International Airport, currently projected at between $20 and $30, is unaffordable for many Torontonians who will need to use it. Downtown, the new second platform at Union Station made its debut last Monday, to the confusion of some riders. Finally, Globe transit reporter Oliver Moore offered a perspective on commuting by kayak.

"Segregation" and Warren Kinsella

Pundit Warren Kinsella, who last week published and subsequently removed a post condemning John Tory as "the Conservative Party's candidate for mayor," has sparked fresh controversy by labelling Tory's SmartTrack plan "segregationist" on Twitter and noting that it avoids the Jane/Finch and Rexdale neighbourhoods, both of which have substantial black populations. Olivia Chow, whose campaign employs Kinsella's consulting firmdistanced herself from Kinsella and his remarks as controversy ensued, while Tory argued her words to that effect were insufficient and accused her of "dirty politics" for suggesting Kinsella was no more than a volunteer. For his part, Kinsella has apologised for the inflammatory language, while continuing to attack Tory's involvement in the infamous attack ads used briefly in the 1993 federal election campaign that seemingly mocked Jean Chrétien's facial paralysis.

Conflict of Interest and Integrity

Mayor Rob Ford and councillor Doug Ford are the subject of new conflict-of interest allegations pertaining to their votes in council regarding a wastewater treatment program in which Deco Adhesive Products, a company of which the Ford brothers are owners as well as directors, was participating. Mayor Ford dismissed the issue, stating that he is only minimally involved at Deco; councillor Ford said that neither of them knew at the time of the vote that Deco was involved in the program. Meanwhile, an existing integrity investigation involving the Fords and Deco will not be concluded in time to present he results to the public before the election is held. Meanwhile, the city's integrity commissioner has ruled that councillor Maria Augimeri broke the city's code of conduct for municipal politicians. Finally, John Tory argues that municipal politicians should practice full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and ask advice instead of deciding alone whether a conflict exists.

Campaign Grab Bag

Weekly Campaign Update, 18 August 2014: Transit, Police and Fiscal Management

This post will be the first of the weekly news updates featured here. We intend them as quick, bite-sized updates on campaign-related news you might have missed during the course of the week, and they will be distinct from posts updating our readers on our own research and findings. This week's campaign news pertains mainly to the themes of transit and transport in Toronto, the Toronto Police Service, and various perspectives on the city's budget under Mayor Ford and under prospective new mayors.

Transit and Transport

Mayor Ford's intention to bury the Scarborough portion of the Eglinton LRT attracted attention and criticism from other mayoral candidates, while the mayor himself admitted the plan would cost $1.4 billion in addition to the $5.3 billion already projected for the LRT and suggested that moving the LRT system underground could be paid for in part by cancelling planned upgrades to Eglinton Avenue that include bike lanes and wider sidewalks. Mayor Ford cited willingness to fund underground transit as a reason that the federal and provincial governments would likely provide most of the funding, but provincial Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid explained that he did not believe Ford could accomplish the project without raising municipal taxes.

In other transit news, Olivia Chow was critical of John Tory's SmartTrack plan, suggesting that it would require unacceptable levels of expense to be paid for through borrowing and property taxes, and that its benefits would mainly be felt in the suburbs and not in Toronto; she said that the money could be used more productively within the city to build a downtown relief subway line, for example. TTC chief Andy Byford's proposal to institute rear-door honour system boarding on streetcar lines across the city, meanwhile, has conditional support from Public Works. David Soknacki introduced a campaign promise to bring cellphone service to the TTC's subway stations and tunnels. Finally, Mayor Ford mentioned during a discussion of the city's most pressing issues that the unemployed do not need public transit.

Other transport issues included the city's reversal of its earlier reversal of a promise to include physical barriers separating bike lanes from motor traffic on Richmond Street and on Adelaide Street, David Soknacki's proposal to change the rules regarding high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to match those at the provincial level, and in the wake of the collision that killed six-year-old Georgia Walsh, Don Valley West councillor John Parker suggests changes for Leaside traffic rules, including prohibiting right turns on red lights at some intersections as well as 30 km/h speed limits on all Leaside roads. Ward 22 (St. Paul's) incumbent Josh Matlow supports a similar speed reduction on all local streets in that ward.

The Police

The debate over the Toronto Police Service's budget and whether Toronto is over-policed continues; this comes in the wake of the recent Iacobucci report on the Toronto police. Per Shannon Kari, writing in the Globe and Mail, "a four per cent reduction in the number of uniformed police officers" would furnish sufficient savings to pay for the city's share of the Scarborough subway extension.

Meanwhile, the controversy between city councillor Doug Ford and outgoing Chief of Police Bill Blair has entered the legal sphere; last Monday, Blair served notice of defamation litigation pertaining to Ford's comments suggesting that the Chief of Police had political motivations in making public the intent to issue Mayor Ford a subpoena to testify in criminal proceedings against his former associate and driver, Alexandro "Sandro" Lisi. Councillor Ford offered an apology that Mayor Ford insisted was sincere, but Blair has said through a spokesperson that he will not accept it, and will pay for the litigation out of his own pocket.

City Budget

Mayor Ford suggested that he was unable to achieve almost $65 million in savings because councillors voted against him, and that he could save over $100 million in a potential second term provided that enough "Ford-friendly" councillors are elected to vote in favour of his agenda. While Ford also insisted that any property tax increases must remain below the rate of inflation, city manager Joe Pennachetti said that municipal tax increases must be commensurate with inflation in order to balance the budget, a claim echoed by the city's budget committee chair, councillor Frank Di Giorgio. In the wake of reports claiming that Toronto is not broke and has a revenue problem rather than a spending problem, Pennachetti refuted Mayor Ford's claims that Toronto faced a "fiscal cliff" before he was elected. The University of Toronto report in question notes that the city will face serious infrastructure funding problems should new revenue tools not be considered, a conclusion which prompted Mayor Ford's "fiscal cliff" comments. On a similar note, Ford suggested that if elected he would re-introduce his proposed budget cuts after their rejection by the previous Council.

Campaign Grab Bag