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