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