Runners and riders: Toronto mayor candidates, policy positions and background

WATCH ABOVE: Many Toronto residents cast ballots on Thanksgiving Monday ahead of the municipal election slated for Oct. 24. Morganne Campbell checks in with local residents to find out more about the issues important to them.

On Oct. 24, voters in Toronto will elect the city’s mayor and council for the next four years.

Incumbent mayor John Tory, first elected in 2014 after Rob Ford’s Toronto premiership, is seeking a third consecutive term.

A total of 30 candidates have been certified by the Toronto’s city clerk to run against Tory in his campaign for another four years at the head of council.

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Nominations closed at 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19.

Global News sent a series of questions to candidates who listed contact details on the City of Toronto’s website before nominations closed.

This story will be updated as candidates announce more details of their platforms, backgrounds and campaigns.

The incumbent: John Tory

Toronto Mayor John Tory is seeking a third consecutive term.

Toronto Mayor John Tory is seeking a third consecutive term.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

John Tory served as Progressive Conservative Party Leader between 2004 and 2009, working in radio after his resignation.

In 2014, he won his first term as Toronto mayor, defeating Rob Ford’s brother — and current Ontario Premier — Doug Ford.

Tory grew up in North York and now lives in The Annex. He told Global News he travels around the city by car, transit and on foot.

“I’ve lived in Toronto my entire life, have been a tireless volunteer, and worked both in the private sector and public sector as a lawyer, chief executive officer, broadcaster and public servant,” Tory said.

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He listed Vision Zero, working to a future with no fatalities on Toronto’s roads, as one of his commitments if he wins a third term.

“Under my leadership, we have implemented hundreds of speed limit reductions on roads across the city, installed head start pedestrian signals at hundreds of intersections, secured provincial approval and deployed speed cameras in every ward,” Tory said.

In 2020, 40 people died in traffic collisions in Toronto. That figure was: 78 in 2016, 63 in 2017, 66 in 2018 and 64 in 2019.

Tory has also expressed support for the strong mayor powers the Ford government is planning for the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa.

Legislation tabled in August would allow the mayor to override council approval of a bylaw, such as a zoning bylaw, that would hamper provincial priorities that will be set out later in regulations.

A council could override the mayor’s veto with a two-thirds majority vote.

“At the end of the day, no matter what, my approach to the Mayor’s job would remain the same — to work with City Council and every elected official that wants to work with the mayor to get things done for the people of Toronto,” he said.

The incumbent mayor said supply was the best way to increase housing affordability in the city, something Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark has tied to the strong mayor powers legislation.

The challengers

Blake Acton

Candidate Blake Acton said he has lived in Toronto for 54 years, and is currently based in Rosedale.

The mayoral candidate did not address questions about what aspects of his professional background qualify him to lead Toronto, instead pointing to his history as a Toronto resident.

“I’m extremely qualified to run this city,” Acton said. “I’m not a politician with empty promises, I’m a taxpayer (who) will keep my promises. I’ve been extremely successful throughout my life in many aspects.”

Acton said he does not support regular street closures for the ActiveTO program introduced during the pandemic and he identified crime as the key issue facing Toronto and its residents.

Acton said he would tackle Toronto’s affordable housing issues with “common sense.”

Chloe-Marie Brown

Chloe-Marie Brown was born in Etobicoke and now lives in the High Park-Parkdale neighbourhood.

She runs 24 “future of work” training projects, having previously held positions as a policy analyst and working to co-author the framework for the Woodbine Casino Community Benefit Agreement.

Brown told Global News the calibre of current leaders and a disconnect from the realities faced by Toronto residents is the biggest issue at the ballot box.

“We have leaders who are materially rich, but act morally bankrupt when confronted by people with disabilities or working class issues,” she said.

Brown has several policy planks confirmed ahead of polling day on Oct. 24.

In order to improve Toronto’s roads, she has three key suggestions. She said she would review and improve the construction of multi-use trails, including within Toronto’s ravines. Brown also said she would improve the design of loading zones and freight networks, while committing to move the city’s parking enforcement responsibilities to the planning department.

The latter move is also part of Brown’s platform to tackle crime. Those commitments include a pledge to expand the community justice centre model to improve rehabilitation.

Brown said she would “work with law enforcement professionals and communities to reduce the crime prevention mandate of police and improve the effectiveness of first responders, city workers and social service professionals to assist community members and de-escalate violence when needed.”

On housing, Brown has committed to zoning reform, land value taxation, improving coordination for housing services and trying to bring about better working conditions for construction workers.

Sarah Climenhaga

Sarah Climenhaga ran against John Tory in 2018, finishing sixth in the past municipal election. In 2022, she is running to challenge the incumbent mayor again.

She lives in the St. Clair West area and has called Toronto home for her entire life — except for university and travelling, she said.

Climenhaga does not own a car, relying instead on the TTC, walking and a bicycle to navigate the city. She said she is also a member of a carsharing service.

The city hall hopeful’s background is in urban transport and environmental advocacy, she said. She said the introduction of the ActiveTO and CafeTO programs were the biggest successes of the outgoing council.

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Climenhaga pledged her mayoral platform will include a promise to refocus Toronto’s roads around a range of people, “not just the ones who have the financial resources to own and the ability (or desire) to drive a car.”

Unlike Tory, Climenhaga said she does not support the introduction of strong mayor powers.

She said rapidly changing the city’s zoning laws, including around subway stations, would be an immediate priority to improve housing affordability in Toronto.

Climenhaga said she would speak to police and residents to develop solutions to crime in the city. “Crime is a reflection of the society where it’s found, so preventing it has to involve a city wide response,” she said.

Phillip D’Cruze

Phillip D’Cruze was born in Calcutta, India, and arrived in Canada in 1966 at the age of two. He told Global News he is a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forced and has lived in British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Europe.

“I am not a politician,” he said. “I served in the reserves and the military for most of my early life.”

For the past 18 years, he has lived in a North York apartment.

D’Cruze said the cost of housing and rent affordability is the top issue facing people in Toronto. He said empty apartments were a particular issue in his ward, with a need to reduce rent to fill some of them.

“Top of my list (is) to get 20 per cent reduction on rent and lock it in for three years for apartments, condos, houses, rooms (and) retail,” he said. “It would make a huge difference and such a chain reaction could make a difference in the lives of Torontonians.”

Rent control is generally a provincial area of responsibility.

He also said violent crime had increased after changes to police “methods of community patrol and services” and pledged to “talk with professionals about resolving (the situation).”

Cory Deville

Cory Deville has lived in Toronto for 33 years.

He describes himself as “a minority, generational millennial and maverick thinker willing to reimagine the possible.”

The mayoral candidate said his background is as a philosophy graduate from the University of Toronto who has worked in business development. Deville currently lives in the Yonge and Eglinton area.

He told Global News that Toronto’s road networks need to be “reimagined” for the post-COVID world, with an emphasis “on decongesting traffic without strangling mobility within the city.”

To do that, he suggested high-frequency bus routes, more bike lanes and unobstructed sidewalks.

However, Deville said housing — and its cost — was the number one issue facing residents in Toronto.

“Housing affordability in Toronto needs to be recognized as a civic crisis,” he said.

“The city cannot thrive if most residents struggle to survive. Living pay cheque to pay cheque, drowning beneath rising housing costs and inflation create a vicious momentum that inevitably will end in personal crisis.”

Deville pitched a renters relief program, where the city would offer a monthly rent contribution. He said it could be funded from municipal coffers and boosted by a sustainability bylaw.

The mayoral candidate said understanding people and their mental health is the key to Toronto’s issues with crime.

“Prevention is how we solve the problem of violence in the future, and mental health driven de-escalation is how we will solve it in the present,” Deville said.

“This necessarily means that we need to reimagine our entire paradigm of policing, and build it around mental health in so far as how we hire, educate, promote and retain officers.”

Isabella Gamk

Isabella Gamk was born in Scarborough General Hospital and has lived in the city for around 40 years; she now lives in the the Broadview and Danforth avenues area.

Gamk, who has recently begun to use a motorized wheelchair, told Global News accessibility on Toronto’s sidewalks would be a key issue she would address if she is elected mayor in October. She cited oversized patios, planters and sandwich boards as obstacles to people, particularly blind residents.

“Now that the pandemic is over and winter is on its way, I think it is time to reign in some of these patios as most of them are only busy a few hours of the day or evening at most and the inconvenience caused by them is not worth it,” she said.

She said, if elected mayor, she would arrange for city hall planning staff ride around Toronto in electric wheelchairs to note businesses and areas that are not wheelchair accessible.

Gamk said she supports the periodic road closures required for the city’s ActiveTO plan.

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Reflecting on the outgoing council’s record, she said the handling of police and security around park encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic was the city’s worst decision over the past four years.

Her housing policies include calling on the federal government to invoke the emergencies act to build 20,000 new affordable rental units and ensuring housing is available to those who come to municipal shelters.

Gamk also said the federal and provincial governments should collaborate on anti-gun and drug tasks forces. “They should be stopped and seized before even reaching our city,” she said.

Robert Hatton

Robert Hatton has lived in Toronto since 1968, save for a brief three-year stint in Vancouver.

The mayoral candidate lives in Ward 14’s Riverside community, relying on bikes, motorcycles, transit and walking to get around the city he hopes to lead.

Hatton said he spent 30 years working in municipal finance, the majority of that time in Toronto. His experience ranges from “waste incineration to marijuana legalization; from water rates to bag fees; from development levies to social housing funding.”

He has committed to expanding bike lanes, improving signage and coordination around construction sites and encouraging increased transit usage to reduce congestion in Toronto.

Hatton admits Toronto does not have direct control over several factors that impact rising house prices but said he would rely on tools like inclusionary zoning to increase affordable housing in the city if elected.

“I would terminate ineffective tax breaks for developers worth $100s of millions annually, and create ‘affordable’ below market rental housing for the less affluent using inclusionary zoning rules,” he said.

However, the mayoral candidate said he would not rely on so-called strong mayor candidates to push through such policies. Hatton said, if he was elected mayor, he would seek a council consensus to reject strong mayor powers in the city.

On violent crime, he favours a community service approach to issues by “reducing the appeal of a criminal lifestyle” instead of “a ‘tough on crime’ agenda that seems to be code for cut services, reduce taxes and just lock ’em up.”

Soaad Hossain

Soaad Hossain was born in Scarborough, recently moving to the downtown ward of Spadina-Fort York.

He works as a project manager, with a degree from the University of Toronto specializing in statistical machine learning and data mining, alongside philosophy and biomedical ethics.

An active supporter of ActiveTO, Hossain’s main mode of transport is the city’s transit system. He told Global News he often walks, occasionally bikes and “only uses a car when needed.”

Hossain said he would modify Toronto road network so it works for all users by creating “new roads, trails, bike lanes and sidewalks.” He also promised to repair existing roads.

He said the most important issue facing residents in Toronto over the next four years was affordability, citing the previous council’s failure to “reallocate funds from the police budget to housing initiatives” as a key decision he opposed.

As part of his affordability plan, Hossain has promised to address housing in Toronto. He pledged to work to fix regulations and rules around development to speed up timelines and decrease the cost of condo and apartment construction. Hossain also said he would increase the vacant home tax in Toronto.

Hossain has not put forward a specific platform to address issues around violent crime, but said he will “tackle violent crime in the city of Toronto by first discussing with Toronto Police, experts in criminology and other relevant areas, advocates, analysts and other relevant professionals, and organizations like Crime Prevention Association of Toronto to understand what the best way to tackle crime is, then taking actions based on their recommendations.”

Kris Langenfeld

Kris Langenfeld was born in Toronto and has called the city home for around 35 years. He said he has also lived varyingly in the GTA, south-central Ontario, and “very briefly” internationally. Currently, he resides in Scarborough.

He said he has around two decades of experience in corporate accounting and computer and business systems, as well as years working in the trades and more than a decade as a commercial vehicle driver.

Langenfeld said he tends to walk and take the TTC in the city, but has also done is “fair share” of driving, as well as cycling when he was a teen.

Recent moves to reduce capacity on roadways “were ill-advised,” Langenfeld said, adding that they have suffered from “years, if not decades, of maintenance neglect” which needs to be “quickly remedied.”

He said sidewalks are being impacted by “disrepair and poorly-planned obstructions.” Cyclists, meanwhile, should have efficient routes throughout the city wherever feasible, “away from the dangers of fast moving cars and large vehicles.”

“Simple common sense tells us that an efficiently operated transit network, something currently sorely lacking in Toronto, is an integral part of reducing demands placed on our existing highway system,” Langenfeld added.

He indicated that he supported ActiveTO when it was launched at the beginning of the pandemic, but today is more skeptical of its effectiveness and said all those affected by it should have their voices heard.

Langenfeld said the “root of most of the problems we face is a lack of democracy” and said voters’ voices should be heard and considered more than they are now — something that could be improved by restoring council to its previous size.

He said he has “a great deal of concern” about how the so-called strong mayor power could “be used and abused in the hands of John Tory,” but said he does think mayors should have a bigger say in council votes.

The worst decision of the previous council was its overall COVID-19 response, he said, with implementation of a vaccine mandate being an example.

Council did a good job in recently acknowledging the problem of partially completed road projects, he added.

In terms of housing, Langenfeld said council “wields tremendous sway with developers” to ensure that in addition to making profits, they complete projects focused on rental units and medium-density residences.

He said a solution to violent crime in the city “begins with the youth of our city having alternatives to crime, where now they are left largely to their own devices.”

“The rest comes largely down to more effective management of our law enforcement resources,” he said.

Ferin Malek

Ferin Malek arrived in Toronto on Christmas Eve, 2009.

The mayoral candidate now lives in East York, walking and driving to navigate the city they now call home. Malek’s background is in computer systems and IT projects, which a desire to make Toronto a global technology destination one of their key policies.

“I wouldn’t want to modify Toronto’s road network as we have already reached a bottleneck with no place in the city for the traffic to go anywhere with already so much construction going on in the city,” Malek told Global News.

Instead, the prospective mayor’s priorities would be creating more jobs for new Canadians and focusing on pay equality for women. Malek also said a hyperloop and expansion to Toronto’s underground PATH network would improve the city.

However, the key issue facing residents in Toronto, Malek said, is the rising cost of rent and issues of housing affordability.

Malek has proposed a rent cap for housing in Toronto — an area of law controlled by the provincial government — as one solution. “When I first came in 2009, the rent of apartments was $800 to $900, now that rent is more than $2,300 … which is certainly not acceptable,” Malek said.

To tackle violent crime in Toronto, Malek said the city needs more police stations, more “intense” training for officers and “underground reporters who can give information to the cops as and when needed.”

Gil Penalosa

Prominent urbanist Gil Penalosa launched his bid to become Toronto’s next mayor early, with several policy announcements already under his belt.

His campaign includes several elements, such as plans to campaign across the city by foot and run in every municipal ward.

When news broke of Ford’s plans to provide Toronto’s next leader with strong mayor powers, Penalosa said he opposed the plan.

“I commit that as Mayor I will use the power of ideas, rather than the power of a veto, to inspire Torontonians and Councillors to deliver a more affordable, equitable, and sustainable city with housing, beautiful parks, and safer streets that work for everyone,” he said in a statement.

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He has also promised to increase the city’s tree canopy and and parkland.

Penalosa said with the majority of the city’s urban forest in more affluent areas, the priority would be increasing tree planting in low-income, racialized neighbourhoods.

“In the last eight years, the city has been planting 120,000 trees per year,” said Penalosa “and they have not increased, so (Tory) has not increased the tree planting.”

Stephen Punwasi

Stephen Punwasi has lived in and around Toronto for 37 years after growing up in the city’s west end, he told Global News.

Punwasi — who travels by carshare, foot and transit — said the city needs to invest in the infrastructure necessary to create small, self-contained neighbourhoods, often referred to as 15-minute communities.

“Everyone in Toronto equally deserves access to the city’s infrastructure, and we have plans for a unified transportation infrastructure department to coordinate planning,” he said.

Punwasi currently works for the publication Better Dwelling, which focuses on housing and economic issues for a millennial audience. “My most valuable skill is deconstructing issues and presenting them in an easily digestible way that removes the technical barrier to understanding,” he explained.

In his mayoral campaign, Punwasi has identified the cost of living as the most important issue facing Toronto residents.

“Everyone across the country is getting squeezed by a higher cost of living, but Toronto was already an expensive city,” he said. “People living here are more sensitive to eroding affordability, and we could be lowering this pain by diversifying revenues beyond taxation of residents.”

Punwasi also said he opposed the strong mayor powers the province has promised to introduce.

On the issue of violent crime, the candidate said many of Toronto’s crime issues stem from organized crime, which he promised to help tackle by bringing more local transparency.

Knia Singh

Knia Singh was born in Toronto and has lived in the city for 48 years, he currently resides in the north east of Toronto. He drives as his primary form of transport but said that in his university days he “relied heavily on the TTC.”

Singh’s professional background is as a criminal defence lawyer, with ties to grassroots advocacy campaigns. That experience would serve him well as mayor, he said.

“I have been exposed to the various ways in which everyday people become frustrated with trying to achieve goals when there are so many obstacles and barriers,” Singh told Global News.

Singh, who also ran for mayor in 2018, said he has worked in the music industry as well, focusing on developing new artists.

The Toronto-born mayoral candidate believes an increase in drug addiction, homelessness and affordability issues have compounded to create conditions where crime and violence are allowed to thrive in the city.

“If crime can be reduced through providing effective support and opportunities to those in need, the quality of life in Toronto could improve which would prevent any potential decrease in property values based on crime,” he said. “Affordable housing is likely to be the popular answer, however, it will be difficult to have safe affordable housing if the city residents turn to crime to make ends meet.”

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Tackling the city’s housing affordability issues could take the form of a rent-to-own housing program if Singh wins in October. He said this policy — alongside incentives for developers and advice for residents to save money — should allow Torontonians to buy a house within a decade.

To tackle crime, Singh said he would revisit a 10-point plan he released during his unsuccessful 2018 mayoral campaign. He would focus on upstream approaches to tackling the issue, including policies focusing on education and poverty.

“To reduce violent crime in the city, the root causes of violence such as poor education, conflict resolution and poverty must be addressed to provide a complete solution to the problem,” Singh said.

The mayoral candidate said he could not support the introduction of so-called strong mayor powers because of “the lack of information” provided by the province.

Sandeep Srivastava

Sandeep Srivasta has lived in Toronto since 1988 and currently calls the area of Scarborough North home. He was born in India, before coming to Canada and growing up in the GTA.

He graduated with a degree in computer science and has experience working in project management, Srivastava told Global News.

He has promised to widen “all major roads” in Toronto and install adaptive traffic light technology if he is elected mayor. He also promised greater sidewalk space, bike lanes and to reduce speed limits in residential neighbourhoods to 30 km/h.

“These are difficult times, but the light at the end of the tunnel is shining so brightly and a change in leadership at city hall is exactly what Torontonians need to bring opportunity back to our city,” Srivastava said.

He said division on issues around the council table was slowing Toronto down, pitching stronger and clearer party allegiance at the municipal level.

Srivastava said he would help alleviate Toronto’s affordable housing struggles by “cutting red tape and speeding up approval times” through the creation of a new development and growth division. He also touted the benefits of laneway and garden suites.

The mayoral candidate promised to increase police funding and expand Toronto police’s neighbourhood community officer program.

The other registered candidates are:

  1. Avraham Arrobas
  2. Darren Atkinson
  3. Drew Buckingham
  4. Elvira Caputolan
  5. Kevin Clarke
  6. Alexey Efimovskikh
  7. Arjun Gupta
  8. Peter Handjis
  9. Monowar Hossain
  10. Khadijah Jamal
  11. John Letonja
  12. Tony Luk
  13. D!ONNE Renée
  14. Kyle Schwartz
  15. Reginald Tull
  16. Jack Yan

— with files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca, Matthew Bingley and The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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