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These are Toronto’s top 6 candidates for mayor (for now) and what they’ll need to win

Toronto’s mayoral ballot is a record 102 names long. 

Like going to a restaurant with a too-long menu, you probably want to know: What’s good here?

By examining a combination of polling — which is always challenging at the municipal level — endorsements, policy and the number of public events staged to this point, here’s a look at six of the top candidates.

Note: You can find a link to the full list of candidates at the bottom of this story as well as additional detail about the polling cited. CBC Toronto is reaching out to every candidate this week and is aiming to publish a subsequent article featuring all of their pitches to become mayor. For now, you can use the City of Toronto site to access most of the candidates’ websites if you’re trying to learn more about them. 

These top contenders — most of whom took part in a Monday night debate held by the Daily Bread food bank — face challenges to win the city’s top job and here’s what their path to victory on June 26 might look like. 

Olivia Chow
Olivia Chow. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Olivia Chow

Chow is a former city councillor and NDP MP and someone who has been involved in civic life for decades. She’s been leading early polling since entering the race by a wide margin.

But she’s been here before. 

Chow led early in 2014, when she was facing John Tory and Doug Ford, and couldn’t hold on to win. Her team has even tackled that loss in a recent campaign video.

Chow has already won some key endorsements and is the most experienced politician in this top grouping, but will it be enough?

What the polling shows: Forum Research has Chow at 36 per cent, Mainstreet Research has her at 30 per cent, and Liaison Strategies has her at 31 per cent.

Photo of Mark Saunders.
Mark Saunders. (CBC)

Mark Saunders

The former Toronto police chief has launched a public-safety focused campaign and is touting his decades of experience as a public servant.

That said, his political positions — reviewing bike lanes, urging the city to drop its drug decriminalization efforts — run counter to the direction city hall has been moving in and will likely provoke sharp criticism in debates.

As of Friday, Saunders is the only candidate in this list who is not set to join Monday night’s Daily Bread debate. 

Polling: Forum Research has Saunders at 18 per cent, Mainstreet Research has him at 12 per cent, and Liaison Strategies has him at 16 per cent. 

A man in a jacket and checked shirt smiles behind a microphone.
Josh Matlow. (Claude Beaudoin/CBC)

Josh Matlow

The current councillor for Toronto-St. Paul’s (the Yonge-Eglinton area) has put forward a wide range of policy proposals already.

The challenge for Matlow — and one his rivals will be keen to point out — is how he’ll get his agenda passed if he’s elected. On the council floor last week, for example, Matlow lost a vote seeking updated costs on the Gardiner East rebuild.

Matlow’s opponents will likely question whether he can build a council coalition to pass his agenda, while refusing to use the “Strong Mayor” powers as he has promised.

Polling: Forum Research has Matlow at 10 per cent, Mainstreet Research has him at 10 per cent, and Liaison Strategies has him at 15 per cent. 

Ana Bailao
Ana Bailão. (CBC)

Ana Bailão

The longtime Davenport councillor dominated the last ward election she ran in (2018), winning 82 per cent of the vote. She rose to become John Tory’s deputy mayor and his point person on housing before resigning to work for the development company, Dream Unlimited Corp, as its head of affordable housing and public affairs.

Now jumping back into city politics, Bailão has a powerful team behind her and scored some key council and union endorsements early. 

Torontonians may look at her as picking up where Tory left off. For some, that’s a good thing. Others, however, may see her policies as not going far enough to deal with the challenges the city’s facing, or being too reliant on other governments (like her demand the province upload the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway, which the province has rejected.)

Polling: Forum Research has Bailão at seven per cent, Mainstreet Research has her at 15 per cent, and Liaison Strategies has her at seven per cent. 

Man in a grey jacket stands behind a podium as vehicles travel through a construction zone behind him.
Brad Bradford. (Shawn Jeffords/CBC)

Brad Bradford

The Beaches-East York councillor and former planner is also an ally of Tory, and like Bailão, became the former mayor’s go-to housing person. 

But Bradford is running a more right-leaning campaign than some may have expected.

His campaign — backed by prominent Ontario conservatives — has focused on things like battling traffic and attacking the “NDP activist agenda.” But if polling is to be believed (and that’s a question you should always ask yourself) Saunders, and even former Toronto Sun columnist Anthony Furey, appear to be beating him to the punch when it it comes to securing the conservative vote.

That said, Bradford’s young and is running an energetic campaign, which might wind up giving him a boost as more tune in.

Polling: Forum Research has Bradford at six per cent, Mainstreet Research has him at 12 per cent, and Liaison Strategies has him at six per cent. 

Scarborough-Guildwood Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter at Queen and John Street. She is running for mayor of Toronto in the 2023 by-election.
Mitzie Hunter. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Mitzie Hunter

Hunter resigned from her position as an Ontario Liberal MPP to enter the race.

The Scarborough-Guildwood politician has been making several policy announcements a week, including a signature transit plan. Her housing platform draws on her past experience as the chief administrative officer of Toronto Community Housing. 

Hunter’s challenge will be getting on to Torontonians’ radar. She has a strong base of support in Scarborough, but she’ll need to raise her profile city-wide to win the byelection.

Polling: Forum Research has Hunter at 10 per cent, Mainstreet Research has her at nine per cent, and Liaison Strategies has her at 12 per cent.

Wait, you didn’t mention…

There are some other candidates who are trying to break into this grouping and who just might in the weeks to come.

Anthony Perruzza, another sitting councillor, is in the race and has plenty to say, although he’s put out little in the way of costed policy proposals.

Chloe Brown, who finished third in the last mayoral election and delivered some of the sharpest critiques of John Tory during the debates, has plenty of interesting policy out.

Anthony Furey, a former Toronto Sun columnist, has at points polled higher than Bradford and has also lashed out at Saunders claiming the former police chief is stealing his ideas when it comes to things like removing the University Avenue bike lane. 

Those polls and what they (could) mean

Pollsters have been in the field gauging public opinion on the race since John Tory resigned. Three of the latest polls give a snapshot of where the race stands. But as always, they are just a point in time and there are six weeks left in this campaign. 

In other words, things are likely to change.

It’s also important to note a lot of voters are still undecided ranging from 20 to 39 per cent in these polls. So, there are a lot of votes out there that could swing support one way or the other.

The results above are drawn from three recent polls released by Forum Research, Liaison Strategies and Mainstreet Research. It’s worth noting all three of the polls use interactive voice response (IVR), a polling method that often struggles to reach younger demographics. 

The poll by Forum Research was conducted on May 13 and 14 by interviewing 1,029 Torontonians via IVR. We cannot accurately calculate a margin of error for IVR polls. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of two per cent.

The poll by Liaison Strategies was conducted on May 12 and 13, by interviewing 1,318 Torontonians via IVR.  We cannot accurately calculate a margin of error for IVR polls. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of 2.7 per cent.

The poll by Mainstreet Research was conducted on May 10 and 11, by interviewing 1,205 Torontonians via IVR.  We cannot accurately calculate a margin of error for IVR polls. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of 2.8 per cent.

Find the full list of candidates on the City of Toronto’s website.

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