Toronto made international headlines over the last two weeks when Rob Ford was found guilty of violating conflict of interest rules and ordered to step down from his position as mayor. Ford has won the right to an appeal set for mid-January, which gives him more time as the mayor of Canada’s largest city. However, if the appeal upholds his conviction, Ford will be required to immediately step down, and political experts in the GTA believe a by-election will be called to fill Ford’s vacated position. Several potential candidates have been considered for the job, and have been given betting odds on the likelihood they will become Toronto’s next mayor.
Olivia Chow is considered the frontrunner, a woman who has been a vocal supporter for a National Transit Strategy and has fought for increased funding for crumbling infrastructure across Canada, both issues which have won her tremendous support throughout the GTA. Chow also has the distinction of being the widow of former Toronto councilor and NDP leader Jack Layton, whose popularity won widespread support all over Canada. Political talking heads suggest Jack’s legacy along with Olivia’s hard work would give her a leading edge in the race. Her odds are given at 3-1 but she would have to give up her job in Ottawa to run, and should she lose the race she will not be politically involved on the municipal or federal level.
Another leading candidate is Toronto councilor Karen Stintz, who has been one of Rob Ford’s most recurring opponents during his time as mayor. Stintz serves as chair of the TTC, and has repeatedly fought Ford over transit, ranging from his disastrous campaign to expand the subway system and reaching the breaking point when he commandeered a TTC bus to get his football team home. Her odds are also given at 3-1, seen as a candidate that is fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and dedicated to improving transit, which are all qualities that can win her votes in urban, multicultural Toronto.
However, the race wouldn’t be complete without the big guy himself. Rob Ford has announced if he is removed from office, he will run again to re-claim his position. Ford has built a large base of support in the suburbs that remains loyal despite his ethics violations and PR gaffes with the media. He has lower odds at 8-1 to be re-elected, but his support base could be enough to win him back his job. By-elections typically have low voter turnout, so a loyal support base is a competitive edge in a narrow race.
Of course none of this will matter if Ford wins his appeal in January, but most experts bet the conviction will be upheld and Toronto will be left without a mayor in the new year. Would you gamble on one of these candidates to be Toronto’s next mayor? Give us your thoughts on our Facebook page, or the name of another candidate you would support.