Housing, traffic, affordability on Torontonians minds as they vote for a new mayor
Voter drops their marked ballot into the ballot box. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Voters in Toronto head to the polls Monday to elect their next mayor, with a record 102 candidates to choose from.
Whoever ends up leading the city will have to deal with a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall, a housing affordability crisis and aging public infrastructure, among other issues.
Eudokia Kliadres moved to Canada from Cyprus four decades ago, raised a family, worked at a Toronto hospital for years and is now retired. But the 72-year-old said she’s having a hard time making ends meet.
“We can’t afford vegetables and healthy food,” she said, pointing to her grocery bag in her hand as she stood outside a shopping mall in Flemingdon Park.
“I am retired, the pension that I get is not enough, not even for the rent.”
Kliadres criticized politicians for not doing enough to support residents as the cost of living in the city skyrockets. She said she hoped the next mayor would take action to lower the cost of housing and groceries.
She also hopes the next mayor fights the province’s plan to relocate the Ontario Science Centre – not far from her home – to a revamped Ontario Place on the city’s waterfront. The science centre belongs to her neighbourhood, she said, and should remain accessible to local residents.
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Colin Chant lives and works in downtown Toronto and wants whoever becomes mayor to address the gridlock plaguing the area.
“It’s just pointless. You’re better off walking,” says the Toronto lawyer of the traffic in his area, adding congestion has been getting worse and public transit is “under strain.”
Chant says one reason he lives downtown is so he doesn’t have to drive to work.
The next mayor should work on plans to jumpstart a downtown relief transit line and encourage multimodal transportation systems that accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, cars and transit.
The new mayor should also adopt policies that allow density across the city to address the housing shortage, while funding programs aimed at helping those in need, Chant said.
“If you want to live in a great city, then you have to pay for that,” he said.
Constantine Hamarakis says public safety and unaffordability are the two main issues he wants the next mayor to address.
“Safety is a huge one – going on the bus, travelling around, being on the streets, shopping, anything,” said the 48-year-old who lives in the east-end region of Scarborough.
The rising cost of living is another major challenge for many city residents, he said.
“You can’t afford housing, can’t afford food,” Hamarakis said. “You need somebody that is going to focus on safety and finances and money.”
Farida Barrett wants the next mayor to not raise taxes, saying living in the city is already expensive enough.
“That is a big concern that many people are having,” said the 83-year-old who lived in the west-end area of Etobicoke.
“Some people cannot afford that.”
Greg McPhee said the cost of housing in Toronto is a major problem the next mayor needs to take action on.
“I can’t afford to buy a house,” the 48-year-old Scarborough resident said.
“Taxes are obviously out of control,” he added, noting many residents who rent are being taken advantage of by landlords who raise rents while services decline.
“Everything is out of control here … it doesn’t matter who you vote for,” he said, adding he likely wouldn’t cast a ballot.
Broad swath of candidates across political spectrum
Despite the volume of candidates on the ballot the fact that there is no incumbent has provided plenty of options for voters, according to at least one political observer.
“I think there’s been a lot that’s been interesting in this campaign,” Myer Siemiatycki, the Professor Emeritus of Politics at Toronto Metropolitan University tells CityNews. “The range of candidates, the diversity of candidates demographically, the fact that they span such a broad swath of the political spectrum from right to centre to progressive. ”
Several public opinion polls have consistently had Olivia Chow ahead of a group of six other leading contenders throughout the campaign, something that is worth noting says Siemiatycki.
“I think maybe the best sign of the accuracy of polling or the polls being close to the mark is that we’ve had a handful of different polling companies and agencies doing the polls so we havent just been reliant on one polling provider,” he says. “And we had polls over the period of two months and over that period there has been a clear and reccuring frontrunner and that is Olivia Chow. So that leads me to believe we’re not talking about a fluke, we’re not talking about a flash in the pan.”
Last fall’s municipal election saw a record low voter turnout with only 29 per cent of eligible voters casting their ballots, but Siemiatycki predicts this byelection will be different.
“I think there’s no question that this election has garnered public attention. We certainly saw that in the numbers who voted in the advance polls. Much higher than the most recent October 2022 general municpal election. So that’s a very good sign.”
Residents can begin casting their ballots starting at 10 a.m. Monday. Voters are reminded to bring identification showing their name and address and their Voter Information Card if they received one.
CityNews will have up to the minute election coverage starting at 8 p.m. on Citytv, CityNews 24/7, CityNews 680 and Citynews.ca.
Files from Melissa Nakhavoly were used in this report