It’s municipal election day in Toronto. Here’s a guide that answers the basics, like what you should bring to the polling station, how long they’re open, and where to find one near you.
No, we won’t tell you who deserves your vote. But if you’ve haven’t been paying attention, we’ve included a brief overview of major issues and key races to watch.
Who are we voting for today?
The mayor, 25 city councillors and 39 school trustees across Toronto’s four school boards. Also municipal elections are happening across the GTA and the rest of the province.
What are the core responsibilities of the mayor and city council, again?
Elected officials at city hall are responsible for basic local services, including — but not limited to — water treatment; garbage pickup; public transit; police, paramedic and fire services; libraries and recreational programming; and homeless shelters and outreach.
They also make crucial decisions about commercial and residential development, affordable housing and, fundamentally, property taxes. In total, Toronto’s mayor and council oversee an annual operating budget of about $15 billion.
Who’s running for mayor?
Along with Mayor John Tory, who’s vying for a third term, there are 30 other candidates running for mayor.
Gil Penalosa, a Colombian-born, world-renowned urbanist, is regarded as Tory’s primary challenger. Other leading candidates include Chloe-Marie Brown, a policy analyst; Sarah Climenhaga, a community activist who ran for the Green Party in the 2019 federal election and placed sixth in Toronto’s last mayoral election; and Jack Yan, a financial analyst.
You can find the full list of mayoral, council and school board candidates through the city’s website.
How can I learn more about the candidates’ platforms?
This year, the Toronto Star partnered with Vox Pop Labs, a data science firm, to help readers figure out whose views most align with their own. You can try out the Vote Compass here.
How long are the polls open?
Polling stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. According to the city, voting places should be quietest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you’re still in line by 8 o’clock, you will get a chance to cast your ballot.
Where can I find my nearest polling station?
The city has set up about 1,460 voting places across Toronto. You can find the one nearest you through the city’s website.
Who’s eligible to vote?
If you’re a Canadian citizen, Toronto resident, 18 or older and not barred from voting due to a past crime, you are eligible to vote.
Non-Toronto residents who own or rent property in the city are also eligible to vote for mayor and city council, and so are their spouses. As can university students who currently live outside of the city but consider Toronto their home.
What do I need to vote?
All you need to bring is one piece of identification that includes your name and address, such as a driver’s licence or a tax form. Photo ID isn’t necessary. There’s a list of acceptable IDs on the city’s website.
Voter information cards (VICs), which are mailed to Torontonians on the voter list, can speed up the process, though they can’t serve as identification.
If you didn’t receive your VIC and your name isn’t on the voter roll, you can add your name to the list at your local polling station today.
Can I leave work to vote?
Yes, your employer must ensure you have three available hours to vote. So, for a shift that begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m., you’re entitled to leave an hour early in order to vote sometime between 5 and 8 p.m.
What are the top issues this election?
Amid high food costs, soaring rents and rising mortgage rates, cost-of-living is top of mind for Torontonians, according to recent polling by Forum Research. Housing affordability came second, followed by concern over crime and gun violence.
Critics of Mayor Tory, who’s kept property taxes lower than nearly every other municipality in Ontario, have lamented the state of Toronto’s infrastructure and services, pointing to neglected washrooms and water fountains and recent cuts to recreational programming. The city currently faces a year-end budget deficit estimated at $857 million. Tory has pledged to keep property taxes below the rate of inflation in 2023.
Meanwhile, Gil Penalosa has made road safety and improved park space major components of his platform. If elected, he’s also promised to tear down the East Gardiner Expressway and replace it with a ground-level boulevard and thousands of new homes. Tory said he wouldn’t reconsider the current plan, approved in 2015, to rebuild the section aloft, but shifted closer to the downtown rail corridor. “I’m not for turning back,” he said in a recent debate.
Ward races to watch:
Seven incumbent councillors have chosen not seek re-election, guaranteeing new blood in Ward 9 Davenport, Ward 10 Spadina—Fort York, Ward 11 University—Rosedale, Ward 13 Toronto Centre, Ward 16 Don Valley East, Ward 18 Willowdale and Ward 1 Etobicoke North — which, for the first time in more than two decades, won’t be represented by a Ford.
In Davenport, Alejandra Bravo is hoping the fifth time’s a charm. The community organizer has previously lost three municipal races and one federal election in the area, including by less than 100 votes when she ran for the NDP last fall. She’s currently the front-runner, though Mayor Tory has endorsed her closest challenger, Grant Gonzales, a public affairs professional and co-chair of Pride Toronto.
Polling suggests the race to replace Coun. John Fillion in Willowdale will be close. A Forum Research poll last month showed Lily Cheng, founder of the North York Moms Facebook group, at 32 per cent, followed close behind by longtime Filion aide Markus O’Brien Fehr at 31 per cent, and Daniel Lee, a pharmacist and former federal Conservative candidate, at 25 per cent.
There’s also tight in competition for University-Rosedale, where Coun. Mike Layton has chosen not run again. Forum’s polling in September showed former Ontario environment commissioner Dianne Saxe, who’s touted her ties to Tory, with 38 per cent of support from decided and leaning respondents. Robin Buxton Potts, a former aide to ex-councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, followed at 26 per cent support. Axel Arvizu and school trustee Norm Di Pasquale are also in the mix.
In Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Coun. Mike Grimes is set for a rematch with community activist Amber Morley, who he defeated in 2018 with significant support from Mayor Tory, including an endorsement and robocall campaign. Grimes was leading Forum’s poll in September, but Morley is still considered a serious contender.
Meanwhile, voters in Ward 21 Scarborough Centre, previously considered a lock for incumbent Coun. Michael Thompson, might be influenced by recent sexual assault charges against the Tory ally. According to Thompson’s lawyer, the sitting councillors plans to plead “not guilty and will vigorously defend against these allegations.”
The race to represent Ward 22 Scarborough-Agincourt features an interesting twist. Two of the six candidates share the same last name: incumbent Nick Mantas, who secured his seat in a 2021 byelection, and businessman Antonios Mantas.
And finally, incumbent councillor of Ward 23 Scarborough North Cynthia Lai died on Friday, leaving advance voters in the lurch and the city scrambling to work around the unexpected turn of events. According to the Municipal Elections Act, the winner will be decided from the remaining candidates — Lai’s name will remain on the ballot as there was not enough time to make the change, but will not be counted. Advance votes for Lai will also not count. Lai’s campaign staff are pressing for a byelection.
How can I track the results this evening?
The Star will keep readers up to date with a live file on the latest election results from across the city and the 905 region.
With files from David Rider and Ben Spurr
Ben Mussett is a Toronto-based general assignment reporter for the Star. Reach him via email: email@example.com