Both will register Monday as the 2014 mayoral campaign begins to get crowded and competitive.
Councillor Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) and talk radio show host John Tory plan to register as candidates for mayor on Monday, which means the 2014 campaign will now begin in earnest. Stintz and Tory join incumbent Rob Ford and former budget chief David Soknacki as the four high-profile candidates to register thus far. Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow is widely expected to join the race at a later date, and could be the only high-profile left-wing candidate to do so.
Stintz and Tory registering on the same day highlights a pitched battle for disaffected Rob Ford voters–people who support the mayor’s fiscal agenda, but disapprove of his personal conduct and stance on social issues. Both Stintz and Tory have enlisted teams of political operatives that largely consist of Conservatives and Liberals. Stintz’s team includes Liberal strategists Don Guy and Dave Gene, and Conservative Paul Brown. Tory’s includes controversial former Ford strategist Nick Kouvalis, former Kathleen Wynne advisor Tom Allison, and veteran Conservative John Capobianco. Stintz and Tory both seriously considered running for mayor in 2010 before choosing not to join the race. Tory came a close second to David Miller in the 2003 race for mayor, ultimately losing by five points.
Both candidates are framing their candidacies around their ability to manage the City’s beleaguered transit file, keep taxes low, and not be Rob Ford.
Co-ordinated leaks to the media on Sunday night revealed that highlights of the Tory campaign would include a push to end “political gridlock” and build the subway relief line to relieve congestion. The line was referred to as the “Yonge St. Relief Line,” likely to avoid the notion that it is a subway line designed for downtowners. Ford has made this his third subway priority, after Sheppard East and Finch West; on Friday, David Soknacki indicated that even if the relief line were to be excluded, Ford’s plan would double the City’s debt.
John Tory for Mayor of Toronto—Campaign Launch Video
Stintz, TTC Chair in the past council term, will make transit front and centre in her campaign. While Ford takes credit for the much debated three-stop subway extension, it was the Ward 16 councillor that effectively led the effort. But because she led a 2012 effort to restore LRT plans along Eglinton, Sheppard, Finch and in Scarborough, Stintz will be framed as a flip-flopper, and lacks trust on both council’s left and right. For his part, Tory will likely face accusations of indecisiveness.
Tory joining the race is a big blow to the Stintz campaign. Polling by Forum Research over the past three months shows Stintz is competitive in polls with Ford and Soknacki, winning four of the past eight times, with the numbers in a January 22nd poll being 36 per cent for Ford, 29 per cent for Stintz, and 19 per cent for Soknacki [PDF]. But Stintz’s results drop precipitously when Tory, who has stronger approval ratings and higher name recognition, is added to the mix. In the past six Forum polls that added John Tory to a poll that included Stintz, Soknacki, and Ford, Stintz’s numbers fell by an average of 43 per cent. The January 22 poll with the four major registered candidates puts Ford at 32 per cent, Tory at 31 per cent, Stintz at 18 per cent and Soknacki at eight per cent. Competing against more high-profile candidates like Tory and Chow, the challenge for Stintz will be to assert herself not just as a viable “anyone but Ford” candidate, but as someone who is the first choice of voters because of her record and vision.
It will also be important for Stintz, Tory, and Soknacki to distinguish themselves from one another, as these three candidates will compete for the same pool of centre-right voters, particularly those who do not want Ford but find Chow too left wing for their liking. In the last two competitive mayoral elections, 2010 and 2003, the field effectively narrowed down to two to three candidates in the last month of the campaign. If history is any guide, financial and political support might focus on one candidate.
Even before both Tory and Stintz have both registered, the attacks have already begun. Almost as soon as Tory announced his intention to run, Doug Ford spoke to Newstalk 1010. Doug, the campaign manager for Rob, claimed that the other mayoral candidates weren’t really right wing, accused the radio station that gave him and his brother a weekly two-hour unfiltered show of being biased against the Fords and implied the hosts of the show were campaigning for Tory.
After Ford repeatedly claimed Newstalk’s hosts weren’t objective, but that he and Rob had been when they’d been running their show, co-host Edward Keenan said, “You keep using that word, and I’m not sure you know what it means, Doug.”
There are 244 days until the election.