Why do 101 humans and a dog want to be Mayor of Toronto?
After accusations of an extramarital affair forced the city’s long-time leader out of office, Toronto will soon determine who will be its new mayor. There are plenty of candidates to select from, with a remarkable total of 102 names on the ballot, including Molly, the dog.
The six-year-old wolf-husky canine and her owner, Toby Heaps, are campaigning to “Stop the Salt Assault” on city streets throughout the winter.
Mr Heaps suggested that excessive use of salt on roads throughout the winter can harm the pads of sensitive-footed canines like Molly. His campaign also calls for a cure to housing insecurity, a tax increase on billion-dollar corporations, and a ban on fossil-fuel heating systems in new homes and commercial buildings.
If he succeeds, he plans to make Molly the city’s first honorary dog mayor.
“I think city hall would make better decisions if there was an animal in the room,” he told BBC.
Along with a yearning for change, Mr Heaps stated that this election is an opportunity he cannot afford to pass up.
It is the first by-election in Toronto’s history since seven municipalities merged to establish what has become known colloquially as the “mega-city” 25 years ago. The election was called following the departure of John Tory, the city’s mayor for the previous eight years.
Mr. Tory’s election in 2014 was viewed as a welcome change from the reign of Rob Ford, who made international headlines after admitting to consuming crack cocaine while in government.
Mr Tory, on the other hand, has been chastised for failing to articulate a coherent vision for Toronto and for worsening inequality in one of the world’s most expensive cities. In a Toronto Star piece, he was regarded as “rarely inspirational and far too cautious.”
He is also criticised for presiding over a Toronto that appears to be in crisis, particularly as the city recovers from the Covid-19 outbreak. During his tenure, many people have reported an upsurge in gun violence, homelessness, housing pricing, and violence on public transportation.
Despite these accusations, Mr. Tory has been elected three times, the latest recent in October 2022. Only a few hundred people had opposed him at the time, since he was considered a lock for re-election.
That is, until his own controversy forced him out of government a few months later.
The 68-year-old married mayor had an affair with a 31-year-old staffer during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a February report in the Toronto Star. He quit shortly after the article was published.
With him gone, the forthcoming by-election on June 26 is “a wide open race,” according to Nelson Wiseman, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Toronto.
“The difference between last time and this time is that we don’t know who’s going to win,” Prof Wiseman explained.
The entry fee for the race is very low. A cost of C$250 ($189) and 25 signatures are all that is required for a Torontonian to run for mayor. Unlike in other major North American cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, candidates do not run along political party lines, hence there is no nomination process to narrow the field.
According to Karen Chapple, head of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, with the field wide open, some are tempted to run only to see whether they have a chance.
“There’s a gamblers’ aspect to it, a kind of Las Vegas aura,” she told the BBC.
Given the continuously low voter turnout in Toronto’s mayoral elections, most successful candidates already require some name recognition.