Toronto to hold election for mayor and city council
Toronto will hold a municipal election on October 24 this year. Municipal (city) government oversees things such as property taxes, public transit, public spaces such as parks, and garbage collection. It is the level of government closest to day-to-day life.
This election will decide who becomes mayor, and who will represent each ward (neighbourhood) at the city council.
There are 31 candidates running for mayor. The current mayor, John Tory, has been in office for eight years and is presently seeking his third term. The most prominent candidate running against him, Gil Penalosa, is a former city planner who arrived in Canada 23 years ago from Colombia.
Toronto is the largest city in Canada and has the highest population of newcomers in the country. In fact, over half of Toronto’s residents were born outside of Canada and have created well-established communities throughout the city and the surrounding area.
While the main candidates have not specifically addressed immigrants and immigration as part of their platforms, there are several ongoing debates that may have a significant impact on the lives of all Torontonians as well as newcomers to Canada.
Affordable housing and public transit big issues
The most pressing issues of the election centre around public transit, affordable housing, encouraging small business and the current labour shortage.
The average price of a home in Toronto is over $1 million. A lack of affordable housing in Toronto has led to some residents being unable to afford rent or buy homes in the city and therefore having no choice but to move elsewhere.
The cost and efficiency of public transit has also proven to be a major issue, with some candidates seeking to make the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) less expensive for passengers, or free.
There is also widespread criticism of many current plans to expand the subway system, with some advocating for an underground subway system and others preferring above-ground light rail in under-serviced parts of the city, which are often home to high concentrations of immigrants. A transit plan for a city the size of Toronto also requires funding from the provincial and federal governments, often causing delays in the implementation of any plan.
Like the rest of Canada, Toronto is experiencing a labour shortage as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age and the birthrate remains low. Toronto relies heavily on the substantial number of newcomers who choose to settle in the city to keep the economy strong.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a sharp reduction in the number of new permanent residents who were able to resettle in Toronto. For example, in 2019 the number of permanent resident arrivals was 117,700. In 2020, it was 61,045, almost a 50% decrease.
To that effect, in May 2021 the city introduced a revised Newcomers Settlement Strategy, that aims to help newcomers, regardless of immigration status, integrate and settle in Toronto.
The initial strategy was adopted in 2013 but over the past eight years, large numbers of refugees as well as the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the need for revision. The 2013 plan facilitated the creation of Toronto Newcomer Day, the Newcomer Services Kiosk Program, the Refugee Resettlement Program, and the Access to City Services for Undocumented Torontonians (Access T.O.). Under Access T.O., anyone accessing a city service in Toronto will not be asked to show proof of immigration status. This includes any medical services the city provides, city-provided childcare, emergency services or food banks.
The revised plan aims to focus on employee retraining, promoting further awareness of Access T.O. and collaborating with stakeholders to work on systemic issues in Canada’s immigration system that are impacting immigrants in Toronto.
Are you eligible to vote?
To be eligible to vote in the election, you must be:
- a Canadian citizen; and
- at least 18 years old; and
- a resident in the city of Toronto; or
- a non-resident of Toronto, but you or your spouse own or rent property in the city; and
- not prohibited from voting under any law.
What to expect when you vote
On election day, you must bring your voter card and a piece of identification with your name and address on it. All votes are anonymous but by checking your name and address it ensures you are voting in the neighbourhood where you live, and that you only vote once. You will be asked to step behind a cardboard screen, fill out your ballot as per the instructions and return it to an election officer.
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