After a wild campaign season, Toronto voters weigh in on an uncertain future

After a wild campaign season, Toronto voters weigh in on an uncertain future
Where to watch the results of Ontarios 2018 municipal election
After a tumultuous municipal campaign season, voters in Toronto are on the verge of electing a mayor and council to steer Canada's biggest city as it faces a long list of big and expensive problems.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. ET and results are expected to roll in soon. You can stream CBC Toronto's election special in this story, or on Twitter, vertically on Facebook or YouTube.

The size of council was slashed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford from 47 seats to 25 in what the premier’s critics called an attack on his former opponents at city hall. (Ford was a controversial city councillor and effectively a co-mayor next to his late brother Rob Ford. Doug also unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2014 after his brother withdrew due to ill health.) Two hundred and forty-two candidates were fighting for a spot on council this year.

The contentious election was punctuated by a wildly unexpected power play by the new Progressive Conservative government at Queen's Park. Nonetheless, it comes at a critical juncture for the gridlocked and increasingly unaffordable city of 2.8 million people.

The repercussions of today's vote will likely be felt in Toronto for decades to come. That said, no single issue came to define the campaign or the differences between the top two candidates for the top job, John Tory and Jennifer Keesmaat.

Jennifer Keesmaat, running against incumbent Mayor John Tory in the 2018 Toronto election. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel)

The pair worked closely together for three years at city hall before becoming political rivals — Tory as mayor and Keesmaat as chief city planner.

The residents of Canadas largest city went to the polls Monday to elect a mayor and a new, much smaller city council.

Now running for the same job, Keesmaat painted Tory's leadership as "timid" and ineffective, while Tory's campaign tried to position her as an ideologue who will be in a "constant state of warfare" with her conservative provincial counterparts.

Supporters have praised her vision which includes replacing part of the Gardiner Expressway with a boulevard, assigning a dedicated team to fast-track work on a downtown Relief Line subway, build affordable housing on city-owned land such as golf courses and launch a rent-to-own housing program financed by a surcharge on properties worth more than $4 million.

The incumbent Tory styles himself a consensus-builder who has put the city on course to build desperately needed transit and new housing, and introduce tougher measures to combat gun violence. He's known for waking up before dawn each day, and spends most weekends traversing events throughout Toronto. 

Video: Municipal election day across Ontario

Torontonians head to polls today to elect 25-ward council

He'll be looking for a strong nod of support from voters. Heading into election day, polls pointed to a double-digit lead for Tory over Keesmaat, his closest challenger.

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Video: Toronto voters prepare to cast their ballots

Tory picked up 40 per cent of the vote in 2014, against a crowded field that included Doug Ford, now the premier of Ontario, and Olivia Chow, a longtime NDP stalwart. With only a single viable challenger this time around, he has an opportunity to shore up support in areas of the city that he lost in 2014.

While Keesmaat’s vision may have earned praise in some quarters, it has not resonated with a majority of the electorate as recent public opinion polls show Tory has a comfortable double-digit lead over her. In the waning days of the campaign, Keesmaat acknowledged the David vs. Goliath situation she finds herself in.

The mayor's seat is only one vote at city hall, however, and whoever wins will need a coalition on council to pursue an aggressive policy agenda. Council races have been among the hardest-fought this election season, with a newly redrawn map pitting incumbents against each other in 11 of 25 wards.

The Ford government's decision in July to unilaterally cut the number of council seats from 47 to 25 threw many races into chaos. It has also led to questions about voter confusion impacting overall turnout.

Toronto election results 2018

In 2014, 60 per cent of registered voters cast a ballot, the most in a single election since the city amalgamated in 1998. Four years earlier, when Rob Ford won the mayor's seat, turnout was 50.55 per cent. But in years without a Ford on the ballot, voter turnout has not exceeded 40 per cent.

But in wards across the city, recent poll data show tight races emerging between many incumbent councillors, including Josh Matlow and Joe Mihevc in Toronto-St. Pauls, Anthony Perruzza and Giorgio Mammoliti in Humber River-Black Creek, and Norm Kelly and Jim Karygiannis in Scarborough-Agincourt.

Voters across Ontario head to polls for municipal elections

For her part, Keesmaat only joined the mayor's race at the very last minute, the day after the province's plan to cut council was reported. But she is deeply familiar with city's inner workings. She spent five years as Toronto's top planner, first under Rob Ford and then under Tory.

A decision by the Ford government to reduce the size of council from the planned 47 wards to just 25 plunged the city into chaos for several weeks, leaving many candidates in limbo and forcing the city clerk to prepare for two separate election scenarios.

While it has been a bitter race at times, the two candidates are not far apart on many key issues, with a few notable exceptions. They do, however, disagree about how to pay for their priorities.

Tory's central campaign promise was to keep property tax increases "at or below the rate of inflation," and Keesmaat made the same commitment. But she also criticized his "timid" approach to finding ways of funding more ambitious commitments.

Tory has promised to build on the work he and his previous council did on important transit projects and has said that his goal of building 40,000 new affordable housing units over the next decade is a more realistic one.

To that effect, Keesmaat proposed a tax on luxury homes that cost more than $4 million. That revenue would help pay for new affordable and rent-to-own homes built on three little-used city golf courses.

Toronto Mayor John Tory leaves a voting station with his wife Barbara Hackett after casting his ballot in the citys municipal election in Toronto on Monday October 22 , 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

She similarly proposed a storm-water tax that would help the city upgrade its decaying century-old water infrastructure. Tory has voted against a nearly identical proposal, despite several recent destructive floods.

A tumultuous municipal election campaign will come to an end on Monday night when residents of Toronto elect a significantly smaller city council than that of previous years.

Over the course of her relatively short campaign, Keesmaat earned endorsements from a progressive bloc of councillors. Her platform includes several ideas popular among downtown councillors, like tearing down the eastern stretch of the Gardiner Expressway to build a "grand boulevard."

Toronto goes to the polls Monday to vote for their favourite among three dozen candidates running for mayor. However, polls suggest no candidate poses a major threat to incumbent John Tory. His biggest threat is Jennifer Keesmaat, the citys former chief planner, who entered the race mid-summer after Premier Doug Fords council-cutting decision threw the campaign into chaos.

She has also been deeply critical of Tory's signature 2014 promise: SmartTrack. During Tory's term, the transit plan has changed considerably from its debut, and not for the better, according to Keesmaat.

Tory has proposed keeping property taxes at or below the rate of inflation over the next four years if he were to be re-elected. He said he would also secure funding from the provincial and federal governments to build infrastructure and tackle the citys "capital backlog" so that the burden is not on property tax payers alone.

She often repeats that SmartTrack was drawn "on the back of a napkin" and that it proved to be a political "mirage" Tory used to best two competent challengers from the left and right of him in the last election.

Torontos Drift Toward a Playground for the Rich Drives a Mayoral Showdown

While a recent poll suggested support for her individual policy proposals, Keesmaat herself has struggled to gain momentum during the campaign.

Keesmaat wants the construction of the TTC subway relief line to be built three years earlier than the scheduled completion date of 2031. She has also said that she would make the downtown King Street pilot project, which restricts cars from travelling through a busy stretch of the road, permanent.

Video: Tory and Keesmaat cast votes in Toronto election

Lucas Powers is a Toronto-based writer and photographer. He's reported for CBC News from across Canada. When he's not angling for stories, he's probably flyfishing for trout.

Tory touted his track record on transit and noted that under his leadership, Toronto city council approved the Transit Network Plan, which includes the creation of the relief line — a plan critics say doesnt go far enough to reduce congestion in the citys downtown core.

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If elected, Keesmaat said in the first 100 days the city would request provincial amendments to property tax legislation to allow for a surtax on homes worth more than $4 million. She said this is to secure a "revenue stream" to fund the rent-to-own program.

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Nevertheless, Climenhaga said that the last few weeks had been good for her bid to become the citys chief executive. She cited positive feedback from her debate performances, many of which have involved four candidates as a result of Torys announcement that he would not debate Keesmaat one-on-one. Tory is running for re-election and Keesmaat, who is currently at second place in the polls, is the citys former Chief Planner.

Polls opened across Ontario on Monday morning as voters prepare to cast their ballots in municipal elections.

Gebresellassi is advocating for an additional 20,000 affordable housing units to be built over the next four years. Ive also said that Ill be declaring a state of emergency on housing immediately upon assuming office and establish an affordable housing task force that will bring together the foremost housing experts, policy wonks, engineers, and actuarians that could actually make it happen.

As the ballots pour in, CTV News Toronto will have live coverage from across the GTA on our regular 6 p.m. newscast and continuing coverage on our election website.

When the polls close, CTV News Toronto is the only broadcast network in the city that will have live television coverage of the results.

Sarah Climenhaga, a safe streets advocate, registered to run for Mayor of Toronto the moment nominations opened at 8:30 am on May 1. Five months later, she said that the campaign has been going well, and that she has been able to drum up grassroots support through social media and public appearances. At the same time, however, she noted the lack of media attention on her candidacy.

Our special, CTV News Election 2018, starts at 8 p.m. on CTV and on our website,

I have advocated vigorously for social equality in the City of Toronto and took a lot of inspiration from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezs victory in the City of New York, she said, referencing the progressive candidates surprise win in a US Democratic primary. People are really, really believing that a political upset is in our cards.

The hour-long show will be hosted by anchors Ken Shaw and Michelle Dubé. Our reporters will be bringing you live coverage from hot-button mayoral races in Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, Whitchurch-Stouffville, and Oshawa, and notable neck-and-neck fights between incumbents for Toronto city council.

Free transit experts in Toronto, who I’ve also been in contact with, have already laid out a pathway to finance free transit, Gebresellassi said. Theres a number of revenue sources, including a commitment from the federal government… to contribute to the cost of transit as well as… closing corporate tax loopholes.

Jim Warren is a tried-and-tested political strategist and communications specialist. He has worked in some of the highest offices in the province, including with former premier Dalton McGuinty and former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman. In those positions, Mr. Warren often had to engage his skills in issues and crisis management, strategic communications, and media relations. Now, he runs a consulting firm, and is a political pundit for various local and national media.

Melissa Lantsman is an experienced spokesperson and public relations expert. She has held roles within the federal government, including in the offices of the minister of finance, minister of the environment and minister of foreign affairs during the Stephen Harper government. Lantsman is fresh off her role as spokesperson and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party Campaign War Room for the 2018 provincial election, which saw Doug Ford become premier.

Rocco Achampong was part of the legal challenge against the Ford government bill to cut the size of Toronto city council. He was previously registered as a candidate in Ward 13, prior to the governments decision to reduce council seats from 47 to 25. He later withdrew his name. Achampong is a University of Toronto graduate. He has been in private practice in Toronto since 2010.

Michelle Dube and Ken Shaw will host CTV News Torontos Election 2018 special, starting at 8 p.m. ET on Oct. 22, 2018.

A tumultuous municipal election campaign will come to an end on Monday when residents of Toronto elect a significantly smaller city council than that of previous years.

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