Former executive John Tory won a second term, yet the debate surrounding the mayoral race became a symbol of the city’s haves-and-have-nots.
In many ways, it was a classic battle between left and right–the wealthy former telecom executive, incumbent John Tory, against independent former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat–yet Monday’s mayoral election in Toronto also comes at a critical juncture for Canada’s largest city.
For many, housing is becoming so unaffordable and transit so gridlocked it’s at risk of turning into just another global playground for the rich.
Indeed, while Tory ran to the right of Keesmaat, both candidates pitched platforms that had the city playing a far bigger role in the development of affordable housing.
“We cannot let the city turn into a city that is home only to people who are comfortable and people who are really struggling,” Tory, 64, told Bloomberg News ahead of the vote, which he won by 63 percent.
Economic growth isn’t a problem for Toronto, which is home to 2.8 million people. The city’s GDP has been running at around 3.4% for the past three years, well above its not inconsiderable population growth of 1.6%. Already boasting the largest financial sector on the continent after New York, it’s currently undergoing a boom of high-tech hiring, adding about 87,800 jobs from 2013 to 2017, the largest five-year gain in at least three decades. The unemployment rate is riding an 18-year low of 6.3%.
According to Bloomberg Politics, “The city’s swagger can be seen in its vibrant restaurant sector, Drake-fueled music scene, boisterous, multi-ethnic suburbs and the forest of cranes on its skyline. The city currently has 196 high-rise buildings under construction, the most in North America, according to Skyscraperpage.com.”
But Toronto also faces some major problems, at the forefront of which is housing. Until recently, there had been little purpose-built rental constructed in the city, leaving renters at the mercy of a condo market that saw average rents soar 7.6% to a record $2,385-per-month in the third quarter from a year ago.
The cost of buying a house–which averaged $864,275 in September–eats up a record 76% of a typical pre-tax household income when including mortgage payments and running costs, according to a recent report from Royal Bank of Canada.
Tory’s platform could best be summarized as “more of the same” politically, avoiding any big, bold new promises and instead focusing on incremental progress on initiatives he’s already introduced. Yet opponents insist that the wealth divide means Toronto is reaching a breaking point that requires more progressive solutions.
New research from the University of Toronto highlighted by The Star last month used census data to illustrate growing income equality, which is largely drawn along racial lines.
“It’s starker than we would expect,” Prof. David Hulchanski, the author of the report, told the newspaper.