Toronto's mayoral hopefuls in their own words
Oct. 19, 2022
Torontonians will have 31 people to choose from when they vote for their next mayor in next week's municipal election.
It's by far the longest list on your ballot.
With so many options, CBC Toronto sent out a survey to every candidate asking them several questions that are key to Toronto's future.
Not everyone responded -- you can find the full candidate list at the bottom of this story -- but here are the responses of those who did. Note: CBC Toronto has edited some of the responses to meet editorial guidelines and will state where that's the case, but has not corrected grammar errors, etc., so as to stay true to what was submitted by the candidates.
What makes you a suitable candidate for mayor?
Drew Buckingham: "During my many years as a teacher with the Toronto District School Board I've seen how destructive poverty is on children's lives. How hunger can affect their emotional and cognitive development. That so much child poverty and hunger is still an enormous part of the daily life for a significant part of the city is nothing short of disgraceful. What makes me a suitable mayoral candidate is that I would address this issue as the number one priority facing Toronto and deal with it in meaningful ways. This is a fantastic city that has been consistently let down by our political leaders and their corporate partners. There shouldn't be any compromise regarding these issues, and for people who prioritize anything before this issue probably haven't been hungry or see their kids go hungry in some time, if ever."
Kevin Clarke: "We all have free will to choose ... democracy belongs to all," Clarke wrote in a response that CBC Toronto has been edited because it makes a series of allegations against another candidate not supported by fact.
Sarah Climenhaga: "I will be a mayor that represents you, the resident, above anyone else. I've lived for decades in this city and I directly experience residents' challenges -- being stuck in gridlock in a car or a bus, being worried about safety on the road, unhappy when I see garbage or the loss of green space and trees, and concerned about affordability of housing for my children. I will use the expertise I've gained through a career working with nonprofits, universities and major corporations, plus my experience as a resident who's navigated city bureaucracy and council offices as a community advocate, to make our lives better. I want to make positive change with full involvement and participation of all residents."
CBC Radio's Metro Morning spoke with Climenhaga this week and you can listen to her interview with host Ismaila Alfa here
Cory Deville: "I'm a suitable candidate for mayor, because I mirror the average citizen as a person of colour, think strategically through a human lens, and understand that mid-stride adaptability will be key in order to make Toronto a globally competitive city."
Robert Hatton: "25 years of problem solving and achievement at a senior level in Toronto finance, plus an ethical, caring character."
Soaad Hossain: "I am 26 years, born and raised in Scarborough, and I lived my whole life on Toronto. I am from a single-parent household and low-income family. I have been homeless, and I am a taxpaying worker and working-class citizen. I live in a rented space and use services like public transit daily. I am a project manager, published scientist, and advocate. I have my project management certification (PMP) and extensive experience working with multiple different kinds of people on large and complex projects. Given the nature of my jobs, communication, attention to detail, people and resource management, analytical skills and other key skills are required, and I possess all of them. Those same skills along with my experiences and struggles living in Toronto, many which I continue to face til this day, is what makes me a suitable Toronto mayoral candidate."
Khadijah Jamal: "I am a lobbyist not a politician -- ready for real change."
Ferin Malek: "I am the most appropriate candidate for becoming the next mayor because we need a mayor who demonstrates and has demonstrated transparency and integrity in all the jobs done in life til date. Transparency and accountability are the core of good governance and thus a good mayor should inform voters regarding their policy delivery. Citizens should be well informed on several local initiatives and current mayor fails in being transparent. Secondly, a successful mayor delivers results and communicates well. Mayor needs to be more responsive to public questions. Thus all these qualities make me the best mayor for City of Toronto."
Toronto mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa, left, takes part in the Toronto Regional Board of Trade debate, at the Carlu, in Toronto, on Oct. 17, 2022.
Gil Penalosa speaks during the second of two major debates. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
Gil Penalosa: "It has been my life's work to design and envision healthier cities. With an MBA from UCLA, I have worked in over 350 cities around the world advising mayors, decision-makers and city-builders on how to make their cities more vibrant and livable. Originally from Colombia, where I built over 200 parks as parks commissioner, I have called our city home for over 20 years. I love Toronto and I have the experience and the political courage to deliver a Toronto with more affordable housing, safer streets and better public services that actually work for the people who live here."
Gil Penalosa on why he believes he can defeat John Tory in Toronto's election
John Tory: "The mayor has prioritized working collaboratively and across partisan lines with his city council colleagues and the provincial and federal governments. It is for this reason that he has been able to get big things done for Toronto, and Torontonians know that he will continue to work hard with both governments to ensure the city stays on track. The mayor is laser focused on building on the progress he's led over the past eight years on transit, housing and making Toronto a more livable city. If re-elected, he is committed to moving forward the historic $28-billion transit plan he secured for the city, as well as continuing to build more housing and get it built faster by implementing his five-point housing plan, which includes liberalizing zoning to allow for "missing middle" housing and streamlining the planning process for approving housing. He is also committed to seeing through the landmark Port Lands redevelopment project -- one of the most exciting urban resilience projects in the world, which will create 64 acres of parks, 75 acres of wildlife habitat, a new 1.5-kilometre meandering river course, and be home to a brand new neighbourhood for tens of thousands of residents, with 20 per cent of housing dedicated as affordable rental units. This ambitious project is also evidence of the mayor's ability to work with other governments, having successfully secured funding from all three levels of government to get shovels in the ground and build for the city's future. Additionally, Mayor Tory will focus the next four years on keeping our economy strong by continuing to attract jobs and investment, keeping our streets safe and helping those in need right across the city.
Metro Morning is set to speak with Tory about his record after eight years in office on Wednesday
What can you point to in the last year that demonstrates your ongoing commitment to civic life?
Drew Buckingham: "I'd certainly say that running for mayor and raising awareness to this most pressing of issues, which is child hunger and poverty, reflects my commitment to civic life and my love for the city. Constantly dialoguing with fellow Torontonians about food insecurity and child poverty in the hopes of drawing attention to this continual tragedy is a commitment to not just civic life but also a responsibility I believe all of us in the city have -- and that is to protect our most vulnerable and valuable. Our children."
Kevin Clarke: "Fixing up Toronto Community Housing, my Homeless Hunger Feedout, as well as my Garden Not Guns campaign in Scarborough."
Sarah Climenhaga: "Over the course of this campaign I've worked with swimming advocates to raise awareness of water quality and public space by swimming from Ontario Place to the Toronto Island. My campaign podcasts have shared the ideas of accessibility advocates, artists, housing experts and others working for change. I've used my profile to advocate on behalf of a community group trying to save a hockey rink in Davenport, residents who want to be able to use the bake oven at Dufferin Grove, a resident who wanted a barrier to those in wheelchairs removed from Church and Wellesley, and a group of Scarborough residents who are trying to get a rail path created that's been neglected for 50 years. In my regular life outside the campaign I do what all of us residents do to make life better. I build community with my neighbours and my kids' schools. I write letters to my local representatives about what I believe needs to be changed. And I support local businesses in my neighbourhood every day."
Cory Deville: "In the last year I created 'The Deville Foundation.' It's focus is on championing social activism and responsibility within Toronto, and working collaboratively with businesses to action their commitments to sustainability, diversity, inclusion and co-sponsorship for food, housing and transportation. It's still in its 'seed phase' and building up momentum, but I'm proud that my conviction for civic change is taking on greater reality."
Robert Hatton: "Intervened to save a friend from losing her home. Regular contributor to media discussions (letters etc.) of civic issues."
Soaad Hossain: "There are many that I can point to in the last year, but I will mention the two points that I think best demonstrates my ongoing commitment to civic life. I have worked with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association on projects that involved promoting civil liberties in Canadians, and educating Canadians and spreading awareness about legal and social issues such as carding, solitary confinement, privacy and security issues associated with the smart cities, and human rights violations. I have also spread awareness and participated in multiple protests, including the most recent protest in downtown Toronto in regards to women's rights, the situation in Iran and the killing of Mahsa Amini."
Khadijah Jamal: The candidate didn't answer this question directly and instead complained that "too many rules on the road" are making it unsafe for Torontonians.
Ferin Malek: Similarly, Malek didn't discuss their background but listed several priorities including providing more support to Indigenous people and making it easier for undocumented Torontonians to access city services -- "five year plans and 10 year plans should be in place to have better access to city services."
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Gil Penalosa: "In the past year, I have worked closely with communities around the world to create healthier cities where people of all ages and abilities can live fulfilling lives. About 25 per cent of all my city-building work is done pro bono. In recent months I have worked with leaders in Krakow, Poland, in Mexico City, Spain and various cities across North America, including a few weeks designing public spaces in low-income areas of Mexico City to make them more pedestrian-friendly. I have given many workshops, lectures and masterclasses to university students, charitable organizations and other stakeholder groups, sharing my expertise on how to improve city life. In December, I volunteered with the Norman Foster Foundation in Madrid, Spain, mentoring 10 young people from around the world on how to improve their own cities. And, I spent time in Alaska, North Dakota and Wisconsin, advising mayors, community leaders, neighbourhood members and older adults on the World Health Organization's concept of age-friendly cities and how to build safe, accessible and connected communities that welcome and empower independence in older adults. If you design a city that works for an eight-year-old and an eighty-year-old, it will work for everyone."
John Tory: "The last year featured a continuation of Mayor John Tory's steadfast, reliable, accountable leadership during the pandemic, the greatest crisis Toronto has faced. He also began intensive work with the other governments, businesses, labour and non profits to produce a strong economic recovery. Under Mayor Tory's leadership, Toronto finally has a fully funded $28 billion transit plan that all three levels of government have signed on to. In fact, on March 27 we broke ground on the historic Ontario Line -- a bold project that will be transformational for Toronto. This historic progress comes after decades of partisan bickering and changed plans that saw nothing but delays and very little transit built. Mayor Tory has kept taxes low and effectively managed the City's finances through some very challenging times. This included finding $1.6 billion in savings within the existing City budget and securing $3.2 billion in relief funding from other levels of government. He has built more affordable and supportive housing than the past three administrations combined. And he has built more walkable areas, more cycling infrastructure, more parks, and green spaces -- since he took office the budget for parks is up by 20 per cent. He has seen to it that the City put police resources where we need them most -- equipping all frontline police officers with body cameras, increasing the number of neighbourhood community police officers that work every day to build bridges and keep our communities safe. He has also expanded the size of the hate crimes unit to prevent and investigate hate crimes against the City's Jewish, Asian, Muslim, LGBTQ+ and other diverse communities. He is committed to continuing to be the loudest voice in advocating for tougher criminal code measures that will keep guns and violent criminals off of our streets -- these include much tougher bail restrictions, tougher sentencing, increased resources at our border and a national handgun ban. And he has led the city in addressing the real problems of homelessness and addictions and introduced a supportive and modular housing program in 2020 that is not only more cost effective but gives those in need a real opportunity to get out of the shelter system and better their lives. Thousands of supportive housing units have been put in place in the past year alone."
In the last term, what was city council's single greatest accomplishment?
Drew Buckingham: "It's hard for me to take this question seriously to be perfectly honest. How do we talk about city council's single greatest accomplishment or any accomplishment at all when council's failure to address the issue of child poverty is nothing short of an abject failure. Where are the priorities? This issue should be the only matter that council and the mayor work on. Until they get their priorities straight, discussing their accomplishments, in my opinion, is completely irrelevant. Maybe Mayor Tory and city council should try not eating for awhile and see what it does to their emotional well-being. And they are not children."
Kevin Clarke: "Not much."
Sarah Climenhaga: "Rapidly improving our streetscapes with the street cafes and new bicycle lanes that were created on Bloor, Yonge, University and the Danforth."
Cory Deville: "I do not believe city council has had a 'great' accomplishment, and couldn't confidently highlight one. I think council as a whole needs a top down reset."
Robert Hatton: "New bike lanes and street patios during COVID."
Soaad Hossain: "The city council's greatest accomplishment is that they haven't made the city completely unlivable. Sure, crime is on the rise, many people, especially first-time homebuyers are not able to buy new homes, there are no noteworthy positive changes to transit, programs and services are getting cancelled, and more, Toronto hasn't got to a point where it is in a state of emergency."
Khadijah Jamal: "Nothing." Jamal continues to suggest city council delayed the municipal election by a year, which is not true.
Ferin Malek: "Congestion management plan is the city council's biggest accomplishment. Through innovation and technology , we can maximize the safety, efficiency, reliability and sustainability of the transportation network for all users while reducing the impact on the environment and with energy efficient vehicles our city is able to achieve that."
Gil Penalosa: "City council's greatest recent accomplishment was to work closely with Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa to steer the City of Toronto through the COVID-19 global pandemic. City officials empowered Toronto Public Health (TPH) to lead the public conversation on how to tackle COVID and how best to protect the 2.9 million people TPH is responsible for. With 91 per cent first-dose vaccine coverage, Toronto has some of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world. Toronto followed the lead of its public health officials and worked hard to make sure those with vaccine hesitancy, with mobility issues or difficulties accessing vaccines were accommodated. Toronto has a lot to be proud of."
John Tory: "The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the most challenging times in our city's history. I'm proud of the way our city council came together to confront the pandemic as a united front, moving at wartime speed to protect public health and keep Torontonians safe. Led by Mayor Tory, and alongside Toronto Public Health, Toronto became and continues to be a global leader among other world class cities in COVID-19 vaccination coverage with some of the highest first and second dose coverage rates for residents aged 12 and older."
What was council's biggest failure?
Drew Buckingham: "The inability to make any serious inroads to the crushing poverty and hunger of so many children in this city is just completely inexcusable! One in four children in this city live in poverty. That is positively staggering. Where are the great initiatives? Where is the desire to end this cycle of poverty from our municipal leaders and our mayor? Eliminating child poverty should be the dominant issue of city council and of Mayor Tory. But it's so clearly not. That's because this city for too long has just paid lip service to this issue. If that. And that is just heartbreaking."
Kevin Clarke responded to this question by attacking a rival.
Sarah Climenhaga: "City council's approach to COVID-19 was short-sighted and harmful. Banning children from playgrounds, dividing residents through blame and shame, and firing police officers, firefighters and librarians while also preventing students who wanted to work as rink guards or lifeguards because of what should be private medical decisions was a grave error that has caused and will continue to cause huge costs to our city unless we move forward with a different approach."
Cory Deville: "I think this question misses the most glaring problem, and accompanying challenge, of transparency and digestibility with city council decisions. Residents aren't offered a concise, contextually clear and accessible overview of council decisions. My focus as mayor and head of council would be to run council with a focus on return on investment against present day concerns and projected future needs of the city as a whole. I don't think it would be fair to evaluate the fullness of council without having access to the aforesaid so as to make an informed decision."
Robert Hatton: "Losing control of number of councillors, transit planning, and development management to the province."
Soaad Hossain: "The city council's biggest failure is failing to create affordable homes. It has been known for many years that housing affordability is a growing and serious problem in Toronto, yet actions to address this issue has been inadequate. Consequently, people trying to buy homes, people living in a rented space, and others are suffering because of it."
Khadijah Jamal: "A lack of fundamental knowledge of politics and economics." Jamal continues to say the city is run as a "dictatorship."
Ferin Malek: "A governance and electoral system that has proven to be incapable of delivering transparent policies to the common people of Toronto is the biggest failure of Toronto council. All the things that are done citywide should be transparent and city council fails to provide clarity in many aspect."
Gil Penalosa: "City council's biggest failure is not getting a single shovel in the ground on a Housing Now affordable housing project. When it was first announced, the city said it would develop 40,000 new housing units on municipally owned land, including thousands of very affordable rental units, with the first 10,000 targeted for 11 sites unveiled in December, 2018. Four years later, the developments all remain stalled and the ambitious plan has nothing to show for itself. Meanwhile, our population is growing, rents are skyrocketing and many people in Toronto can't afford to live here."
John Tory: "Throughout his past term, the mayor has made clear he is supportive of legalizing and regulating multi-tenant housing as a way to help increase Toronto's housing supply. Unfortunately, there was not enough support from city council to make this change. If re-elected, Mayor Tory would work with the new City Council to move this change forward."
If elected, what would be your priorities in the next term of council?
Drew Buckingham: "To do anything and everything in my power to help bring an end to this devastating failure regarding child poverty in Toronto. Where does this failure lie? It's obviously a complex issue. But undoubtedly part of it rests with our local political leaders and our mayor. There are people and organizations who have been working tirelessly for years to advocate on behalf of our city's children who've been neglected and marginalized. I have so much respect for these people. Let's be clear, though. The next mayor needs to step up and do everything in their power to rectify this systemic injustice being done to our city's children. I believe the mayor of Toronto should lead a crusade against child poverty and hunger in this city. If I were mayor, I would most certainly do that."
Kevin Clarke: "Children's rights, seniors care and affordable housing."
Sarah Climenhaga: "I have four main priorities. Removing barriers to housing in this city, redesigning our streets to quickly create rapid transit corridors and safe lanes everywhere, integrating care for our life support systems into all city decisions, and removing barriers to resident participation so everyone can have a meaningful role in budgeting, urban design and more."
Cory Deville: "The number one issue facing residents of Toronto is housing affordability through the lens of mental health and emotional wellness. Fear comes before the physical reality of being homeless, living pay cheque to pay cheque and or living in near destitute. It demoralizes the soul into survival fuelled desperation often experienced as criminal behaviour, substance use with the goal of escaping a nightmarish reality, and mental health emergencies. Residents who are forced to focus on survival will never be able to create a future in which they thrive; and like any tribe, pack or group, our strength will always be measured by the well being of our most at risk members. Mental Health, [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion], and sustainability efforts sit adjacent to my priority focus, but housing is number one."
Robert Hatton: "Have council ban the use of strong mayor powers; reverse hundreds of millions of ineffective developer tax breaks; reinvest tax breaks proceeds in services; and show leadership on climate initiatives and transit by getting local representatives on the Metrolinx board."
Soaad Hossain: "My top priority will be improving housing, green spaces, transit, arts, activities, roads, programs, services, and infrastructure in Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke. I will address housing by increasing funding and resources needed to improve the condition of existing social housing units, retirement homes and shelters, and introducing new types of homes. I will address the other areas by increasing funding and resources needed to improve infrastructure, programs, services, community centers, etc., and work with relevant parties to ensure the improvements occur."
Khadijah Jamal: "To go through everything at city hall and question and call out all decisions that have actually made the city worse for wear."
Ferin Malek: "I am running as a mayor of Toronto and to provide transparency in whatever I do will be first and foremost priority for me as the next mayor. Every question of a common man of Toronto will be answered in a reasonable timeframe. Accountability and full transparency to all the things we do will be provided."
Gil Penalosa: "My priorities are to deliver a Toronto with more affordable housing, safer public streets and better public services that actually work for the people of who live here. On housing, I will remove red tape on enough land for 1.9 million new homes, I will support a "renovation revolution" to allow owners to divide their homes into multiple units, I will densify all transit corridors and ensure that all housing on public lands will be 100 per cent affordable units. On getting around the city, I will deliver a connected network of convenient, high-speed electric vehicles, I'll reduce speed limits to 30 km/h on all neighbourhood streets to save lives and I'll redesign Toronto's 100 most dangerous intersections. On public spaces, I'll turn parks into year-round destinations with working washrooms and water fountains, allow beer and wine, and city programs for all ages and abilities. And, I'll work with the school boards to transform every school into a community hub with recreation and classes for everyone. My priorities are to build a Toronto for everyone."
John Tory: "The mayor is laser focused on building on progress made over the past eight years on transit, housing and making Toronto a more liveable city. If re-elected, he is committed to moving forward the historic $28 billion transit plan he secured for the city, as well as continuing to build more housing and get it built faster by implementing his five-point housing plan, which includes liberalizing zoning to allow for "missing middle" housing and streamlining the planning process for approving housing."
What role should the city take in where and what kind of housing is built in Toronto?
Drew Buckingham: "The lack of affordable housing in Toronto has certainly been a factor in the amount of child poverty and hunger we see in this city. This city needs to start making some radical choices about how to build a good and compassionate society. Increasing property taxes in certain neighbourhoods that house the extremely wealthy so it could provide a revenue stream that would be put to use to subsidize the neediest of our citizens seems like a good place to start."
Kevin Clarke: "Leadership role."
Sarah Climenhaga: "Toronto has to reform zoning and permit processes by eliminating all but the most critical rules around housing creation. The city should take an active role in bridging opposition between residents and housing providers so housing can be more quickly built that also benefits the surrounding neighbourhoods."
Cory Deville: "The city should proactively protect historical areas, high congestion points and environmental hubs from housing creation. Housing affordability, rather than location, needs to be where the city proactively inserts itself. Residents care about their ability to find sustainable housing, and not what types of housing the city permits. However, in the case of the latter, zoning details and city intervention should be case or "housing type" specific to allow for contextually-relevant acts of intervention, rather than broad stroke band aids."
Robert Hatton: "All roles. Cities are all about creating plans to accommodate and fund growth."
Soaad Hossain: "The city should take an aggressive stance in creating affordable housing as a government. The city is made to help everyone in Toronto, not just the wealthy developers. We have a student, senior, low-income, refugee and immigrant population that is dependent on rental housing, especially international students. But houses should first and foremost be for living in, and secondly as an investment. Investment are great, but should always be second to building life, especially for those who come after us. We need to have a city that is willing to fund projects that increase houses for residents, rather than support building houses for profit. Profit is fundamental for any capitalist society, but we need to be able to draw the line when it comes to building a city where people can be proud to be born and raised in, and be proud that they own a part of. Rather than one they left behind because they could no longer justify to live in."
Khadijah Jamal: Without citing evidence, Jamal suggests "property managers" are getting favours from city hall and said in his view it's "time for little guy to get their time."
Ferin Malek: "City should take upon the role of multi-housing facilities in the form of building more condominiums and more apartments so that more density of people per square footage can be increased. Multi-units will help in building up the City of Toronto's economy and providing more jobs city wide as a whole."
Gil Penalosa: "Toronto is in a housing crisis and we need to elect a mayor who acts like it. Nurses, construction workers, retail clerks, students and those on fixed incomes all deserve to have a home they can afford. John Tory's failed Housing Now program has not resulted in a single shove in the ground and his complicated planning regime has delayed construction with endless litigation. My Housing for Everyone plan is transformational and requires that the city provide the right incentives and allowances to build more affordable homes faster in complete neighbourhoods. First, the city must eliminate red tape to allow rezoning of land for 1.9 million new homes. On public land, the city must cut out for-profit developers and allow 100 per cent affordable and deeply affordable housing. The city must open up new opportunities by incentivizing owners to create a "renovation revolution" to create multiple units in existing homes and ending single-family exclusionary zoning citywide. The city must allow more density on main streets with transit with clear rules that allow 5-12-storey buildings, depending on the width of the road. I also propose that the city create its first City Architect role -- a person who will establish guidelines for private developers that provide surety while encouraging unique architectural excellence, and promote good city building and design practices for the public sector including parks, street furniture, transit stations, libraries and community centres. We can have a Toronto that is more liveable, more beautiful and more affordable."
John Tory: "Canada is facing a national housing shortage, one that is acutely felt in Toronto. The mayor knows that when home ownership is out of reach, and rental supply is inadequate, affordability suffers for all. The mayor is committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing in Toronto. That's why his first campaign policy announcement was a five-point housing plan. This plan outlines the steps he would take to get more homes built, faster, with an emphasis on affordable and supportive housing. The five key pillars of Mayor Tory's plan are:
Expanding housing options by legalizing 'Missing Middle' housing in neighbourhoods, and allowing greater mid-range density on major roads and in areas served by transit.
Cutting red tape and speeding up approval times by creating a Development and Growth Division to streamline the process to get more housing built faster.
Making sure projects move forward and that land that could be used for housing does not sit idle by asking the province to allow the city to enact a 'use it or lose it' policy for developers sitting on approved, but undeveloped, land.
Enabling more co-op, supportive and affordable housing by allocating a portion of city-owned land to be developed by non-profits.
Incentivizing the construction of purpose-built rental housing by reducing fees and charges, as well as prioritizing those applications."
Here's the full list of Toronto mayoral candidates: