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Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter to run for mayor of Toronto, vows not to use ‘strong mayor’ powers

Liberal MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood will have to resign her seat in the legislature before nominations close on May 12.
March 30, 2023
Ben Spurr

Mitzie Hunter is running for city hall’s top job, and is pledging not to use the “strong-mayor” powers granted to the office if she’s elected.

In an interview Wednesday, the Liberal MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood became the latest high-profile candidate to confirm she will contest the June 26 byelection to replace John Tory.

“I am running for mayor to make certain that Toronto is a city that works for everyone,” Hunter said, citing housing affordability and public safety on transit and elsewhere among the most pressing issues of the campaign.

The former chief administrative officer of Toronto Community Housing Corporation plans to sign up for the mayor’s race when nominations open on Monday. But as a sitting MPP, provincial legislation dictates that in order to stay in the campaign until voting day, she will have to resign her seat in the legislature before nominations close on May 12.

Hunter, who was first elected to Queen’s Park in 2013 and served as education minister in Kathleen Wynne’s government, gave no date for when she plans to relinquish her seat. But she said she has no intention of dropping out of the mayor’s race and staying on at Queen’s Park if the early stages of what’s expected to be a hotly contested campaign don’t go her way.

“Mitzie’s in it to win it,” she said.

If she’s successful, Hunter pledged to never employ the powers Premier Doug Ford’s government bestowed on Toronto’s mayor last year. The enhanced authorities include the ability to veto council decisions and pass measures with the support of just one-third of members, and have been called anti-democratic by critics.

Hunter said the strong-mayor powers shut councillors out of decision making.

“It’s important, in fact, that the mayor builds consensus amongst colleagues on council. Those locally elected councillors are representing the voice of Etobicoke, the voice of North York, the voice of East York, Scarborough, and the core of our city,” she said.

Hunter also vowed push the province to allow Toronto to use ranked ballots in municipal elections. The system allows voters to list multiple candidates in order of preference on their ballots, which supporters say results in more democratic results than the current “first-past-the-post” method. Hunter is a longtime advocate of the idea, which would require provincial approval.

To address the series of violent attacks on the TTC, Hunter said she would introduce a multi-pronged plan to improve safety that would include increasing police patrols and deploying social workers on the network, performing safety audits of stations, and eventually installing subway platform doors.

“We need to make sure we address all forms of violence, particularly on our transit system. That has to remain safe,” she said.

Other candidates who have declared they will run for mayor include sitting councillors Josh Matlow and Brad Bradford, who won’t have to resign their seats to contest the election. Former councillor Ana Bailao, former police chief Mark Saunders, urbanist Gil Penalosa, and policy analyst Chloe Brown have all also said they’re running, while Etobicoke councillor Stephen Holyday and former NDP MP Olivia Chow have said they’re considering it.