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Toronto’s 2014 mayoral candidates compared: Chow, Tory, and Ford

By Jay Stooksberry

It is very rare for a mayoral race to receive any international attention, but that is exactly what is going on in Toronto’s 2014 election. What has drawn attention to the race is most the result of one individual: the controversial incumbent, Rob Ford. Ford’s notorious substance abuse issues and private vices have drawn ire and ridicule from the media and public at large. Despite the controversy, Ford refuses to step down and continues in his efforts to get reelected. As a result, a new batch of candidates have risen to the surface in an effort to take the current mayor to task for his perceived failures and indiscretions, and oust him from office. Two of the most prominent candidates include John Tory and Olivia Chow. To better understand these candidates, let’s review their differences of opinions on the broader issues.

Olivia Chow

Economic Policy
On economic matters, the candidates distinguish themselves across party lines. As a Progressive Conservative, John Tory tends to carry the torch of deregulation and privatization as a means for driving economic production. Tory tends to advocate the reduction of public services as a means for cutting government expenses. Based on these views, Tory is often the target of criticism from progressives and trade unionists.

Although he is an independent, Ford carries a relative similar economic philosophy to Tory. As a former Progressive Conservative Party member, Ford was elected largely on his stance of stopping the “gravy train” of government expenses and taxes. (One will find that the majority of Ford’s policy stances mirror those of the Progressive Conservatives.) He has long argued that Toronto’s fiscal problems are the result of a “spending problem, not a revenue problem,” indicating that excessive public subsidies have created a burden on private markets.

On the other side of the aisle stands Olivia Chow. As the leading New Democratic Party candidate, Chow sees public subsidies as a form of investment for economic development. Focusing heavily on transportation infrastructure, Chow does not shy away from the predominately Keynesian stance of her party – invest public funds, especially on infrastructure, in the short term as a means of stimulating aggregate demand in the long term.

Rob Ford

Social and Cultural Issues
The differences between these candidates is highly demonstrable when it comes to beliefs on social issues.

Take gay rights as an example. Ford continues to draw significant criticism for his lack of sensitivity toward the LGBTQ community. He forcibly removed rainbow flags that were raised in solidarity for the Russian LGBTQ community. In addition, Ford defends traditional marriage, and supports most efforts to ban same sex marriage. Meanwhile, Tory and Chow disagree with Ford. Both candidates advocate the legalization of same sex marriage in Canada. Tory bravely broke away from his conservative base in support of such a policy, which has helped him stand out and draw the attention of independent voters.

When it comes to cultural sensitivity, Chow is typically viewed as the leader in this aspect of the race. Born in Hong Kong, the trilingual Chow is considered a champion and shining example of immigration – a topic of great importance for the culturally diverse city of Toronto.

John Tory

Leadership Style
How these candidates will lead while in office presents another interesting dimension worthy of discussion.

Ford is often considered to be bombastic in his approach to leadership. Outspoken and unapologetic, Ford has developed a reputation as a highly volatile public figure. His temper has been on public display during interviews or legislative sessions. Ford is considered to be a “shoot from the hips” style of leader, who goes with his gut instinct on numerous city issues.

Drastically different in their approach, Chow and Tory are much more pragmatic and prudent in how they communicate. Chow, in particular, is often viewed as a policy wonk, who loses herself in the technical details and meticulously scrutinizes numbers as opposed to getting caught up in politicization of the issues. Tory, on the other hand, has honed and perfected his talent for public commentary during his time as radio host.

This race continues to fluctuate in the polls. As of the date of this publication, Chow stands as the frontrunner. However, it is still too early to say it is “in the bag” for her. There is still a lot of time left until the final vote on October 27th, and a lot can happen between now and then. Will Ford be able to improve his image or will another public gaffe cause him to lose his seat? Or will one of these many reform candidates be able to take some of the spotlight away from Toronto’s embattled mayor? Stay tuned for the next five months; it may be a bumpy ride.

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