Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Political spectrum of Toronto mayor’s race

Read more articles by

election-sprectrum-orange Adam Giambrone, Joe Pantalone (both unregistered but have declared intentions)
election-sprectrum-red Shelley Carroll (undeclared but highly rumoured)
election-sprectrum-purpleGeorge Smitherman (registered)
election-sprectrum-blueRocco Rossi, John Tory (registered, “withdrew”)
election-sprectrum-greenGeorgio Mammoliti (registered)
election-sprectrum-greyRob Ford (undeclared but highly rumoured)

With the announcement that John Tory has decided not to run in the 2010 municipal election, Spacing thought it would be a good idea to chart out where we think the candidates (registered, declared, and undeclared) find themselves on the political spectrum. While highly unscientific ā€” not to mention a fun exercise for political junkies ā€” the space occupied by each candidate is based on their public musings or political record.

If we had produced this map a few days ago, we suspect George Smitherman’s purple circle wold have been further to left, but with the exit of Tory from the campaign trail, Furious George may not have to occupy as wide of a spectrum. Even Rocco Rossi’s circle might have been further left too, but we fully expect him to go after the right-of-centre/Red Tory vote since he did work closely with John Tory in the 2003 municipal election.

The true wild card in this spectrum is city councillor and budget chief Shelly Carroll (one of the only outed Liberals on council): the city hall rumour mill says she is still considering a run. Her decision will certainly affect the mayoral bids of councillors Joe Pantalone and Adam Giambrone who will have to reach outside of their core base of voters if Carroll decides to stay out of the race.

Councillor Georgio Mammoliti will probably defy all political predictions and bounce around the spectrum throughout the campaign (where do casinos and red light districts land on a political spectrum launched from the mouth of a former NDP provincial rep?). Rob Ford, predictably, finds himself near American militia territory.

As a side note, it’s quite possible that Toronto’s next mayor may need only 40% or less to win (specifically in a three- or four-person horse race). With a 35% voter turnout (the average of 2003 and 2006 turnout), a candidate only has to convince 15% of eligible voters to choose him or her.



  1. What a fun graphic Matt. Not sure these I feel these distinctions hold up anymore and are maybe a bit tired but one big mistake you made is that Rob Ford should be outside of the entire circle, orbiting, like the moon, in outer space.

  2. I agree Scott, but I like to visualize things. Though, this type of graphic would be good for those with little knowledge of municipal politics. Probably a better illustration would be an issue-by-issue spectrum (ie, where they stand on transit, bike lanes, planning, etc).

    What might be fun to do is use this spectrum graphic throughout the election and recalibrate it as the campaign events dictate. For instance, what if Mammoliti advocates for the destruction of gargabe trucks and switch to horse drawn waste collection to save money? We can move his circle to a more appropriate spot in the spectrum.

  3. When Tory announced he wasn’t going to run, I was pondering who to support (though I don’t live in Toronto proper, I do enjoy spectating its politics and believe that whoever wins also needs to have some accountability to the region as a whole). I’m not too familiar with Shelley Carroll, but her position on this spectrum seems in line with my views.

    Also, how come George Smitherman and Rocco Rossi are so far to the right? Both are Liberals, a party that tends to be more center-left than center-right.

  4. Scottd, best comment ever. Literally laughing out loud.

  5. Cool. Could you add David Miller to the mix for some perspective or as a point of reference?

  6. So where does that leave us? I think TO is looking for a centrist mayor. I am not convinced a far right mayor would be elected in this city.
    By the way, is it just me or is this colour graphic kind of hypnotic? Matt, are you trying to influence our vote with some subliminal message hidden in this imaging…Just checking.

  7. Giambrone and Pantalone as equivalent? Don’t think so. Both of them could do with being further toward authoritatian…

  8. John Tory and Rocco Rossi are both fiscal conservatives and THAT is what our city needs right now. A Mayor that has business smarts, and can get us out of this nasty debt-hole we’ve gotten ourselves into.

  9. I’m glad Matthew suggests that it would be better to do something like this on an issue by issue basis. I don’t really think that ‘left’ and ‘right’ are very helpful descriptors of municipal politicians. Of course there’s the general sense that a ‘right-winger’ would tax less and spend less, but I truly believe that thinking politics=economy is far too simplistic. Is one left or right if they support bike lanes? Does the right oppose transit? Isn’t it in the interests of business to move people around in a ‘good’ way?

    The quality I’m looking for in a future mayor is someone who isn’t so cocksure. It’s too easy to fall into and get caught up in a party or ideology, become angry or ‘impassioned’ and claim to have the One Big Answer (e.g. the Common Sense Revolution). I want a mayor who realizes, and shares with the public, that being mayor is One Big Clusterfuck.

  10. Liking to visualize things can turn you into the proverbial drunk who searched for his keys under a lamp post because he couldn’t see to look where he had dropped them.

    But if you like visualizing things, consider a less comfortable, indeed taboo, aspect of the visuals of Toronto politics: the actual (as opposed to coded) colour of the “serious” participants: all “white”, as in of European extraction, as in recipient of “white” privilege. How come a city where the census identifies 42% of the population as persons of colour, the six serious candidates for mayor makes such a monochromatic lineup?

    On a related note, why do issues that appeal to a downtown population, heavy with members of the “creative class” and, again, with people identified as “white”, come to define city politics? When do we address the question of whether the “creative class” coalition that has set the agenda in Toronto since Jane Jacobs and Bill Davis halted the Spadina Expressway really has a lot of relevance to most residents of the new Toronto?

  11. Excellent comments. In this fantastic multicultural city; our Mayor must understand and address the challenges that new immigrants encounter and consider the latest research including the Colour of Poverty.

    What an excellent idea of having this colour chart for major issues. No one stands static on all issues and having the public along for the journey and tuned into the important issues and where the different candidates stand on that issue.

  12. John, The Toronto City Summit is doing a good job of bringing lots of people beyond Eglinton (and well into the 905) into that creative class/Jane Jacobs long-discussion. I think of it as the extension of the stuff that started way-back-when.

  13. At the risk of being horribly politically incorrect, I am intrigued that some people who call for term limits as a mechanism to change the demographics on Council are people who themselves are not subject to “term limits” in their own field be it professional or as an advocate.

    For example, nobody complains about the diversity (or lack of it) in the folks who run spacing, or all manner of groups that self-select from the broader interested populus. Nobody asks why there are so many middle-aged (or older) white males pontificating on radio and TV about all manner of current events. Experience and knowledge of what went before is valued.

    As an advocate for better transit, I (a white male now over 60) have been in my field for four decades. Should I stop? Oddly enough most of my potential replacements are also white males (it must be a railfan thing).

    For all that I am no fan of Case Ootes or Rob Ford or several others on Council, they were elected by their voters. We may not like it, but that’s who we got. Similarly, if a Miller successor from the left winds up winning with only 35% of the vote on a low turnout (the scenario suggested above), the middle/right will scream and holler that the new mayor “doesn’t represent the city”. The same holds true if a right winger gets in on a similar vote split, and the left will spend a lot of time complaining about the “unfairness” of the outcome.

    We cannot gerrymander the rules to suit whatever the perceived problem is today and hope that the outcome actually fits “our” world view. An example of unintended consequences would have been the old Crombie “reform” council. With term limits, almost the entire left/centre of council would have been deposed in a single election not because they were incompetent, but because they were long in the tooth.

  14. Why does everything have to be about Right and Left? It’s one of the reasons our council is currently useless.

    And of course downtown politics dominate. It’s the heart of the city, province, and country. One could live without arms and eyes and hair but without the heart you’re fcuked. Just look down the 401 at Detroit.

  15. I would shift Mr. Rossi further to the left. You have him far too close to the Conservative edge as he is more of a centrist than illustrated. Clearly you haven’t read the any of his public forum posts from his days with the Liberals.

  16. If we’re having term limits in the working world, I vote we start with Mansbridge and Robertson.

    I would certainly favour consideration of a mandatory “holiday” where someone would have to take a break after 3 terms to create a vacancy. It would allow a new person to bring both new perspective and examine the practices of the past with a critical eye.

  17. I have followed this city’s politics for a long time and and have been involved for a long time and my major concern (as I am sure a lot of citizens’ is – no matter what colour nor creed nor age) is ‘fairness’ and value for money, and that is not what most of these councillors and any mayor seem to understand nor do they understand what makes a liveable city. They waste incredible amounts of time debating non-issues and spend money filling pot holes to get votes when there are major issues that they should be involved in. They should be placing these squarely back on the shoulders of the federal and provincial governments as well as controlling the bodies that are their own.
    Examples are downloading of social services, inequities in market value assessment, the disaster which has been St. Clair Rapid Transit Line ($15 million over budget, 2 years late, 120 businesses down the tube and it’s still not complete and Councillors Mihevc and Giambrone call this a success)- goodness help us with the new lines in the pipe!! ,the lack of coordination between departments at City Hall, the impact of the Ontario Municipal Board on development and the city skyline and waterfront, the scandal about computing equipment leases, the lack of bylaws about storing unsafe chemicals within residential neighbourhoods, raises to unions and the garbage strike etc. etc. Not one of these councillors is ever held responsible for anything. No wonder we have cycnicism – as soon as they got the go ahead to tax they just increased taxes, there was no looking inside to see how they could balance this with improved efficiencies or serve customers better ( try fighting a parking ticket and see how you have to drag out to Scarboro where they have now closed the evening courts, so you just pay up as the normal person cant take a day of work to fight a $30 ticket.) One could go on and on!
    This then brings me to what we need in a mayor – we need someone who can provide a balanced leadership for this body of ‘elected ‘ representatives, knows how to balance short and long term goals, knows how to negotiate with other levels of government, has a great degree of honesty, has had the experience of running a major business – we are talking a budget of in excess of $8 billion per annum, has the ability to set priorities and understands that constantly increasing taxes with deteriorating service levels is not the way to go, understands how to clean up the organization bureaucracy at City Hall. I dont see this in any of the candidates. Perhaps there is such a person out there – would they please stand up and run for Mayor!!!

  18. I was City Hall today, registering for mayoral nomination.

    I know a way of winning with just 2% of the vote and 20,000 dollars.

  19. The idea that somehow the mayor and council will “force” other governments to pony up their share of programs is laughable. The mayor can huff and puff all he wants, but he won’t blow either of their houses down, and will be ridiculed for his efforts just as Miller was. He will be told instead to cut his own municipal spending rather than asking daddy for a handout.

    The mess on St. Clair has to be laid squarely at the feet of bureaucrats in many agencies, but also at the political level where an unfolding disaster was allowed to continue until very late in the process. The politicians didn’t want to hear about how the staff were screwing the neighbourhood or how the reality of construction didn’t match what people were told to expect.

    In the process, all of the agencies involved but especially the TTC have done great harm to the credibility of transit projects of any flavour.

  20. Mark,
    I don’t see your name yet as a registered candidate for mayor. But I am intrigued by your comments. Do tell how one can win with 2% of vote and 20,000.

  21. Steve Munro: I said nothing about term limits. And, for the record, I don’t necessarily support term limits. But I do believe a political spectrum has to reflect the issues that matter to the health of this city. Those issues, inevitably, include who represents the city, whom we encourage to participate and whom we exclude.

    I make no apology for saying that when the campaign for mayor of a city with a 40+% African, Asian, and Aboriginal population turns up six serious candidates, all six of European extraction, we have something to talk about. If, as you say, all the public transit advocates you know come from European backgrounds, then you have either failed to communicate your passion to a large part of the population, or you and the public transit advocates from communities of colour don’t know each other. Either way, that makes the future of transit in this city a good deal less bright than we could have made it. Cyclists, myself included, have the same problem: we haven’t effectively reached out to the communities of colour in this city, although we do try, and I expect we will do better. Denying this problem won’t make it go away. Also, yes, it does strike me as unlikely that the 40+% of the population of Toronto from communities of colour has nothing valuable to say about the state of city, or world, affairs, so it does strike me as inappropriate (to say the least) that such a high proportion of the talking heads we watch and hear have “white” skin.

    adam: I used to live in the Detroit area. I know it well. I can tell you that the malaise in Detroit has many causes, not least of them this: that Detroit abandoned many of its people, and its neighbourhoods. City politics sent out the message that some residents and neighbourhoods just, well, mattered, and others just, we didn’t. And the people of Detroit reacted in a pretty predictable way: they burned more of the city every October 30 (hell night). You can use whatever metaphors you want, but just calling the downtown the “heart” of the city won’t convince me that issues the rest of Toronto faces shouldn’t matter.

  22. Any chance non-citizen residents of Toronto will be allowed to vote in the mayor’s election? Miller had mentioned this at one point but I don’t think it went anywhere.

  23. Stevemunro’s comment of 1pm… agree that term limits are not the answer (or even advisable), but I think there’s an awful lot of room for improvement in terms of setting limits/rules that will stem the ability of incumbents to use their influence/powers of office to get re-elected.
    Stevemunro’s comment of 6:32pm…. BANG ON!

    Have to say that this schematic (though not atypical) summarizes much of what I find troubling by many of the writers/commentators at Spacing. Too many people seem quick to define “progressive” in terms of “left” or “right”, whereas I think a better understanding of “progressive” would exclude the “authoritarian”. In this sense, I don’t see how the “authoritarian” types on the so-called left can be talked about as “progressive” any more than those on the right. I just don’t think that a “authoritarian progressive” is a progressive that is worth fighting for.

  24. What makes a progressive, then?

    I would say two things:

    1) A desire to balance efficiency and freedom with equity and fairness; the “left”, broadly defined, resists a winner-take-all society, and will generally support higher taxation to provide health, safety, and social assistance.

    The “left” in Toronto has a spotty record here; the left on city council doesn’t mind spending money, and they support transit, which offers mobility for the poor, but don’t ask them about fair sharing of political power or environmental burdens.

    2) A desire to maximize freedom on all other matters; progressives generally resist attempt to legislate any version of morality, other than basic equity.

    Toronto progressives do this.

  25. Matt, by the way. This morning Shelley Carroll registered for her council seat in Don Valley East. So she’s out of the mayor’s race.

  26. Not true Kris. She can withdraw and enter the mayor’s race at anytime. I know she has no plans to leave politics and I suspect her seat in quite safe up in North York. This could be a stop-gap measure.

  27. This is one year I would not like to see the Budget Chief trying to impress the various editorial boards but rather stick to worrying about City finances. It might disappoint Ms. Carroll’s supporters for this outing, but I think she should think twice not just about running, but also endorsing a candidate that does. Ideally, the incoming mayor – whoever that is – would then keep her on for at least the first year of the term.

  28. Matt, true Shelley Carroll can withdraw her candidacy for her council seat and run for mayor instead. But with a crowded race, new rules banning corp and union donations and others with a head start, and she is budget chief and focused on that…She’d be trying to play catch up if she ran for mayor later. But I get your point.

  29. Hi my name is John Letonja I am also a candidate for Mayor please type in my name on the net to see my platform. I am the unknown it seems the media are for the high profile want to be Mayors, I am willing to debate with anyone out there. They must be scared that I am running. The public has a right to know.

    Thanks from John letonja