Housing and Crime Major Issues as Tory Seeks Third Term as Toronto’s Mayor

Housing and Crime Major Issues as Tory Seeks Third Term as Toronto’s Mayor
Toronto Mayor John Tory speaksToronto Mayor John Tory speaks during a press conference at Queen’s Park in Toronto on June 27, 2022. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press) during a press conference at Queen’s Park in Toronto on June 27, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Cole Burston)
Lee Harding

Seeking a third term as mayor of Toronto, John Tory is the candidate with the most name recognition, but with pressing issues like the high cost of housing, crime, and transit facing Canada’s biggest city, 30 others have joined the contest to challenge him.

When announcing his renewed candidacy in May, the 68-year-old said he has extensive experience and the ability to work with other governments to keep Toronto “on track” while making it a great place to live.

Tory was unavailable for an interview, but Jenessa Crognali, his campaign director of communications, told The Epoch Times the incumbent has directed more dollars to crime prevention programs in recent months and wants to complete his legacy on other fronts.

“The mayor is committed to moving forward the historic $28 billion transit plan he secured for the city, continuing to build affordable housing, keeping our economy strong by continuing to attract jobs and investment, keeping our streets safe and helping those in need right across the city,” Crognali said.

On Aug. 23, Tory released a five-point plan to make housing more available and affordable. It includes allowing more density on major roads and areas served by public transit, cutting red tape and speeding up approval times, incentivizing the construction of rental housing, and implementing a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy on approved but undeveloped projects.

Challengers and Issues

Blake Acton, a 54-year-old retired police officer who spent 30 years as a Toronto constable, is one of Tory’s 30 challengers in the electoral race. He says opponents to Tory are a “silent majority” expressing broad discontent.

“More people are telling me they’re fed up with the city. They are fed up with the way that the city hall is being run. They’re fed up with the decision-making from our current mayor. They’re fed up with bike lanes—now they’re all over the place,” Acton said in an interview.

“I pay taxes, and what am I getting for my taxes? I’m getting carjackings. I’m getting gridlock. I can’t even use the parks without stepping on a needle, and people that are homeless aren’t being helped.”

Acton says homelessness and crime contribute to the transit problem.

“A lot of people are reluctant to use the TTC because they say the TTC is nothing but a mobile shelter right now. [The homeless are] sleeping on TTC buses and subway cars. We’ve got a broken system, and it has to be fixed.”

In July, 28-year-old Nyima Dolma died after being set on fire at a Toronto transit station. Last year, a man was convicted of second degree murder after pushing 73-year old Yosuke Hayahara in front of a subway train. His killer, John Reszetnik, mistook him for the landlord who had evicted him.

The number of major crime incidents in the city in 2022 to date is 29,197, up from recent years. For the entire year of 2021, such incidents numbered 24,680, and in 2020, it was at 25,984. Pre-pandemic, in 2019, the figure was 28,988, and in 2018, it was 26,944.

Urbanist Gil Penalosa and real estate expert Stephen Punwasi are two new mayoral candidates with a public profile. Sarah Climenhaga, who finished sixth in the 2018 mayoral race, is the highest vote-getter to challenge Tory again on Oct. 24.

Like Acton, she is against vaccine mandates.

“The lone voices that have spoken up to question mandates, to question lockdowns, to question the unintended consequences of some of these policies ... were suppressed or vilified and criticized. Now, people are willing to start asking those questions,” Climenhaga said in an interview.

“I have a lot of support, not just some people who have been critical of this approach since the beginning, [but others] who are just saying, let’s get on with it. Let’s focus on housing, let’s focus on crime. let’s focus on transit. Let’s not have this artificial separation and polarized debate.”

The former outreach coordinator for Cycle Toronto says Toronto’s housing problem is acute and the city should minimize hindrances for homeowners and builders with solutions.

“There’s a lot that we could do that doesn’t have to involve a lot of spending but can still yield housing,” she said.

Twenty-five-year-old Soaad Hossain, the youngest of the mayoral candidates, is emphasizing affordability, transit, and programs and services. The project manager and expert in artificial intelligence believes Toronto should improve both its conventional and “smart” infrastructure.

“Whether you have a car or you’re taking transit, it’s a struggle on both fronts. There’s a lot of traffic and congestion that makes it difficult to go around the city. And the services aren’t that frequent for TTC,” Hossain said in an interview.

Hossain, who has volunteered for NDP campaigns at the provincial and federal levels, says he also wants to address racism and political apathy. Seven of the city’s 25 councillors aren’t seeking re-election, yet the 164 ward candidates number half of the 2018 total.

“There’s this increase in people that are losing faith in the system altogether,” Hossain said.

“Seeing the number of voters increase altogether would be considered as a win, and more engagement from people from different classes and socio-economic backgrounds—not just the people that have the money.”

Tory, a former lawyer, political strategist, and leader of the opposition in provincial parliament, beat Doug Ford and Olivia Chow in the 2014 race. In 2018, he took over 63 percent of the vote, while second-place Jennifer Keesmaat received nearly 24 percent.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Soaad Hossain’s involvement with the NDP. Hossain has been a volunteer for NDP campaigns. The Epoch Times regrets the error. 
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