In a crowded mayoral election, featuring more than 100 candidates, it’s been easy for lesser known politicians to get lost in the shuffle.
While these five candidates are unlikely to win the election on June 26, according to most polls – Olivia Chow is ahead, followed by Josh Matlow, Ana Bailao and Mark Saunders – they bring compelling ideas to the political arena. Some have run for office several times, while others are just starting to get their feet wet in municipal politics. But all have a message to share with Toronto.
Meet five mayoral candidates you might not know yet:
Brown is perhaps the most recognizable on this list. She came in third during October’s mayoral election, earning 6.3 per cent of the vote.
A Mainstreet Research poll on Friday also suggested that she has pulled into a virtual tie with current city councillor and fellow mayoral candidate Brad Bradford for seventh, with the support of more than three per cent of voters.
A native of Rexdale, Brown at one point experienced homelessness before landing permanent employment, eventually ending up as a policy analyst for the Future Skills Centre in Toronto.
Brown’s ideas of community-driven governance may be lofty, but she has the paperwork and the statistics to back her up, as well as a loyal, motivated following.
“Right now I’m just trying to get through the noise and create something really well packaged,” she told CP24 in a phone interview. “And that branding exercise has been very different this time around – look at the volume of candidates and volume of similar sounding platforms – but the approach to policy is the same.”
After coming in third last year, Brown knew what she had to do – keep speaking with working class voters, but work specifically to “challenge the NDP and Liberal machines,” too.
“It’s not just Tory this time,” she said. “There’s three machines. And as a policy analyst, I know I have to sharply define those goals in a way that helps people understand that my proposed models work in other places. There are other cities and countries I’ve borrowed these ideas from.”
One of those ideas, in Brown’s words, is “community ownership of governance structures,” and more participation from constituents in the governmental process.
“There’s an over-representation of executive and management, consultants and former executives in the current structure of the city’s agencies,” she said. “Take housing, for instance: if you put more working people together and given them the land to develop housing, of course it’s going to be affordable, as opposed to for-profit. The establishment has become so comfortable outsourcing its responsibilities…and my hottest take is these labour negotiations haven’t created assets for the very people who put money in them.”
Brown’s been excluded from many of the recent debates but she’s still putting tremendous amounts of energy into engaging voters, she said.
“I’m putting on my own events. I’m allowing myself to talk to audiences of undecided voters,” she said.
“Polling might not capture those voters in the traditional way, but I am.”
Cory Deville isn’t just a candidate – he’s a political party.
“It’s part of my long-term vision,” Deville told CP24. “If I don’t win, I still have to know what I’m passionate about. In establishing the Deville Party of Canada, both on the provincial and federal level, I wanted to make sure I was creating a platform for anyone.” Deville holds diversity, inclusion and innovation at the centre of his campaign, and has made a point of articulating his plans for affordable housing, food insecurity and Toronto’s mental health crisis while on the election trail.
“We have a real opportunity to turn Toronto into the city of tomorrow,” he said. “A city built on diversity. There are certain experiential realities of being a person of colour, or a woman, or a trans person, or whatever your intersectionality might be, that cannot be taught. It has to be embodied.”
Like Brown, Deville has also looked abroad for inspiration on municipal policy, from Paris to New York to Tokyo.
“It almost feels like Toronto is still figuring it out,” he said. “That’s why I’m also stressing this point of promoting innovation.” He added that if elected, he would consider building stronger relationships with other major cities in North America such as New York and Atlanta.
Post-mayoral election, Deville has his sights set on Ottawa.
“My goal, long-term, is to prepare for the prime ministership. I’m using this campaign almost as a litmus test to see how do I react in this political space, so that some 18 months from now, we’ve worked out all the kinks. We’re building momentum, we’re building relationships.
“I think the mayoral position requires a whole new lens,” he continued. “We need to make people feel heard.”
Kiri Vadivelu’s website boasts “socialist solutions to capitalist crisis,” a decisive claim amongst a sea of Liberal, NDP, and Progressive Conservative-affiliated candidates.
Vadivelu, who immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka as a child and now lives in Scarborough, says he is the first Tamil-Canadian to run for mayor in Toronto.
“I want to put forward a socialist alternative to the capitalist system that we’re used to living in,” he told CP24. “That system puts profit before people, whereas our system puts people before profit, and brings innovative ideas to solve the crises the city is facing.”
One issue at the centre of Vadivelu’s campaign is homelessness. If elected, Vadivelu would work to bring forth a city-led construction campaign with the goal of significantly increasing Toronto’s affordable housing supply.
“When we give money to developers, it’s not solving the problem. The city needs to be taking the leadership,” he said.
Vadivelu also believes in free public transit and a shrunken police budget.
“North America, more and more, is a completely capitalist system that alienates its communities. It’s all through the lens of profit,” he said. “And that’s what we’re going to change in Toronto. We’re going to build alliances together.”
TOBY HEAPS (AND MOLLY)
On first glance, Molly the dog’s campaign for mayor might look like a joke.
But the human behind the campaign has a long history in Canadian politics. He’s the son of former Scarborough councillor Adrian Heaps, and the great grandson of A.A. Heaps, who co-founded the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Heaps also worked on Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign and co-founded the Corporate Knights media organization.
But it’s not him who’s running for mayor, in his eyes. It’s Molly, his seven-year-old Russian rescue dog.
One of the key issues in Molly’s campaign is the salt used in the winter – it hurts her paws. She’s also keen on doubling the number of parks in Toronto. These issues, while framed from the perspective of a dog, speak to a larger environmentalist platform for Molly and her human, which also includes expanded public transit hours (for safer travel with pets) and a bid to make Toronto the “number one place in the world for pet-friendly patios.”
“There’s so many opportunities to make the city a great place for dogs,” said Heaps. “People’s days are brightened up when they see Molly. They divert to give her a pat on the head, and that’s a beautiful thing. I honestly think if you have a dog like Molly presiding over city matters, you’d have a much more collegial decision-making process.”
Mason Carrie, 33, was born and raised in Little Jamaica. He’s worked a unique gamut of jobs, from welding to film to special effects to waste management, and in terms of education, he’s studied economics and politics on his own, but he has a high school diploma and a welding license.
But Carrie has big ideas for City Hall.
“I’ve seen the same sort of career politician in power for so many years,” he told CP24. “And I got involved just to see a change and move the dial in the right direction.”
For Carrie, that “right direction” leans more conservative, but he says he’s not a “party line conservative” – “I just don’t see any engaging policy coming from those candidates,” he said. “They’re running on name recognition. I have no idea what they stand for.”
Much of Carrie’s campaign has looked to Japan for inspiration for the future of Toronto – “I have an interest generally in geography and politics,” he said. Tokyo’s public transit, for instance, could be a model for Toronto – it moves significantly more people than the TTC and much more efficiently – but in mayoral eras past, Carrie feels the city hasn’t been up for substantial change.
“John Tory was famous for doing studies,” he said. “Every time he wanted to implement a program or some sort of pilot project, it needed to go through an expensive study. But other cities already have policies, and books, on solutions that work. Those studies have already been done.”
Reducing red tape on construction projects also appeals to Carrie, particularly zoning laws that he feels prevent homes from being reimagined into community housing.
“There’s a million things when it comes to zoning that we can borrow from Japan, and other places, Korea, the Netherlands. Other places have a much more streamlined housing and development policy that would reduce housing expenses,” he said.
One of Carrie’s more eye-catching ideas is a large, Japanese-inspired mascot outside City Hall.
“It’s a nice little tourist attraction and a way to get my campaign some attention,” he said. “There’s a little shock value. I’d put a six-storey Gundam outside City Hall, like the one in Tokyo. Kids would love it. And it’s symbolic of some of the positions in Japanese culture I’d love to impart on the city, especially when it comes to initiatives like recycling.”