Mayoral candidate Mark Saunders on Thursday urged others who are running to get in line behind him in order to "stop Olivia Chow,” but the appeal is drawing little enthusiasm.

With less than three weeks left in the election, Saunders issued a press release Thursday, calling for “unity” and claiming that “a vote for any other candidate is a vote for Chow.”

Speaking on CP24 Breakfast to announce his appeal, he said “Saunders is how you stop Chow."

Chow has consistently placed well ahead of all the other contenders in the race, with a lead of anywhere from 20 to 25 points according to the polls. Saunders has trailed well behind at 13-14 per cent support, according to recent polls, with Ana Bailao, Mitzie Hunter, Josh Matlow, Anthony Furey and Brad Bradford each just a few points behind him.

“Saunders invites all voters, including the other candidates, to join in this campaign and work together to STOP Olivia Chow,” his press release reads.

Saunders has worked throughout the campaign to try and frame the election as a choice between Chow and himself and he doubled down on that idea Thursday.

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“I've been consistently second in the polls, except for one. I'm not believing their numbers,” Saunders told CP24. “But the bottom line is this; the only way that we can stop Olivia Chow from being in that seat is to vote for me.”

He claimed Chow would defund police and raise taxes by 25 per cent, while he would hire more officers.

Asked how he would find the money to hire more officers, Saunders did not respond directly.

Chow has said she believes in “moderate” and “not huge” property tax increases in order to pay for programs like building more affordable housing. She has declined to give an exact number for the increase, saying it doesn’t make sense to do so until the city’s needs are assessed through a budget process.

“I wish the other candidates would focus on what’s important, which is making life affordable for people, building affordable housing,” Chow told CP24 in an interview Thursday when asked about Saunders’ comments. “That’s what people care about. That’s what we need to focus on – building the city together. At least that’s what I’m focused on.”

Earlier in the day Chow announced that as mayor she would offer greater support to renters to prevent renovictions. She said many of the problems facing the city have complex roots which could be addressed in part by doing a better job of taking care of people.

Saunders claimed Chow’s candidacy would be “catastrophic” for the city and cited efforts already underway by the city to decriminalize drugs as part of a wider strategy for dealing with the opioid crisis.

The former police chief has campaigned on a promise to reduce crime, and make the TTC safer, while Chow has pledged to make Toronto “a more affordable, safe and caring city.”

In terms of public safety, Chow has said she would expand an existing pilot project in which teams of mental health professionals respond to some non-violent 911 calls for people in crisis. She has also promised an “Emergency Response Transformation Team” to improve lengthy 911 response times.



Asked about Saunders’ appeal to support him, a number of other candidates said Thursday that they don’t plan on going anywhere.

Ana Bailao told CP24 that “Toronto cannot afford Olivia Chow,” but said Saunders “is Doug Ford’s puppet.”

She said voting for him would mean handing control of the city to Ford, who previously appointed Saunders as a special adviser on the controversial Ontario Place redevelopment and welcomed his entry into the race.

Bailao also pointed out she has six sitting councilors supporting her bid, as well as a number of other politicians.

Anthony Furey, whose platform is perhaps most closely aligned with Saunders compared to the other candidates, said he can’t see himself dropping out to support Saunders.

“No,” he told CP24. “I mean we know where the numbers are and we know where the polling is, so I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

He pointed out that according to the recent polls, he’s the only one aside from Chow to show gains recently, though he still sits at least 20 points behind her by the most optimistic assessment.

“I do think this move does look a little desperate on the part of his team,” Furey said, adding that he’s excited to continue sharing his own vision with voters.

Saunders’ appeal comes as advance voting opens across the city. There are advance voting locations, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, starting today and running through June 13.