Toronto council candidates knocking for votes now that race is (finally) underway

From York South-Weston to Scarborough-Agincourt, well-known councillors and underdog candidates alike are bringing their messages to voters.

In 25-ward system it will be even tougher to defeat incumbents

Lekan Olawoye, who is making his second run for Toronto city council, knows it will be hard to topple the incumbent councillors in his ward. But, he says, it starts at the door: 'this is where the change happens.' (Mary Wiens/CBC)

For Lekan Olawoye, the fact that Toronto city council will now have 25 seats is just another giant obstacle to overcome.

"We'll get it done," he tells a campaign worker in his office moments after hearing the news.

Olawoye, who is taking a second shot at getting elected in the new version of York South-Weston, now has to topple two long-term incumbents — Frank Di Giorgio, who beat him by 1,343 votes in 2014, and Frances Nunziata, who cruised to a landslide win in her former ward — and at least five others (the city has reopened the nomination process until Friday).

Incumbents almost always win in Toronto. It's such a well-known fact that many strong would-be candidates, including Jennifer Hollett and Chris Moise, have announced Thursday they won't keep running in the 25-ward system.

But if Olawoye is feeling the pressure he isn't showing it while CBC Radio's Metro Morning follows him along on the campaign trail.

After hearing the news that a panel of judges had ruled it will be 25 seats instead of 47 - political candidates went right back to work, knocking on doors. Mary Wiens caught up with two of them, talking to voters in wards twice as large as the ones they were working with when their campaigns started. 6:28

"For 30 years we've had the same city councillor in our neighbourhood," Olawoye tells one woman who answers her door.

"We need new ideas, new perspectives."

Olawoye's message focuses on several key issues in York South-Weston: the ongoing concern of basement flooding (one homeowner says he just spent $25,000 cleaning up his home) and a surge in gun crime. He tells residents his rivals have no plan to fix what's happening.

The sell doesn't always work. One woman tells Olawoye she likes Nunziata and will keep supporting her, arguing the councillor can't help it, crime happens.

Others appear open to his message, but firm commitments are hard to come by.

Olawoye says he isn't surprised. He considers the neighbourhood where he's door-knocking to be Nunziata territory.

"This is where the hand-to-hand combat is happening, this is where the change happens," he said.

Nunziata, council's speaker, hasn't been waiting around to launch her re-election campaign, either. She held a campaign kickoff last Saturday, and appears to be making the rounds just like Olawoye. Di Giorgio, meanwhile, is officially launching his campaign this coming Saturday with a community barbecue.

Incumbent showdown in Scarborough

Coun. Jim Karygiannis, a vocal proponent of the 25-ward system, seems delighted to be back out on the campaign trail.

"Whoopee, let's go ahead and do it!" he tells Metro Morning producer, Mary Wiens, on his way to some homes near his campaign office.

Coun. Jim Karygiannis likes his odds in the redrawn ward of Scarborough-Agincourt, but he's up against Coun. Norm Kelly. (Mary Wiens/CBC)

There is one problem: Coun. Norm Kelly, another long-time councillor who also happens to have a famous Twitter account, is also running in the new Scarborough-Agincourt.

"Either Mr. Kelly will retire me, or I will retire Mr. Kelly," Karygiannis said.

Kelly doesn't seem bothered by the competition. His latest tweet on Thursday: a reminder that Carly Rae Jepsen's hit Call Me Maybe was released on this day in 2011.

There are at least four other candidates running in Scarborough-Agincourt.

Toronto's election is set for Oct. 22.

With files from Mary Wiens