Analysis

Doug Ford's win, provincial shake-up, could have major ripple effect at Toronto city hall

PC leader Doug Ford, a former city councillor, is set to become the next premier of Ontario following his party's majority win on Thursday. Several well-known faces from city hall lost their bids to become MPPs. And the Liberals wound up decimated, meaning some prominent politicians will soon be on the job hunt.

PC majority means former city councillors, Liberal cabinet ministers are possible municipal contenders

Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford led his party of a commanding majority on Thursday night, with key wins in the suburbs of Toronto and in rural areas of the province. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The provincial election may be over, but its impact on Toronto's municipal government will be felt for years to come.

PC Leader Doug Ford, a former city councillor, will be the next premier of Ontario following his party's majority win on Thursday.

The vote also split Toronto between left and right, with the orange downtown core contrasting the blue sea of the suburbs. Several well-known faces from city hall lost their bids to become MPPs. And the Liberals wound up decimated with just seven seats, meaning some prominent politicians will soon be on the job hunt.

Those election results could wind up reshaping both the makeup of city council — and Toronto's relationship with Queen's Park.

During the campaign, Ford promised more affordable housing throughout the GTA and an expansion of the GO network, and made Toronto transit a key talking point. His promises of subways, including the long-awaited downtown relief line and the addition of two more stops back into the controversial one-stop Scarborough subway plan, harkened back to his stint on council.

So will he keep that focus on Toronto once he becomes premier? Mayor John Tory certainly hopes so.

"I have focused on building strong relationships and partnerships with all levels of government that have led to historic investments," Tory said in a statement after Ford's victory speech on Thursday night. "I look forward to working with our new Premier and all Toronto Members of Provincial Parliament to ensure that work and those investments in our transit network plan continue."

Doug Ford's support is strongest in Toronto suburbs like Etobicoke. (Jon Castell/CBC)

However, it remains to be seen how the PCs will handle Toronto's housing and transit priorities, including the mayor's signature SmartTrack transit plan.

How Ford treats Toronto in the long run depends on which of his newly-elected candidates make it into cabinet, and what pressures the Conservatives face once they're in office, said political strategist Jim Warren.

"The big challenge with premier Ford is: Does he realize he's the premier and not the mayor, and he can't meddle in the city's business?" Warren added.

Following his late brother Rob Ford's tumultuous mayoralty, Ford ran for mayor against Tory in 2014 and wound up winning a third of the vote. He has also championed more power for city mayors, arguing they should have veto power over councillors.

While Ford's interest in the issues facing Toronto could be beneficial, his mindset on municipal governance and potential interference in local affairs could also "wreak havoc" at city hall, Warren said.

Incoming premier Doug Ford lost his mayoral bid to John Tory in 2014. Now as premier, Ford and Tory will have to work together on key files like transit. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Provincial results could cause council race shake-ups

Thursday's results could have a ripple effect at city hall in another way: Losing candidates of all party stripes may decide to run for councillor spots instead, since the nomination period lasts until July 27.

"An awful lot of city councillors who, right now, think they'll be acclaimed are going to have some prominent political opposition," Warren said.

Two former city councillors who resigned to run for the Liberals — Shelley Carroll for Don Valley North and Chin Lee for Scarborough North — both lost in their ridings on Thursday, prompting speculation about their potential return to municipal politics.

Carroll lost her bid to the PC's Vincent Ke, an engineer, while Lee was felled by the PC's Raymond Cho, also a former longtime city councillor and the incumbent since winning a by-election in 2016.

CBC Toronto was unable to reach Carroll and Lee by publishing time, but before the results Lee said in an email, "I will evaluate the situation when I get to the bridge."

All three councillors-turned-candidates lost in their provincial bids, including Ward 34 councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, left, who ran for the PCs, and Liberal candidates and former councillors Shelley Carroll, centre, and Chin Lee. (Twitter/CBC News composite)

Ward 34 councillor and former deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who took a leave rather than resigning from council to run provincially, also lost in his riding of Don Valley East to the Liberals' Michael Coteau, a member of the legislature since 2011.

CBC Toronto was unable to reach Minnan-Wong by publishing time.

Multiple prominent Liberal incumbents also came up short, including attorney general Yasir Naqvi, treasury board president Eleanor McMahon and fellow cabinet ministers Steven Del Duca, Glenn Thibeault, and Chris Ballard.

That means there's a chance some familiar faces could sign up to run municipally in the weeks ahead, according to Warren.

He said other dynamics will be at play as well given the close timing of the two election campaigns, with the city hall race already underway leading into the October election.

"Those people that just lose by a couple hundred votes [provincially] could turn around and run for city council this fall to try and keep their name recognition up," Warren said.

About the Author

Lauren Pelley

City Hall reporter

Lauren Pelley is a CBC reporter in Toronto covering city hall and municipal affairs. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

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