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Councillor Josh Matlow, photographed on June 23, 2017, has announced he will run for mayor.JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow is running for mayor on a promise to add a 2-per-cent special levy on the property tax bill to help fix struggling city services – and to be more combative with Premier Doug Ford.

The long-time midtown councillor acknowledged that the new levy – which he said would cost the average home-owner $67 a year and raise about $80-million annually – was not enough to address the many problems facing the city. But he called it a realistic starting point.

“I’m very cognizant that, the day after the election, if I’m elected, we are going to have to face a significant fiscal crisis … so there will be more that we have to do,” Mr. Matlow said Tuesday, promising to advocate for a new funding arrangement with the higher levels of government.

Torontonians are expected to go to the polls June 26 in a special by-election prompted by the departure of former mayor John Tory. He had cruised to a third term in October and appeared set to become the city’s longest-serving mayor. However, last month he admitted a lengthy affair with a staff member in his office and announced his resignation.

Officially running to replace him are former councillor Ana Bailao, former police chief Mark Saunders, urbanist Gil Penalosa, who came a distant second to Mr. Tory in October, and broadcaster Anthony Furey. Councillor Brad Bradford is also known to be seriously considering a run, as is Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter.

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The 2022 campaign saw a drumbeat of criticism about the state of Toronto. The problem has crept up on a city that has been in a state of managed decline for years. Toronto’s capital plan shows that the unfunded bill for what’s known as state of good repair – essentially maintenance and replacement of city assets – will balloon over the coming decade to $13-billion for roads, transit and parks.

Toronto is facing a separate revenue shortfall of more than $1-billion because of COVID-19 pressures. This year alone, the TTC is expected to need about $366-million in additional funding because of ridership declines. Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, temporarily leading the city government, recently pleaded for help from the federal and provincial governments, both of which are tabling budgets this month.

At the same time, the city is experiencing a housing affordability crisis that has made it difficult even for people with middle-class jobs to live comfortably. Mr. Matlow said he was broadly supportive of the housing plan Mr. Tory introduced last year, but would bring forward more proposals during the campaign.

He also said there would be no more of what he characterized as a “go along to get along” mayoral relationship with Ontario Premier Doug Ford. He promised specifically to oppose provincial plans to put a private spa at Ontario Place and to open parts of the protected Greenbelt lands to development.

Mr. Matlow, who won more votes in the 2022 election than any other councillor in the city, has been in municipal office since 2010. He has often been an outlier on council, not a reflexive no vote but someone willing to fight battles long after his colleagues have moved on.

He acknowledged Tuesday that the time to change direction on one of these fights – the transit plan for Scarborough, where he has long advocated for the original light rail proposal instead of a subway – has passed. The province is now running that project and a private development partner has already been chosen.

Another subject of regular Matlow criticism – the rebuilding of the elevated eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway – remains under city control. If elected mayor, Mr. Matlow said, he would seek a new report on the feasibility and effects, from cost and city-building points of view, of changing that to a surface-level roadway.

If that report supported a change in direction, Mr. Matlow would need to persuade a majority of council to support him. He has ruled out using the controversial minority-rule powers Mr. Tory sought from the province that allow the mayor to force through certain decisions with only one-third support on council.

With a report from Dustin Cook