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Councillor Brad Bradford, right, speaks to former mayor John Tory, in the council chamber ahead of a budget meeting in Toronto, on February 15. The councillor has announced he plans to join the race for mayor.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Toronto councillor Brad Bradford is running for mayor, arguing that the city is “at a breaking point” when it comes to safety and affordability.

The Beaches-East York councillor said he would not hesitate to use new strong-mayor powers, including the controversial ability to push some decisions through council with minority support. And he said he would look for ways to direct the city budget to Toronto’s most pressing needs.

Mr. Bradford has been facing criticism from both left and right for his changing stance on police funding.

In July, 2020, during the summer of protest over the killing of George Floyd in the United States, he called for more money to be spent on social services and argued that racism was being perpetuated by “the status quo of policies and funding models.” Last month he challenged a council colleague who called for $900,000 of the $1.2-billion police budget to be directed to social services, asking her whether that amounted to defunding officers.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Bradford would not address his earlier call for a reduction in police funding, noting repeatedly that he had voted five consecutive times for an increase in the law enforcement budget.

“Right now, we’re having a lot of challenges with crime and public safety in the city of Toronto,” said the councillor, who was first elected in 2018 and currently chairs the city’s planning and housing committee. “That is what people are telling me.”

Earlier Tuesday, without mentioning Mr. Bradford by name, Premier Doug Ford urged Torontonians not to vote for a mayoral candidate who would cut police funding. Councillor Josh Matlow, who is also running for mayor, has called as well for the police budget to be reduced.

Former mayor John Tory resigned last month after admitting to having an affair with a member of his staff. The mayoralty should be declared officially vacant by city council this week, starting the clock ticking on a by-election likely to take place June 26.

The race is happening in the wake of a series of violent incidents on the TTC that have shaken passenger confidence.

Toronto also continues to struggle with the financial effects of COVID-19. The city is out more than $1-billion over the past two years and has been unable to convince either Queen’s Park or Ottawa to close the gap.

Mr. Bradford said the city needed to identify and focus on its priorities. He did not agree that this would require cuts in other areas.

“Local government can’t be everything to everybody, we just need to be clear on the things that we’re going to do,” he said, ruling out a special levy to fund city policies.

“I don’t think there are a shortage of resources at city hall. I think we need to be more effective in the prioritization of what we are delivering for people.”

Mr. Bradford joins an increasingly crowded field.

As well as Mr. Matlow, former councillors Ana Bailao and Giorgio Mammoliti are running, as is former police chief Mark Saunders. Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter has promised a run and broadcaster Anthony Furey says he is in the race.

Former councillor, MP and 2014 mayoral candidate Olivia Chow has said she is considering a run.

The winner will receive the strong-mayor powers granted by the province, allowing them to hire and fire senior staff and to write the city’s budget. They could also pass some bylaws with only one-third support.