John Tory ended months of speculation Monday by registering his candidacy for Toronto mayor, promoting low taxes and a downtown relief subway in a bid to unseat Rob Ford.
Mr. Tory – a lawyer, businessman, radio personality and former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party – has been rumoured for months to be considering running. On Monday morning he formally registered for the October election.
"I love the city and try to be involved with it in as many ways I can throughout my adult life," he said Monday morning after registering his nomination at City Hall. "I think that right now, we're in a time when we need to get the city working together, get the city council working together. To have one city."
Known for fiscally conservative and socially liberal views, Mr. Tory – who narrowly lost the 2003 Toronto mayoral race – has long been seen as the greatest threat to Mr. Ford's chance of re-election. His platform will overlap with some of the mayor's biggest concerns, including subways and keeping a lid on taxes. But he plans to set himself apart as a big-tent conciliator, banking that Torontonians are ready for a more collegial style after the acrimonious mayoralty of Mr. Ford.
Mr. Tory will also represent an alternative for voters on the right who may be hesitant to back Mr. Ford again after the drug controversy that has plagued the past year of his mayoralty.
On Monday morning, Mr. Tory said that building the downtown relief line will be one of his biggest priorities.
"We've decided on building a Scarborough subway. We've got to get on with that. But I'm saying let's build a Yonge Street relief line at the same time. Let's not do what we've done for years in this situation, which is sit around and look at the one we're building now and saying 'isn't that great.' And then wait 10 years to get on with the next one. I'm saying get on with it now. We need it now."
In November of last year, after Mr. Ford admitted to smoking crack cocaine once "in a drunken stupor," Mr. Tory said that he thought the mayor should take time off. But a source on Mr. Tory's campaign said the candidate will likely steer clear of the controversy in his campaign, arguing that the scandal is now well-known.
"My challenge is to put forward a positive campaign about the future of the city, and that's what I'm going to do," he said Monday. Mr. Tory will, however, campaign on "gridlock at City Hall" – an apparent reference to Mr. Ford's polarizing effect on council. In a campaign ad launched Monday, Mr. Tory said "people have to come to work at City Hall – councillors and everybody, and work together, not against each other."
Former TTC chair Karen Stintz is also signing up as a mayoral candidate Monday morning. The fact that Mr. Tory is launching his bid on the same day as Ms. Stintz – also a centre-right contender – was described by a Tory organizer as a coincidence.
A group of Mr. Tory's loyalists have been lining up endorsements for months. Councillor Jaye Robinson, former deputy mayor Case Ootes, Daily Bread food bank executive director Gail Nyberg, provincial minister Brad Duguid and Scarborough Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter (who worked with Mr. Tory at CivicAction) are among them, the source said.
His team will also be filled with big names. Tom Allison, the organizational mastermind behind Kathleen Wynne's stunning leadership victory last year, will be leaving his job in the Premier's office at the end of the week to become Mr. Tory's campaign manager. And two former members of Mr. Ford's 2010 campaign, strategist Nick Kouvalis and Ontario PC party president Richard Ciano, will also be on the team.
Mr. Tory's campaign hopes to compete for votes across the city. In 2003, when Mr. Tory lost narrowly to David Miller, he polled well in Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough. Since then, he has been raising his profile in the central city through work with CivicAction and his advocacy for dedicated revenue to pay for transit. In 2004, he shifted his sights briefly to provincial politics, becoming leader of the Ontario PC Party. He lost the 2007 election to Dalton McGuinty and the Don Valley West seat he contested to Ms. Wynne.
And though Mr. Tory is only now entering the race, he's already been subject of an attack from the Fords. Earlier this month, after advising women who want to get ahead to take up golf, and citing studies that claim women don't ask for pay raises as often as men, Mr. Tory was slammed by Mr. Ford's campaign manager, Doug Ford, as "chauvinistic." Doug Ford further stoked the fire by calling Mr. Tory – a former CEO of Rogers Media – "one of the elites of the 1 per cent."