John Tory made his final decision to run for mayor less than 10 days ago, after sitting down with his wife and children at a family meeting.
While Mr. Tory has made political bids in the past – including as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and a failed run for Toronto mayor in 2003 – he told The Globe and Mail this time is different.
"I think the need for my particular type of skill and experience is greater now because of what we've been through," he said – an apparent reference to the controversy that has surrounded Mayor Rob Ford since his election and especially in the past year, with an ongoing drug scandal.
"I think we need now to have somebody who can treat every councillor with respect, to treat every corner of the city with respect, to take the job seriously every day, and work towards certain goals."
Mr. Tory's decision came after months of rumours, countless backroom meetings of organizers and public calls for him to run. But he only knew for sure, he said, after talking with his wife and four kids one weekend earlier this month.
"Families – they're involved with this too, whether they want to be or not. And they were all cool," he said. "It was around that time when I knew it was going to happen."
Mr. Tory's decision, made official on Monday, appeared to surprise even his rival candidates, and has already shifted the landscape for the fall election. His registration launches him as a front-runner, and threatens to split the vote on an already crowded field on the right. Case in point: On the same day, centre-right councillor and former TTC chair Karen Stintz also registered.
As a testament to the threat he poses to Mr. Ford's re-election chances, Mr. Tory spent much of the first day of his campaign on the defensive, already under attack by the Ford camp. Mr. Ford's brother and campaign manager, Doug Ford, slammed Mr. Tory – a former Rogers CEO and CFL chairman – as "blue-blooded elite" compared with the Fords' "blue-collar" style.
"I'm a husband, I'm a grandfather, and I'm a father. I've stood on doorsteps in Malvern, and up in Jane and Finch," Mr. Tory said. "There's a lot of things that people will learn about me in the course of the campaign. He's got to say what they've got to say, but I'm going to put forward a positive vision for the people of Toronto."
Meanwhile, Ms. Stintz's campaign suffered some setbacks out of the gate. Mr. Tory's announcement took some of the thunder out of her entrance into the race, and she arrived for her photo-op with her children and husband at her side, but without any identification. After it was fetched and she registered, Ms. Stintz promised to run a campaign to unite the city.
Like Mr. Tory, Ms. Stintz supports building a downtown relief subway line – although she believes it can be done without new fees. Mr. Tory, meanwhile, declined to reveal how he would finance the project – saying this will be revealed later in the campaign. One of his other main platform items, however, is to keep property taxes low.
On the growing call to tear down the eastern leg of the Gardiner Expressway, Ms. Stintz said she plans to present a "hybrid solution" that would reconfigure the highway to open up surrounding lands, but keep the connection to the Don Valley Parkway. She's also interested in expanding the Exhibition Place soccer stadium BMO Field so that the city could host large sporting events such as the Winter Classic hockey game and the World Cup.
The mayor welcomed the new rivals to the race, and speculated about the entrance of others, including New Democrat MP Olivia Chow, and his former ally, Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.
"The more the merrier," he said on Monday, before dismissing the potential of vote-splitting by describing himself as "the people's mayor."
"I will take care of anyone, any time. Just call me. I'm fiscally responsible. I've got a proven track record. I want to see their track record," he said.
Ms. Chow, who said on Monday she is still "seriously considering" running, also welcomed the news.
"Toronto needs a new mayor. So it's good to see Mr. Tory and Ms. Stintz are in the race. Our city needs a good debate about its future."