Toronto Mayor
2010-12-08 12:02:12
Related topics : Toronto Mayor : Election 2010

Turnout up 11 percent to 51%

Turnout was up but was it fear of or support for Ford?

The number of people going to the polls in the 2010 Toronto municipal election jumped dramatically according to the figures recently released by the City of Toronto Elections office.  While just 39.3% of eligible cast a ballot in 2006,  that number increased to 50.5% in 2010 and almost 230,000 more people voted in 2010 than did  in 2006.  That was a huge increase and it topped all voting rates since amalgamation in 1997.  Moreover, it has to be seen against the decade long fall of turnout rates in federal and provincial elections in Ontario.  

Why did more people vote this time and do the numbers tell us anything about the contest?

As the table below shows, turnout increases in years when there is no incumbent, there are several high-profile candidates and the race is thought to be close.  The 1997, 2003 and 2010 mayoralty races all met these conditions and had the highest number of voters and probably the three highest percentage turnouts.  The one anomaly was 2003.  It is not clear why there was such a low turnout in that year, but prior to the 2006 election, more than 200,000 names were removed from the municipal voter register.  This suggests that in 2003 the true number of eligible voters was lower and the percentage voting therefore was higher than the table indicates. 



Total Eligible


Ballots cast

% Voted





















A race without an incumbent mayor draws in more candidates with the needed connections to raise the substantial amounts of money needed to run a competitive campaign.  While the final result in 2010 was not close, for much of the campaign there appeared to be 4 or 5 credible candidates in the race to replace David Miller.  The activity of the campaigns, each spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, will certainly have raised awareness and probably encouraged voting.   Moreover, for the first time, candidates had to raise all of their financing from individuals because money from corporations and unions was banned.   This would have forced candidates to broaden their financial support and thus raise awareness of the campaign and the candidate. 

During the campaign and since election day, there has been a lot of commentary about how the Ford campaign capitalized on what was said to be an electorate angry at out of control spending, declining services, rising property taxes and expensive transit schemes funded by things like vehicle licensing taxes.  Suburbanites were said to be particularly vexed by the underlying issues and therefore open to campaign exaggerations.  Did that anger drive up turnout and if so, did it help Rob Ford? 

While turnout was up overall, in the 31 wards where Ford won, it averaged just  48%,  or 5.25% less than in those wards where George Smitherman was the victor.  Even when we compare ward turnout in 2010 and 2006, the figures do not support the view that angry suburbanites flooded the polls with Ford votes.  In wards that Ford won, turnout increased by an average of 10 percent, whereas the increase in wards won by Smitherman, mostly in the downtown, was about 13 percent.   It would seem that fear of a Ford victory in the city centre mobilized more voters than did support for his campaign in the suburbs. 

Most studies of turnout find that administrative disenfranchisement is the largest single reason for people not voting.  This could be as simple as not getting a notice of where to vote, being faced with a long line-up at the polls, polling stations that inaccessible, limited polling hours and so on.   The Toronto Elections office worked closely with Toronto Community Housing and other large landlords to raise awareness of the election and encourage people to register and vote.  They also advertised widely, used social media and ran an outreach program that encouraged voters to register.  While TCHC housing is spread about the city, a large percentage is concentrated in the downtown areas where it was observed above, that turnout increases were the highest.  Coincidentally, these were also the wards where Smitherman’s vote was the highest.  Of course aggregate data doesn’t allow the conclusion that TCHC residents supported Smitherman, and there is some evidencethat many supported Ford and that access to transit may have been an important reason.

Media coverage of the election, because of the number of candidates and because of Ford’s sometimes controversial campaign, was certainly higher than in 2006 when most thought that Miller would be re-elected.  There were a number of other groups that were also active during the campaign urging people to get out and vote and providing internet forums for the discussion of campaign issues.    Media coverage and other groups could certainly have heightened awareness and perhaps encouraged more to vote.

Turnout figures have limited usefulness.  They don’t tell us why people did or did not vote or how they voted.  To get at those answers we would have to have interviews with individuals.   But the 2010 figures do seem to weaken the suggestion that Ford’s victory was the result of a suburban uprising.  He did win the suburban vote but not because of a huge turnout.  On the contrary, other factors could easily account for the increase in turnout in the suburban wards.  If suburbanites were angry, more than half still chose to stay at home.   

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April 3rd, 2011 01:22:24
Related topics : Toronto Mayor : In the News : Election 2010

Record deficit on Rob Ford’s Mayoral Campaign

Mayor Rob Ford’s election campaign up to the recent filing deadline ended with a record deficit, the biggest ever recorded by any candidate for Mayor in Toronto, or for that matter, almost certainly anywhere in Canada.

His interim financial statement showed his campaign owing $639,527 at the end of December 2010.  Just to put that impressive liability into perspective, Mel Lastman ended his 1997 campaign with a small surplus of just over $1,000.  In 2000, he raised $364,370 more than he spent. David Miller’s 2003 campaign year end accounts reported spending $159,302 more than it took in revenue.  He erased the deficit in the extended fund raising period in 2004 and entered the 2006 campaign with a slight surplus.  Miller again ran a deficit in the 2006 election year of $98,517.75 but paid this off in the following months.

Losing candidates for Toronto Mayor have run up large deficits in the past.  Jane Pitfield ended her 2006 campaign $150,339 in the red and Barbara Hall was left having to pay $245,000.  

Not surprisingly, winning candidates rarely have difficulty paying off campaign deficits.  Lobbyists, corporate leaders and many others will be writing cheques to prove their support for the Mayor, and hoping for quicker access to decision-makers.  Those who supported the losing candidates are no doubt demonstrating their neutrality by writing cheques for the winner. These things do not go unnoticed by politicians, their staff and partisans.

Unlike provincial and federal levels where campaign debts are assumed by the constituency parties, in municipal politics in Ontario the candidate is responsible for paying overdrafts, loans or suppliers.  That means an elected official is open to all sorts of influence that comes with fundraising schemes like auctioning off luncheons with the Mayor. 

Like Lastman before him, Ford is a wealthy business owner and may well end up paying part of the deficit himself. Some of the money is surely owed to the Ford family owned company and if the entire debt is not paid off, it will take some untangling to show that the family firm has not exceeded the contribution limit.

April 3rd, 2011 01:05:48
Related topics : Toronto Mayor : In the News : Election 2010

Rob Ford Disclosure vs Pre-disclosure

A comparison of Rob Ford’s list of contributors disclosed before election day with the list disclosed at the end of March 2011 raises a number of intriguing questions. 

Voluntary pre-election day disclosure of contributors by the leading mayoralty candidates in Toronto has become something of a custom over the past three elections.  The candidates are not obligated to reveal their contributors, George Smitherman chose not to and was criticized for it, but do so to avoid criticism of having something to hide.  The problem is that all voluntary disclosures are unregulated.  We have no idea whether some contributors names were held back to avoid awkward questions.

December 14th, 2010 05:09:47

Rob Ford and Toronto's Fault Lines

Writer Bill Freeman explores the political fault lines that were exploited by Rob Ford and resulted in his election as Mayor of Toronto.

October 13rd, 2010 05:53:13
Related topics : About Us

About Us

Data on contributions over $100 made to candidates is derived from the official election returns filed by each candidate with the elections officer. The names of frequent contributors are normalised and clustered by as the same entity when evident from appearances in other returns. 

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of contribution data, cannot guarantee the accuracy of data collected from third parties. will strive to correct any inaccuracies brought to its attention. This should be done by e-mailing is independent of any organized political party. editorial positions are arrived at by reviewing voting records, campaign contribution r ecords, the organization and funding of candidate campaigns, and community references and candidate positions on issues of the day. reserves the right to change its assessment of issues and candidates, at any time, as other information comes forward.

October 13rd, 2010 05:57:50
Related topics : 2010 Campaign Pre-disclosure

Few incumbents favour ban on corporate contributions

A recent Fair Vote Canada survey of 474 city councillors and mayors in Ontario’s 42 largest cities (other than Toronto) found only 35 city councillors and two mayors willing to support a ban on corporate and union campaign contributions in municipal elections (see list here) – a ban already instituted in many jurisdictions in Canada.

October 13rd, 2010 05:57:50
Related topics : 2010 Campaign Pre-disclosure

Why is predisclosure important?

Candidates are not obliged to make their election contributions public until five months after the election. Candidates who voluntarily disclose the contributions received two weeks prior to the election demonstrates transparency to potential voters. 

Email or ask your candidates at a public debate if they intend to pre-disclose and let voters know how much and from whom they have collected money.

In Toronto you should also ask candidates whether they will support continuing the by-law that bans corporate and unions from making contributions to candidates for election.