With the resignation of John Tor, Ontario’s PC machine revs up for Toronto’s mayoral race

In a statement, Premier Doug Ford said John Tory

In a statement, Premier Doug Ford said John Tory “will be remembered as a dedicated and hard-working mayor who acted as a consistent leader during the most difficult days of the pandemic”. (Carlos Osorio/CBC – photo credit)

Conservative political organizers in Toronto have shifted into high gear following John Tory’s announcement that he would be stepping down as mayor, and the names of potential candidates are beginning to make their mark.

The two names most commonly floated by Ontario PC and Conservative Party of Canada sources who have spoken to CBC News since Tory’s shock announcement on Friday night:

  • Beaches-East York City Councilor Brad Bradford, who chairs the city’s planning and housing committee

  • Willowdale MPP Stan Cho who is currently Deputy Secretary for Transport in Prime Minister Doug Ford’s government.

“We will make sure there is only one credible centre-right candidate,” said a senior political organizer with ties to both the Ontario PCs and the federal Conservatives. CBC News agreed not to name the organizer so that he can speak freely about the political strategy.

The organizer said the concern among Conservatives is that a left-wing candidate could become mayor if several centre-right candidates split the vote.

Although mayoral candidates do not run under the banner of any political party, most high-profile candidates have ties to provincial or federal parties or rely on campaign organizers who have worked in party backrooms.



Bradford’s political background is not closely linked to the Conservatives. In Beaches-East York, he represents a community that vacillates between New Democrat and Liberal at both the provincial and federal levels. His mother, Valerie Bradford, is the Liberal MP for Kitchener South-Hespeler.

However, three Ontario PC Party sources said people linked to Bradford had been seeking support for him in conservative political circles.

In an interview on Saturday, CBC News asked Bradford if he was considering running

“What I can tell you is that this city is very dear to me,” Bradford said. “I think what the city needs right now is a moment of unity, leadership that brings people together. It would be really unfortunate if we saw ourselves delving into a world of politics and beefing up football for personal gain.”

Bradford said what is needed in local government is leadership that can work with everyone.

“I’ve always wanted to work with everyone at City Hall. I think that’s what we were elected for, working together, getting things done,” he said



Four Ontario PC Party sources independently told CBC News that Cho is a potential mayoral candidate.

Cho declined to comment when contacted on Saturday.

A source close to him said Cho was flattered by the number of people who asked him to run but hadn’t given it a second thought.

Despite some speculation in conservative circles that Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie would launch a campaign, CBC News has learned she will not be running.

McKelvie is set to become acting mayor once Tory officially resigns and will guide the council through the upcoming budget process.

“Jenn is not going to run,” a source close to McKelvie said Sunday. “Jenn takes her duty as Deputy Mayor seriously. She is not running as she wants to make sure she is focused on the city’s near future during this important transition period.”

CBC News could not reach McKelvie for comment.



Kory Teneycke, who ran both of Ford’s provincial campaigns, called Bradford and Cho credible potential candidates.

“They’re a younger generation of leaders, and I think it’s probably a healthy thing to see some renewal,” said Teneycke, co-founder and CEO of policy affairs firm Rubicon Strategies.

Teneycke said many names came up as potential candidates from all parts of the political spectrum.

“But what they all have in common is their relatively low profile compared to that of John Tory, who has spent the last decade being the most popular political figure in GTA,” he said.

“Strong Mayor” powers mean a lot is at stake

Kevin Gaudet, a longtime Conservative insider and president of BrightPoint Strategy, said the potential for a vote split between multiple candidates on the left “makes room for a sane and focused center candidate.”

Gaudet agrees that the lack of name recognition hampers Cho and Bradford.

“No candidate is perfect,” he said. “Can Bradford be consistent? Cho is a Ford minister and wears a suit. Can he escape alone? It would require a bold communications and policy plan.”

For the Ford administration, the stakes are high over who becomes Toronto mayor, in part because the province has given the Toronto mayor additional powers to enforce certain bylaws and policies with the support of just a third of the council.

The Ford administration said the “strong mayor’s” powers were designed to accelerate the pace of housing development. If a left-wing candidate were to become mayor, the plan might not work out quite as the PCs intended.

“Regardless of the outcome of the race, I don’t think the prime minister will have any problems working with whoever was elected,” Teneycke said.


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