NEWS

City hall reporters reflect on campaign's long, winding road

10/24/2014 08:38 EDT | Updated 12/24/2014 05:59 EST
After a gruelling 10-month election campaign and some 60 all-candidates' meetings, Toronto voters will head to the polls on Monday. Aside from Doug Ford, John Tory and Olivia Chow, perhaps no three people are happier about the campaign's imminent end than the three city hall journalists who appeared on Metro Morning Friday to talk about the race: Don Peat of the Toronto Sun, Elizabeth Church of The Globe and Mail and Jamie Strashin of CBC News.

The trio spoke with host Matt Galloway about the campaign's final days and what comes next for Toronto. A few themes emerged. Here's a sample of what the reporters said:

The length of the campaign 

With candidates allowed to register in January, the campaign amounts to a 10-month political marathon. Though few have kept an accurate count, Strashin estimates there's been about 60 all-candidates meetings. That's plenty of time for voters to become both acquainted with — or tired of — each candidate.

"There's definitely a sense that this is way, way too long," said Strashin. "There's been more than enough time for people to see what these candidates are offering." Strashin also said the long campaign is a factor in explaining why the campaign took on an increasingly bitter tone as it progressed. "The length of the campaign creates a tension," he said. "Think of any situation where you spend too much time with other people that you may not like. Inevitably, things are going to boil over."

The "Fordian slip" and its lasting effect

With the filing deadline less than two hours away, Doug Ford took his brother's place in the mayoralty race on Sept. 12. That wild day at city hall was one all three panellists said they won't soon forget. "It seems like every week we get another curve ball," said Church "I don’t think I've ever seen the kind of drama I saw at city hall that day when the papers were filed. There have just been so many surprises in this campaign."

Peat agreed that the candidate switch shattered what everyone thought this campaign would be about. "A race that started as a referendum on Rob Ford in the end ... Rob Ford is not even in this race."

 The surprising struggles of Olivia Chow

Olivia Chow entered the race as an experienced candidate with a deep history in Toronto municipal politics and national name recognition. But since the summer, most polls have pegged her in third place. How did this happen to a candidate with so much promise and potential?

Peat said while Chow often excels in meetings with voters one-on-one or in small groups, she's struggled to achieve city-wide support.

"I think [her supporters] overestimated her ability to appeal across the city," said Peat. "I don’t think she was able to do that kind of mass connect with voters." Church said she expected to see some kind of "reset" of the Chow campaign in September as her campaign faltered over the summer, but it didn't happen.

The enduring Rob Ford effect

Though Ford is out of the mayoral race (he's running as a council candidate in Ward 2), his eventful four years in office will create more interest in Monday's results that any Toronto election before it.

"People are definitely aware of city hall," said Strashin. "That's the legacy that Rob Ford has left. It's gone from being in the C block of the news to the A block of the news."

Church said Monday will mark a significant change in Toronto civic politics.

"It's going to be a turn of the page, no matter what happens," she said.

Peat agreed.

"Doug Ford always says we'll hear from the real people on election day. I think we're all looking forward to hearing from Torontonians about how they feel about the last four years and where they want to go in the future."

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