Toronto Voters Reject the Right, Embrace a Vague Left Reformist

Toronto Voters Reject the Right, Embrace a Vague Left Reformist

2 min. read | By Barry Weisleder

In the June 26 Toronto mayor by-election, former NDP MP and city councilor Olivia Chow ran as an independent. She won with the embarrassingly vague slogan “We can build an affordable, safer and caring city.” She captured 37.17 per cent of the votes cast, topping former city councilor Ana Bailao at 32.45 per cent.

Toronto Mayor Elect, Olivia Chow, 2023
Toronto Mayor Elect, Olivia Chow, 2023 | © Kiri Vadivelu

Chow enjoyed the support of the soft pro-capitalist left, and some unions, while Bailao was backed by prominent Liberals, former mayor John Tory, the Toronto Star, and a few other unions. Voters repudiated the hard right wing, which was divided between former police chief Mark Saunders at 8.6 per cent and Toronto Sun columnist at 4.9 per cent. Voter turnout was 38 per cent, up from the all-time low of 29 per cent at the civic general election in October 2022. Chow, largely benefiting from high name recognition, led at the start of the campaign in early May, and held on against a crescendo of attacks by Ontario Conservative Premier Doug Ford and Toronto establishment figures, even though Chow posed no political threat to big business control of City Hall.

The only organized party or coalition that challenged the corporate agenda and the capitalist system is the Municipal Socialist Alliance. The MSA candidate for mayor, Kiri Vadivelu, uniquely campaigned for public construction of mass social housing, seizure of vacant habitable spaces, expropriation of giant landlords, steeply increased taxation of properties over $3 million in assessed value, de-funding of police by at least 50 per cent and re-allocation of resources to meet community health needs, and for a grassroots participatory budget process, not “strong mayor” powers.

Kiri Vadivelu, the first Tamil-Canadian to run for the office, faced the largest array of contenders ever. Out of 102 candidates, he came in 29th place, surpassing several prominent social activists, beating a person who ran fourth in the 2022 mayoral race, and a former Liberal MP. Having a surname that begins with the letter V, and being listed #97 on the ballot paper, did not help. But it does mean that virtually every vote for Kiri was a hard-earned, class-conscious vote.

For the MSA, which aims primarily to organize workers and the oppressed, including non-citizens, youths, and marginalized people, building a movement for revolutionary change matters far more than sheer numbers and votes garnered. The MSA received several group and individual endorsements and generous financial contributions. At the same time, most of the self-described local socialist and communist organizations stood aside, ignored its appeal for unity in action; or worse, they endorsed the sub-reformist Chow. The MSA put socialism and a workers’ agenda on the ballot. It did that by running ten candidates across Ontario in the October 2022 civic elections. It will continue to fight for the working class, for tenants, immigrants, racialized and oppressed people every day, not just at election time. The struggle continues.

For more information, please contact
Municipal Socialist Alliance
Call: 647-986-1917
[email protected]


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