Despite a late endorsement from Toronto’s former mayor John Tory, candidate Ana Bailão did not secure the city’s top spot during Monday’s byelection.
In a race that saw a staggering 102 candidates, Bailão had garnered 32.46 per cent of the vote by 10:30 p.m., with 1,444 out of 1,451 polls reporting.
Bailão was, however, the shock story of election night, surging into a comfortable second place shortly after vote counting began.
Bailão also polled significantly higher on Monday than previously anticipated, and situated herself well ahead of candidate Mark Saunders.
However, Bailão was bested by Olivia Chow, who collected 37.17 per cent of the vote by 10:30 p.m.
Last week, Tory endorsed Bailão in a last-ditch effort to boost her support. In his statement, Tory said Bailão was “best equipped” to handle Toronto’s top job. He said collaboration and pragmatism were key attributes.
“Mayors of Toronto can’t pick fights they don’t know how to win,” Tory’s said.
“You have to work with other governments, no matter what party they represent. You have to be able to get City Council to work together, no matter what issue is on the table,” he continued.
Monday’s byelection was triggered after Tory made a stunning admission in February about an “inappropriate relationship” with a former member of his staff.
The news broke just months after Tory was elected to his third term as mayor during the municipal election on Oct. 24. Tory officially resigned from the city’s top job in February 2023.
Speaking at a press conference last week, Bailão touted that she had also garnered endorsements from eight city councillors, 11 members of Parliament and six unions.
She also secured an endorsement from Toronto’s deputy mayor Jennifer McKelvie, who stepped in after Tory’s unexpected departure.
Speaking in her concession speech Monday evening, Bailão said she had “absolutely no regrets” about her campaign.
“Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods, of communities stitched together by so many cultures, so many languages, and incredible people,” she said. “On our own, we are just individuals, but together we are communities and neighbourhoods making up this amazing city we call home.”
She said the results were “not what we were hoping for,” but said she is “optimistic” about the future of Toronto.
Bailão also offered her congratulations to Chow.
“Our city faces many challenges, and I wish you all the best as you navigate these challenges alongside city council and working with other governments,” she said.
“In our city’s most challenging moments, Toronto has always had a way of coming together to find solutions,” she continued. “Now with Olivia Chow as our next mayor, it’s time to come together to be there for one another and to support solutions that fix our services, that build housing and make life more affordable to all residents of Toronto.”
The daughter of a construction worker and a seamstress, Bailão immigrated from Portugal at age 15 and grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in the Davenport ward she would later represent.
Bailão rose to prominence as the affordable housing committee chair after being elected to Toronto city council in 2010. Considered a low-profile appointment at the time, the issue of housing grew larger in the city and brought her into the political spotlight.
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However, critics of Bailão had labelled her as a maintainer of a broken status quo as Toronto grows increasingly unaffordable and record numbers of people go unhoused.
Bailão opted not to seek re-election as a councillor in 2022 and took a job with a large Toronto developer as its head of affordable housing and public affairs.
Her return to politics has seen her inherit some of the personnel and policies of Tory’s administration, including promises to keep taxes at or below the rate of inflation despite the city’s pandemic-ravaged finances.
In a statement Monday evening, Tory offered his congratulations to Chow and to all of the candidates.
“In particular, I want to acknowledge Ana Bailao, who worked with me so capably as Deputy Mayor and presented a vision for the city that clearly spoke to many Torontonians,” he said.
— with files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Alan Carter and Ryan Rocca
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.