Olivia Chow has ‘untouchable’ lead in final weeks of Toronto’s mayoral campaign, new poll finds

Olivia Chow has ‘untouchable’ lead in final weeks of Toronto’s mayoral campaign, new poll finds

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Former NDP MP Olivia Chow is entering the final weeks of Toronto’s mayoral campaign the undisputed front-runner, according to a Forum Research poll for the Toronto Star.

“Chow’s lead remains untouchable,” after seven weeks of the 12-week campaign, said Forum president Lorne Bozinoff. “Other candidates have yet to connect strongly with voters.”

Despite her two per cent dip from a Forum poll a week earlier, support for Chow remains nearly triple that of her nearest rivals, according to the new poll.

The survey of 1,000 Torontonians conducted Friday saw 34 per cent of decided and leaning respondents pick Chow from a crowded field of prominent candidates vying to replace John Tory who resigned in February.

Coun. Josh Matlow and former police chief Mark Saunders were tied in second place at 12 per cent support, followed by former Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter at 10 per cent, former city councillor Ana Bailão at nine per cent, and Coun. Brad Bradford at seven per cent.

One-fifth, or 20 per cent, of respondents said they don’t know which of the 102 total candidates they’ll choose in the June 26 byelection. Fifteen per cent of respondents chose one of the less prominent candidates.

Results of the interactive voice response telephone survey are considered accurate plus or minus three percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Support for Saunders, a conservative with close ties to Premier Doug Ford, dropped six percentage points from the previous week. Support for Matlow, a progressive highly critical of Ford and his impact on Toronto, rose two points.

Hunter, Bailão and Bradford all linger within three percentage points of their support level recorded in Forum’s late April poll.

The new survey, like those of other pollsters, suggests that with Tory not in the race, Torontonians want the city to shift to the political left after 13 years of centrist or right-leaning rule under Tory and predecessor Rob Ford.

During 14 years on Metro and city councils, Chow held posts working on housing, child advocacy and the city budget. She followed that with eight years as an NDP MP during which her late husband, Jack Layton, became party leader.

She ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2014, starting as an early favourite in the 11-month campaign but finishing third behind winner Tory and runner-up Doug Ford. Since then she has taught and founded the Institute for Change Leaders.

This campaign Chow has said the city needs “progressive revenue tools” and a “new deal” from provincial and federal governments to raise cash to fill the city’s budget hole, and improve city services that have deteriorated in recent years.

Her pledges include reversing service cuts to the TTC, fighting the Ford government’s plans for Ontario Place and the Ontario Science Centre, building 25,000 city-owned and nonprofit-run, rent-controlled rental homes, and changing rebuild plans for the elevated east Gardiner Expressway to make it ground level.

Chow and Mark Saunders have likely benefitted from high name recognition in polls conducted when many Torontonians were not paying much attention. Scrutiny on all candidates is expected to increase over the coming weeks as they participate in multiple debates and unleash a barrage of election advertising.

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering city hall and municipal politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider

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