His first campaign for Toronto’s mayor would also be his last, urbanist Gil Penalosa told a crowd of about 50 supporters on election night.
Receiving just under 18 per cent of votes cast for mayor, Penalosa conceded defeat in the race against incumbent John Tory who drew 60 per cent of the votes.
“Tory is unbeatable. Tory has too much money,” Penalosa said. “On the way here, the guys on the radio said that if you don’t have $2.5 million, then you should not be running for mayor…. Well, I don’t do political mathematics and I don’t believe in those numbers.”
He would be shifting his focus to education and advocacy, Penalosa said.
Among supporters who filled the backroom lounge at Clinton’s Tavern on Bloor Street, Will Baigent, who canvassed for Penalosa in the East York area, spoke highly of the man not just as a mayoral candidate, but on a personal level.
“He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen,” Baigent said. “He wakes up early to get working right away, and the way he would persevere throughout this campaign was very clear.”
Despite Penalosa falling short in this year’s election, Baigent remains hopeful for the city.
“I think [tonight] was an important step in the direction that Toronto needs to be moving in,” he said. “It’s nice to see it even with some of the councillors too, you know? It’s what this city needs.”
Where is everyone?
Toronto has more than 1.9 million eligible voters, but only 29.1 per cent of those voters came out to cast their ballot — down from 41 per cent in 2018 and the lowest turnout in Toronto’s history.
Voters like Sam Yu, interviewed outside Penalosa’s party, knew that an election was happening soon but did not know when.
“I saw signs out on people’s lawns for a while now, but without any dates on them I didn’t know it was actually happening today,” Yu said. “Lack of accessibility and advertising definitely played a role in that for me.”
Despite the low turnout at the polls, there was a small increase in the number of online and phone-in votes according to CBC News, with more than 40 municipalities using those options in some fashion.