Is the democratic process in Toronto limited to human participation? Turns out, it can be much more diverse than you have ever imagined!
As the Toronto mayoral byelection on June 26 approaches, one candidate stands out from the pool of 102 contenders to captivate voters’ attention.
Molly, a six-year-old Russian rescue dog, has joined the race alongside her owner, Toby Heaps, challenging the traditional political landscape in Toronto with their unique paw-spective.
“Molly would be an essential part of the public life of Toronto, and also, in all the rooms where the decisions were getting made,” said Heaps.
“I am running to be the human mayor because the law is built that you have to be [at least] 18 years old,” he said. “The first thing I would do if I was elected is to initiate the procedures to have Molly be appointed to be the first dog mayor of Toronto.”
Heaps said they are running a serious campaign, as they have established a campaign team, raised funds, including a $20,000 investment from Heaps himself, and they are prepared to address critical issues in a playful and creative way.
“We are going to shake things up,” he said.
“This is an exciting campaign with a unique approach to campaigning, but with a lot of solid ideas on how we can build communities that are good for people and pets as well,” said Becky Smith, the campaign manager for Heaps and Molly.
They share a special bond
Running for mayor with a canine companion is a rare sight, but Heaps and Molly’s unique connection sets them apart. Molly, a six-year-old wolf-husky cross, found her way to Canada as a puppy from Sochi, Russia, as a rescue. Originally belonging to Heaps’ late mother, who tragically lost her battle with cancer in 2021, Molly holds a special place in their heart.
With the vision of making Toronto a more dog-friendly city, Heaps and Molly have the primary objective of addressing the harmful impact of road salt on dogs’ paws. This issue initially inspired Heaps to embark on the political journey alongside Molly.
During a winter run along Lake Ontario, Heaps noticed the excessive salt on the roads was causing Molly great discomfort.
“She was writhing in pain, her paws were stinging, and she had some chemical burns,” said Heaps. “It reminded me about all the dysfunction that is happening and how we are hurting ourselves unnecessarily.”
Drawing parallels to other cities like Calgary, that use a less harmful mix of gravel and salt, Heaps realized that Toronto could do better in tackling such issues. He contemplated the various challenges, including climate change, and the necessity for positive change within the city.
“You can pick your issue,” he said.
Around seven weeks ago, while running at Ontario Place and listening to the radio, Heaps heard a spokesperson for Doug Ford advocating for the privatization of Ontario Place. The moment struck a chord with him.
Standing in the serene greenery of Ontario Place, gazing back at the city, an idea sparked in his mind.
He looked at Molly and said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could be mayor?” Molly looked back at him, responding with a smile.
Molly’s campaign generates a wave of positive reactions from voters
“The reaction on the ground has been really positive to Toby and Molly’s campaign and the ideas Toby is putting forward,” Smith said. “I think it is impactful in the way Toby presents himself and Molly for this election.”
Smith said that Torontonians are looking for something that inspires and motivates them.
“Toby reports that, in conversations with people, they are just excited about the campaign. And we can see a little bit of it online as well as the feedback we are getting through our website,” she said.
Tiana Noble, a local resident working in business development for a Toronto-based charity, finds Molly’s candidacy adorable and entertaining.
Given the existing candidates, Molly seems to fit right in, she said. “It is actually a good way to get involved with politics more because now that I know Molly is running, I feel like I should look up the other candidates too.”
Heaps comes from a family with a deep-rooted political background. His father, Adrian Heaps, served as a Scarborough councillor, and his great grandfather, A.A. Heaps, was a co-founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Heaps himself has been involved in political campaigns, including working on Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign, and co-founded the Corporate Knights media organization.