Win or lose, mayoral candidates shape cities

Mayoral campaigns are unlike any other political race in the country. Win or lose, mayoral candidates have a unique opportunity to advance big ideas, mobilize people, and change our cities. Mayoral campaigns also offer window to peek into our cities at a particular point in time.

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Have you picked up your January edition of Municipal World yet?

Good news for those who are interested in mayors in Canada: the first edition of Municipal World for 2019 is out, and the Mayors Project is the cover story. Check it out.

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Municipal voters: 4 turn out, 6 tune out

Voter turnout in municipal elections in Canada is abysmally low, generally averaging just shy of 40%. Think about it. That means for every ten municipal voters, four turn out to vote ... and six tune out entirely. It's a sad state of affairs.

If you look at the past five municipal elections in Canada's 20 largest cities - for a total of 100 elections spanning two decades - the average turnout is 38.3%, with variation. On the low end, the turnout in Calgary's 2004 municipal election was just 18%. In 2003 in Mississauga, turnout was 20%. On the high end, turnout peaked at 60% in a Quebec City election in 2001, and 58.1% in Calgary in 2017. Of the 100 elections, turnout only topped 50% in 14 races.

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It's October, aka municipal election mania.

It's October. This month means different things to different people, but for urban politics wonks, it only means one thing: it's municipal election season.

Over the next five weeks, more than 1000 municipalities in Canada will hold municipal elections. These races span seven provinces and territories. Thousands of candidates are running, and voters will choose the next group of mayors to lead Canada's cities.

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Does Toronto need a "strong mayor"?

Toronto Mayor John Tory wants to take Premier Doug Ford up on his offer to create "strong mayors." Tory (like most mayors) would like to have more power -- and who can blame him. The public expect their Mayors to be able to take swift action, particularly in times of crisis, and our system of local government doesn't often work that way.

But before we start ripping up the City of Toronto Act or Ontario's Municipal Act, perhaps we should first understand what the term "strong mayor" actually means.

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The Incumbent Advantage

Running for mayor is never easy, but it's a heck of a lot easier if you're the incumbent.

The research is clear: incumbency is a leading predictor of success in municipal elections. Incumbents have many home field advantages including stronger name recognition, a history of service with constituents, a greater depth of knowledge on policy files, established media and community relationships, and experience with campaigning and governing.

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Canada’s Mayors Speak: A Survey of 105 Mayors

In January 2018, urban mayors across Canada participated in a survey administered by Public Square Research in partnership with the Mayors Project. Canada’s mayors were asked about their backgrounds, their jobs, and the issues facing their communities today.

No surprise: our mayors had lots to say!

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Do Canadians Think Mayors Are Powerful?

In October 2015, Ipsos Public Affairs surveyed more than 12,000 Canadians about their perceptions of mayoral power in Canada.

Survey respondents were asked whether they agree with the statement, “Canadian mayors have the power to make things happen in their communities.” Responses were measured using a Likert scale (a list of options designed to capture the intensity of a response).

The overall finding was that Canadians, generally, believe that our mayors have the power to make things happen in our communities.

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