Incumbent Toronto mayor Mel Lastman chose not to run for re-election. A large number of candidates ran for the position of mayor, but five main candidates emerged.
Barbara Hall is the former mayor of pre-amalgamation Toronto and an independent who was formerly a member of the New Democratic Party and who had the support of many of the city's Liberals. She campaigned on a moderate policy of outreach to minorities and her connections to the provincial Liberal government which would enable a "new deal" for Toronto.
John Nunziata, a former Member of Parliament for the Liberal Party of Canada, was expelled from the party because of his opposition to his party's continuation of the GST, something that the party had promised to abolish as part of its election platform. He ran a right-wing campaign for mayor of Toronto, advocating stiff penalties against the homeless and a strong focus on law and order.
Tom Jakobek, the former Budget Chief, gathered much media attention at the start and participated in various debates with the other candidates. He was quickly distanced from the front-runner race when the vote neared, as his campaign was hampered by recent municipal mismanagement, and admissions that he had lied about accepting gifts from lobbyists.
The campaign began with Barbara Hall far in the lead. She had wide name recognition and attracted moderate support from across Toronto. She also had close links with the newly elected Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty. John Nunziata was in a distant second, polling around 9% at the best, due to his past experience as a federal MP. John Tory and David Miller were closely tied for an even more distant third.
Around September, Hall began to lose support when it became apparent that she lacked a campaign message, sticking mainly to her "love for Toronto" and arguing that she could get a "new deal" with the provincial Liberals. Miller was attacked by all candidates for musing about tolls on roads leading into Toronto, but he dropped the proposal before it could do much harm. Miller's next message about banning the island airport bridge distinguished himself from the other candidates and he eventually vaulted into first place, to the surprise of many. Tory's support also began to grow steadily as Hall's eroded and he moved into a close second. At one point, Hall, Tory, and Miller each polled similar numbers, making it a three-way contest. As Hall's support dropped, the race had become essentially a two-way contest between Tory and Miller. As the race narrowed to a close, the two front-runners ran a respectful campaign without many negative partisan attacks. Tory was applauded when he appeared at Miller's rally to congratulate the latter's victory.
John Nunziata, long not considered a contender, dropped a bombshell on the media when it he announced that members of a rival camp offered him $150,000 and the Deputy Mayor's position to drop out of the race. Nunziata refused to release specifics, although the media speculated that it was Tory's campaign, which was subsequently cleared by the police investigation. Tory in fact received a boost in the polls for his promise to drop out of the election if any wrong-doing had been discovered, while Nunziata was accused of mischief and smearing his opponent with unsubstantiated claim. As the campaign continued, Nunziata's reputation also suffered when he was alleged to have bullied councilors who withdrew their support from him. He was also dogged by his "flip-flopping" on controversial positions that he had taken as a federal MP, such as denying his private member's bill to ban abortion. Nunziata garnered only 5% of the vote and analysts believed that he had also damaged his credibility and future political prospects.
Despite a lack of election experience, John Tory was credited with running a respectable campaign which provided wide recognition and he later became leader of the Ontario PC Party.
Although it was known from the start that Tom Jakobek did not stand a chance of winning, he still continued in the election.
On 17 July 2006, The Toronto Star reported that there were more than 300,000 people on the voting list who may – or may not – have been legally allowed to vote. Since Miller beat Tory by only 36,000 votes, with the results it would only take a small portion of the unconfirmed list to affect an election outcome. Toronto Star article
Luis A. da Silva is a banker, and was 33 years old in 2003. He was elected to the Metro Toronto Separate School Board in 1994, winning in the old City of Toronto's fourth division. He lost his bid for re-election in 1997, and was again defeated in 2000. Silva later served on the Mayor's Task Force on Drugs, and described himself in campaign literature as "The man with the plan". He supported subway expansion, and argued that the federal government had no right to collect the Goods and Services Tax in Toronto. He called for the number of city councillors to be cut in half, and said that he would require candidates for public office to pass a test on the workings of municipal government. He also supported the creation of an "Order of Toronto" to honour prominent citizens. Less seriously, he called for the Toronto Maple Leafs to retire Frank Mahovlich's jersey. Silva acknowledged that he could not win, and aimed for a fifth-place finish. He received a Master's Degree in Public Administration from the University of Western Ontario after the election, writing on the new City of Toronto Act passed by the provincial government of Dalton McGuinty.
John Hartnett was a 28-year-old student and bartender, and a third-generation Canadian. He said that he wanted to represent the "XYZ generation", and bring more young voters to the polls.
Gary Benner was a 51-year-old retired civil engineer. He complained that rival candidate John Nunziata was in contravention of municipal campaign laws after he put advertisements in the Toronto subway system. Benner later accused all four major candidates of being in technical contravention of the elections laws, by virtue of having signs displayed in their campaign office windows. He indicated that he would ban election signs if he became mayor. He supported the construction of 60 kilometres of new subway lines over 20 years, and opposed expansion of the Toronto Island airport.
John Jahshan is originally from Kitchener, and was 35 years old in 2003. He was general manager of the Sports Centre Cafe in the 1990s, and later operated the Bliss Niteclub & Lounge. He pledged support for after-school programs and inexpensive day-care, and claimed the five major candidates were afraid to debate him. Twenty of his supporters picketed the first major-candidates' debate with signs depicting the frontrunners as chickens. Jahshan went into hiding three days before the election, and was later arrested on charges of misappropriating funds intended for a wheelchair elevator at Driftwood Public School in the Jane and Finch area. Newspaper accounts do not indicate if the charges were brought to trial.
Michael Brausewetter is a truck driver and former security guard, who once spent sixteen months in a coma after a car accident. A former homeless person, he recommended turning Princess Margaret Hospital into a homeless shelter. He also proposed moving the Toronto Island airport to the Leslie Street Spit. He is running for a council seat in the 2006 municipal election.
David Lichacz has a degree from York University. He was 34 years old in 2003, and worked as a city greenskeeper. His campaign focused on public transit and accountability, and he indicated that he would cut the mayor's stipend if elected. As of 2006, he is a supervisor at Dentonia.
Ram Narula was a 67-year-old retired teacher, who moved to Canada from India. He said could cure "arthritis, allergies, high blood pressure, stress, weight problems, prostrate (sic) and many others naturally", and would cause "perfect health" to radiate from city hall. He also indicated that he would reduce tuition fees by 75%, and solve homelessness within three months.
Elias Makhoul was born in southern Lebanon, and moved to Canada at age 21. He runs a falafel restaurant in downtown Toronto called Mystic Muffin, and was known for giving interviews about his candidacy while serving customers. He argued that each of Toronto's subway stops should be turned into a cultural pavilion representing a different nation, to highlight the city's multicultural nature. He was 37 years old in 2003.
Daniel Poremski was a 19-year-old psychology student at York University, and was the youngest candidate in the contest. He entered the mayoral race to find out more about municipal government. A newspaper quotes him as saying of his candidacy, "I want to learn more about the city and see what the people in Toronto ask of their politicians. It seemed like an interesting thing to do." He wanted to introduce environmentally friendly garbage incineration.
Ronald Graham was listed as an Elvis impersonator and interior designer. He pledged to clean up garbage and pollution in the Beaches area of Toronto, and institute a zero-tolerance policy on racism and anti-Semitism.
Fen Peters was born in Trinidad. He was a 58-year-old communications publicist with Bell Canada, and favoured the creation of local community councils.
Aleksandar Glisic was born and raised in Yugoslavia, where he earned a Mechanical Engineering degree. He came to Canada in 1967, worked ten years for Ontario Hydro as a mechanical engineer, and spent another decade as a taxi driver. In 1982, he became the first resident of Ontario to sue for wrongful dismissal under the Discriminatory Business Practices Act, arguing that he was dismissed from Ontario Hydro without due cause. He supported Barbara Hall in mayoral elections before 2003, and says that he chose to run for office after being told that he could not work on her campaign. A colourful figure, he described himself as "Aleksandar the Great", "a sexy 66-year-old teenager" and "an Iceberg Man with a full-blooded loving heart for all people in Mega T.O., especially for the underdogs". His slogans included "Vote Aleksandar the Ex-Terminator for Mayor" and "sex shall save Serbia".
Hashmat Safi was a 29-year-old medical doctor, originally from Afghanistan. He sought improve public transit and government accessibility. Late in the campaign, he announced that he would support Barbara Hall.
Simon Shaw was a 31-year-old computer hardware specialist, with a degree in Computer Science from the University of Western Ontario. His primary issue was targeting child sexual predators, and advocating life sentences for people who commit crimes against women and children. He also promoted a subway stop and casino on Toronto Centre Island, and championed campaign finance reform. He applied for an appointment to Toronto City Council's 30th ward in 2003, following the election of Olivia Chow to the Canadian House of Commons. The position was filled by a vote of other councillors. Shaw did not receive any votes.
Patricia O'Beirne was the candidate of the Communist League. She supported a thirty-hour work week, the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan, and an end of the deportation of immigrants and refugees. A member of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees in Toronto, she was formerly a member of Lodge 205 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union at Domtar in Montreal. She has written for The Militant, the Communist League's newspaper.
Abel van Wyk was born in the Netherlands, moved to Canada in 1957, and was an employee of Metro Works for 24 years. He is a frequent candidate for public office, having campaigned for Mayor of Scarborough in 1985, 1988, 1991 and 1994, and for Mayor of Toronto in 2000 and 2003. He supported an Ellesmere Road extension during the mid-1980s. His primary campaign issue in every election he has contested has been his plan for a waterfront causeway, a highway across Lake Ontario linking Highway 427 in Etobicoke to Highway 401 in Scarborough. Van Wyk argues that this link will save the city money and reduce pollution by 50%. He also called for a ban on donations to municipal candidates and a reduction in the work week during the 1988 campaign. In 1991, he said that affordable housing should be constructed through the private sector. He was 80 years old in 2003. He considered running for mayor in 2006, but ultimately declined.
Benjamin Mbaegbu was a 35-year-old paralegal and former correctional officer. He previously ran for Toronto's 31st council seat in a 2001 by-election. In early 2003, he unsuccessfully sought one million dollars in compensation from the Solicitor General of Canada concerning the termination of his employment at Kingston Penitentiary in 1998. During the campaign, he said that he could bring a major sporting event to the city in four years.
Paul Lewin is a criminal lawyer who had previously campaigned for the Marijuana Party of Canada in the 2000 federal election. He argued in that election that cannabis-related charges were contributing to Canada's over-burdened court system, and said that officials "do not believe this mild intoxicant is a high priority". He supported Canada's decision to legalize medicinal marijuana in 2001, but added that the changes did not go far enough. His campaign slogan in 2003 was "Free 416", referring to Toronto's area code.
Rabindra Prashad is an artist, chef, and community organizer. He was born in Guyana, and moved to Toronto from Quebec at age 24. He addressed the crowd in French at one all-candidates meeting, saying that his years in Quebec had shown him the value of that province to the country. He also called for an east-west thoroughfare for bikes on Queen Street. He was 35 years old during the election.
Hardial (Hardy) Dhir was a 65-year-old architect with a degree from the University of Toronto. He is the founder of the Bloor/Indian Grove Ratepayers and Tenants Association, and builds temples and synagogues in his private life. He previously ran for Mayor of Toronto in 1978, and for North York City Council in 1985 (appearing on the ballot as "Harry Dhir" on the latter occasion). In 2003, he called for property taxes to halved by forcing the provincial government to pay education taxes, and supported the introduction of Neighbourhood Watch "street captains" to prevent crime.
Kendal Csak was a 30-year-old motivational speaker, and the owner of CG Consulting. He supported a minimal wage increase and energy conservation in the business sector.
Richard Weston favoured mandatory composting, improved recycling programs, and alternative energy sources such as windmills. He also called for webcams in the mayor's office and mandatory blackouts on the last Wednesday of each month.
Last-place candidate Barry Pletch was a 33-year-old operations manager, and the arts editor for the Etobicoke Guardian. He sought a clean-up campaign for Toronto's streets. His campaign slogan was "Better Ethics and Economic Responsibility", shortened to BEER.
Most incumbent city councillors were re-elected. A prominent exception was Anne Johnston, the longest-serving member of city council. She lost her seat in Ward 16, apparently because of her approval of a controversial residential tower development in an adjoining ward. The council elections saw one of the highest rates of turnover in recent history. While only four incumbents lost their seats, many long standing councillors decided not to run for re-election. Of the 44 city councillors, 14 are newcomers. The election saw the council become more leftist, which should aid mayor Miller.
^Joe Fiorito, "This mayoral longshot finds a grateful audience", Toronto Star, 3 November 2003, B3.
^James Cowan, "Mayoraltymarathon metaphor", National Post, 15 March 2003, TO3.
^Luis Silva, "The province giveth, the province taketh away", Toronto Star, 28 December 2005, A17.
^Bryan Borzykowski and James Cowan, "The Class of 44", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO1; Brian Borzykowski and James Cowan. "They would be king", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO11.
^Brian Borzykowski and James Cowan, "They would be king", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO11; "Who's got what it takes", Toronto Star, 6 November 2003, G3.
^ abcdefBrian Borzykowski and James Cowan, "They would be king", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO11.
^"No-hopers' niche", Toronto Star, 11 August 2003, E2.
^James Cowan, "Nunziata at sea in debates", National Post, 16 August 2003, TO4.
^James Cowan, "Hall gets bad review at film fest: Latecomer takes over box", National Post, 13 September 2003, TO4. Benner criticized David Miller for describing himself as the only candidate who opposed the expansion, writing "I will presume that you were unaware of my position on the Island Airport issue when you created your radio ads." Cowan agreed that this was a safe assumption, given Benner's profile in the contest.
^"Who's got what it takes", Toronto Star, 6 November 2003, G3.
^"Wednesday's Canada News Briefs", Associated Press, 17 June 1998; "Fair or fowl?", Toronto Star, 13 October 2003, B2; Vanessa Lu, "Verbal jabs in first TV debate", 20 October 2003, A1.
^Jeff Gray, "Mayoral candidate faces charges of fraud", Toronto Star, 21 November 2003, A9; Bill Dunphy, "Mayoral candidate flees with cash for handicapped", Hamilton Spectator, 22 November 2003, A10; Bill Dunphy, "Tying up a few loose ends on the news front", Hamilton Spectator, 3 December 2003, A14.
^ abcBryan Borzykowski and James Cowan, "They would be king", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO11.
^ abcd"Who's got what it takes?", Toronto Star, 6 November 2003, G3.
^Bryan Borzykowski and James Cowan, "The Class of 44", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO1.
^Bryan Borzykowski and James Cowan, "Class of 44", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO01; Brian Borzykowski and James Cowan, "They would be king", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO11; "Who's got what it takes?", Toronto Star, 6 November 2003, G03.
^Jack Lakey, "Park's fountain has lost its flow", Toronto Star, 6 July 2006, R01.
^Joe Fiorito, "Crouch or lie prostrate for straps", Toronto Star, 4 November 2003, B4.
^Joe Fiorito, "Running for mayor, one pita at a time", Toronto Star, 21 March 2003, B2.
^Joe Fiorito, "A tuna pita to go, with extra ideas", Toronto Star, 17 September 2003, B2.
^Katherine Harding, "In front, on fringe, 45 vying to become mayor", Globe and Mail, 27 September 2003, A20.
^Bryan Borzykowski and James Cowan, "The class of 44", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO1.
^Thomas Claridge, "Judge clears way for employees suit against Hydro", Globe and Mail, 7 December 1982, P5.
^Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, "The mayoral candidate without a phone", Globe and Mail, 25 October 2003, M4; Brian Borzykowski and James Cowan, "They would be king", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO11; sexy alexy, Official Campaign Website. Retrieved 20 November 2006.
^Brian Borzykowski and James Cowan, "They will be king", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO11.
^Katherine Harding, "In front, on fringe, 45 vying to become mayor", Globe and Mail, 27 September 2003, A20; Catherine Porter, "It's more fun on the fringe, candidates prove", Toronto Star, 23 October 2003, B3.
^James Cowan, "Would-be mayors rock the vote", National Post, 7 April 2003, AL2; James Cowan, "Mayoralty candidates sign off", National Post, 9 August 2003, TO3; Garnet Fraser, "A bid for mayor", Toronto Star, 4 November 2003, C4.
^Gay Abbate, "Residents fear road scheme could destroy neighborhood", Globe and Mail, 27 December 1984, M3; Gay Abbate, "3 Scarborough mayoral challengers say they are second", Globe and Mail, 6 November 1985, A15.
^Damien Cox, "'Inventor' running for mayor", Toronto Star, 19 May 1987, E3; Alan Ferguson, "Maverick chases causeway dream", Toronto Star, 10 November 1994, SD6; Darren Yourk, "What $100 gets you these days", National Post, 4 November 2000, E4; Kevin McGran, "Gridlock: If there's a will, there's a way", Toronto Star, 6 September 2003, H1.
^Stan Josey, "Freeze development in Rouge, Scarborough candidate says", Toronto Star, 20 October 1988, A7; Pat Brennan, "Home builders poll candidates on development", Toronto Star, 9 November 1991, E1.
^Stephen Wickens, "Come back, Enza, all is forgiven", Globe and Mail, 19 August 2006, M3.
^Hume, Christopher (5 September 2003). "Province of T.O.: It makes sense". Toronto Star (Toronto). p. B3. He was 36 years old at the time. See Brian Borzykowski and James Cowan, "They would be king", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO11.
^Catherine Porter, "It's more fun on the fringe, candidates prove", Toronto Star, 23 October 2003, B3.
^Brian Borzykowski and James Cowan, "They would be king", National Post, 4 October 2003, TO11; Catherine Porter, "It's more fun on the fringe, candidates prove", Toronto Star, 23 October 2003, B3.
^Brian Borzykowski and James Cowan, "They would be king", 4 October 2003, TO11.