Turnout in 2010 was by any measure considerably higher than in recent elections in the City of Toronto — at 49.7%, about 29% higher than each of the previous three elections. Turnout was 39% in 2006, when incumbent David Miller trounced councillor Jane Pitfield. In 2003, the most recent election without an incumbent mayoral candidate, it was 38%. Turnout was about the same as in 1997, the hotly contested first election in the amalgamated City of Toronto. More votes were cast than ever before — over 810,000, 60,000 more than the previous peak in 1997, and 200,000 more than in 2000 and 2006.
An “anybody-but-Ford” narrative emerged in the final month of the campaign, brought into focus by Sarah Thompson’s withdrawal and endorsement of Smitherman on September 28, and the folding of Rocco Rossi’s campaign on October 13. Joe Pantalone, of course, chose to stay in the race despite low polling numbers. To what extent did Pantalone split the anti-Ford vote?
Ward by ward, Smitherman’s margin over Ford was greatest in the core of the old City of Toronto, while Ford’s margin over Smitherman was greatest in his Etobicoke base, western North York, and western Scarborough. Margins were smaller in East York and central North York. The strength of Ford’s support was stronger than Smitherman’s — in his best showing, he beat Smitherman by 67 points in his home base, Ward 2. In his best wards, 27 and 28, which corresponded to his provincial riding, Smitherman bested Ford by only 36 points.
Figures 5, 6, and 7 show the magnitude of support for the three major candidates. In each case, the candidate’s support is strongest in the constituency he previously represented. Ford secured an absolute majority of votes in most of the suburban zone and also had significant support in parts of the former City of Toronto. Again, we see that Smitherman’s support was more dispersed. His percentage of the vote was less than 25% in much of Etobicoke, York, and western North York.
Examining the election-day vote in each of the 1,110 voting subdivisions (VSDs) provides a more fine-grained perspective. While each ward contains an average of 59,000 people, about 2,300 people live in each VSD. Each VSD contains at least one polling station where area residents cast their votes. While one might expect data at this level of detail to reveal pockets of Smitherman support in “Ford Country” and vice versa, there are few deviations from the ward-level picture.
After leading in the polls since June, Ward 2 Councillor Rob Ford won handily on October 25, winning almost half of the vote citywide. In second place, about 11 points behind, was George Smitherman, former member of provincial parliament, senior cabinet minister, and, in the 1990s, chief of staff to ex-Toronto mayor Barbara Hall. Third-place finisher Joe Pantalone, long-time councillor and, in the last term of council, deputy mayor, won just under 12% of the vote. Other candidates, including several who had withdrawn but were still on the ballot, accounted for 5.5%.