Project: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

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Hardly a month goes by without a report that a particular city is the best place to live, work, invest in, or visit. Rankings and ratings make for an easy news story. Reporting in numerical terms that Vancouver provides a quality of life superior to that of Johannesburg, or that Cleveland is a better place to do business than Paris, satisfies a contemporary appetite for cut-and-dried empirically grounded “facts.” And local media coverage of a city’s changing position in rankings has become a regular event that politicians and public officials dare not ignore.

How good are these rankings? How do they work? Are they well designed? How should they be interpreted by policymakers? This project sought to answer all these questions.

Featured in the Atlantic Cities blog.

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Advance voting in the 2010 Toronto election

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Did advance voting benefit any particular candidate?

Much was made in the media about the high volume of voting at advance polls — approximately double compared to previous elections. About 9.4% of all votes were cast in advance.[1] Some have speculated that this was the product of efforts by the major candidates (especially Ford) to lock in support prior to election day. Did advance polls favour any one candidate?

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Turnout in the 2010 Toronto election

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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.

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The 2010 Toronto election – the ‘anyone-but-Ford’ factor

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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?

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Margins of mayoral support in the 2010 Toronto election

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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.

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Mayoral support in the 2010 Toronto election

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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.

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Election-day results in the 2010 Toronto election – Part 2

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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.

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Election-day results in the 2010 Toronto election – Part 1

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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%.

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Project: Growing Cities

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This project was a comparison of long-term planning policies with measurements of urban development patterns in the Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto metropolitan areas. It showed that each city pursued a different approach to planning urban growth, and that these different approaches have shaped and channelled that growth in distinctive ways.

Commissioned by the Neptis Foundation, this project was produced in collaboration with Marcy Burchfield, Byron Moldofsky, and Jo Ashley.

Project: Shaping the Toronto Region

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This report examines 16 districts in the Greater Toronto Area to assess how density is related to era of development, standards for parks and schools, housing type mix, street configuration, employment, and travel behaviour.  We also analyzed 24 hypothetical scenarios to estimate the effects on density of planning policy changes. The findings have implications for urban growth policy.

Prepared with John van Nostrand, PlanningAlliance Inc., for the Neptis Foundation.

The report won an Excellence in Planning Award from the Canadian Institute of Planners in 2009.