Race for Toronto mayor closely watched as Ontario voters head to the polls

Millions of people were casting ballots in civic elections across Ontario on Monday but most eyes were on the mayoral vote in the country’s largest city thanks to its outgoing incumbent, Rob Ford.

TORONTO — Millions of people were casting ballots in civic elections across Ontario on Monday but most eyes were on the mayoral vote in the country’s largest city thanks to its outgoing incumbent, Rob Ford.

Even though cancer forced the disgraced, scandal-plagued mayor from the race for Toronto’s top job, Ford was still running for election as a councillor in his west-end ward. His brother, Coun. Doug Ford, had jumped into the fray to replace him.

Ford’s admissions of smoking crack cocaine in a drunken stupor, his profanities and offensive behaviour garnered national and international headlines and made him the butt of late-night television jokes.

The pending end of his reign at city hall did not go unnoticed in the comedy realm.

TV host John Oliver lamented Ford’s passing as mayor, but found solace in the possibility that his brother might replace him.

“Look, Toronto: I think I speak on behalf of the rest of the world when I deliver you this message,” Oliver said in a recent segment.

“Please, please elect this man. I beg you.”

In all, 65 candidates were hoping to succeed Ford as mayor, but polls suggested the winner would most likely come from a trio of front-runners, former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, former New Democrat MP Olivia Chow, and Doug Ford.

About 1.6 million city residents were eligible to vote at 1,679 polling stations that were to remain open until 8 p.m. Eastern, with results known within about 30 minutes given the use of electronic tabulating machines.

While the race to replace the infamous Ford was drawing the most attention, Toronto isn’t the only city replacing a controversial incumbent.

Voters in London were choosing a successor to Joe Fontana, who resigned as mayor this summer after he was convicted of government fraud for forging a check while he was a Liberal MP.

In Brampton, a spending scandal could affect Mayor Susan Fennell’s tenure after an audit found more than $172,000 dollars in expenses that breached city policies — though some $41,000 was repaid, and a forensic audit later concluded that Fennell owed just $3,500.

In northern Ontario, many residents of Elliot Lake were wondering whether fallout from the deadly collapse of a shopping mall roof in June 2012 would influence the outcome of the election there.

A report released last week found municipal officials — including the incumbent Mayor Rick Hamilton — turned a blind eye to worsening conditions at the Algo Centre Mall before the roof caved in, killing two women and injuring 19 others.

Meanwhile, Mississauga’s 93-year-old mayor — “Hurricane” Hazel McCallion — winner of 12 consecutive mayoral elections, has thrown her support behind Bonnie Crombie, who’s battling Steve Mahoney for the top job.

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