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Tory, Keesmaat put final touches on their mayoral campaigns on eve of election

Polls suggest the race to become Toronto’s mayor is a foregone conclusion, but you wouldn’t know it listening to the two front-runners.

On election eve, incumbent and prohibitive favourite John Tory said he’ll spend part of election day Monday preparing two speeches.

John Tory and Jennifer Keesmaat are the front-runners in Toronto’s mayoral race. Polls suggest Tory has a commanding lead heading into Monday’s election, but the incumbent says he isn’t taking anything for granted.
John Tory and Jennifer Keesmaat are the front-runners in Toronto’s mayoral race. Polls suggest Tory has a commanding lead heading into Monday’s election, but the incumbent says he isn’t taking anything for granted.  (Toronto Star photos)

“Two because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.

He will take time in the afternoon, before gathering with his family and campaign team to watch the results, to make sure he is “comfortable” with how he responds to either a win or a loss.

“I think anyone who would tell you they don’t feel a certain sense of apprehension would not be telling you the truth,” Tory said Sunday, during a break in campaigning.

“Because, notwithstanding whatever any polls say or how well things have gone, you’ve always got that worry because the job you believe you should have and the job you’ve worked hard to, in my case, keep is on the line.

“So yes, you’re apprehensive and a bit excited about the fact that you’d like to think you’re going to win.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s former chief planner and Tory’s chief long-shot challenger, was not conceding anything. She planned to continue her push for votes Monday after canvassing until it got too cold and dark Sunday.

“There are still a lot of people who are undecided, so that’s why getting out and having those conversations is so important,” she said. “And why getting out the vote is going to be so important.”

On marathon Sunday in Toronto, the two candidates also did some running around before crossing Monday’s finish line, each making several campaign stops.

In the evening, the 64-year-old Tory hosted a family dinner, as is his pre-election tradition, anticipating as many as 17 guests across four generations. That included his 86-year-old mother, who helped work the campaign phones on Saturday.

“But no other customs or superstitions,” he said. “I just go to bed and hope tomorrow is a good day.”

Tory said he would be up early Monday to attend a physiotherapy session to look after an Achilles tendon that became troublesome because of skiing and playing tennis. He then, as mayor, has a city hall meeting with his staff before going to vote with his wife, Barb. He said his mother has already voted.

Keesmaat, who squeezed in a family bike ride Sunday morning, said the campaign has reinvigorated her and how she looks at Toronto.

“I have to say my heart has grown,” she says. “That has energized me and the entire campaign has been energizing and got me more excited than ever about the possibilities for our city.”

For Keesmaat, election days have always held the same routine. She and her husband, Tom Freeman, gather their two kids and travel as a family to the polling station.

There’ll be a twist Monday, however, with a new voter casting a ballot for the neophyte politician. Keesmaat’s 18-year-old daughter, Alexandra, is home from the University of Western Ontario and voting for the first time in a municipal election.

Keesmaat noted it will be a special moment “in her life and our lives when she ticks the box beside her mom’s name.”

“It’s a very special time … my kids are very engaged,” continued Keesmaat, who also has a 13-year-old son.

“When I’ve had speeches to prepare, my kids have been my best critics and my best audience. At the end of one of my speeches, my son threw his fist in the air and said, ‘No more dithering and delay.’ They could be my speech writers at some point. They are completely engaged in the issues. They’re really passionate. They were my biggest champions in getting into this race.”

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