Toronto History in Flashback--Election Campaign Literature

October 20, 2014 | Katherine

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Jacobs Alderman Ward 5 Toronto 1976One of the more unusual collections in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department at the Toronto Reference Library is the Municipal Election Campaign Literature Collection. This primary source collection of pamphlets, flyers, and door hangers put out by candidates running for mayor, alderman (now known as councillor) or school trustee have been collected and preserved on microfiche for all parts of Toronto since 1969. The material was donated (and still is) by candidates, library staff and the general public.

The collection includes material from the boroughs and cities that made up Metropolitan Toronto: East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, Toronto (the old downtown city) and York, and Metropolitan Toronto itself.  Before 1997, Toronto citizens would vote for their local mayor (yes--there were six of them), their ward alderman and their Metro councillor.  Essentially the alderman in your local ward looked after local problems, while your Metro councillor looked after larger regional interests like police and transit. Of course, there was overlap in some areas and plenty of tensions between the two levels.  Municipal politics in Toronto has never been simple or conflict free.

Since 1998, the election pamphlets for the new City of Toronto come from the wards that make up the new government structure. Since the year 2000 those are based on the federal electoral districts of Toronto (22 in total) split in half to make up a council of 44 members. The mayor is the extra, 45th member.

Looking back over the years it’s amazing—how little has changed! A constant theme is taxes (always too high). Another is transportation (never good enough). Some candidates boast of their fresh approach and new ideas. Others emphasize the need for experience and business management. There's always the argument that youth needs to get involved, but especially true in the mid to late seventies when the baby boom generation was coming into its own.

All this history has been preserved on microfiche. If you want to see it, come to the Humanities & Social Sciences Department on the 2nd floor. Bring along you USB stick, and you can take away a digital version using our ScanPro microfilm/fiche readers.


Consult or download the Toronto Municipal Election Campaign Literature Index:

  Download Campaign literature Index 1969-2014 (excel file)


An Historical Sampling:

(Click to enlarge the images)

Dilevko Mayor Etobicoke 1976 Flynn Mayor Etobicoke 1976











Youth and experience vied for the Mayor’s job in Etobicoke 1976.  Candidate Juris Dilevko cried “We need a new spirit! The government of Etobicoke should search for more opportunities to bring our youth into the political process.”  More staidly, incumbent Dennis Flynn promised “Representation, Accountability, Management and Planning.”  Flynn was re-elected, and remained Mayor of Etobicoke until 1984, when he became Chairman of Metropolitan Toronto.

Elson-Nelson Trustee Midtown 1988
Two unusual twists here—two candidates running a joint campaign, and reaching out to youth who won’t be eligible to vote for years.  The Nelson-Elson campaign for School Trustee in the new Midtown ward in 1988.

Lombardi Ward 11 Scarborough 1994



Don Lombardi speaking the multiple languages of Ward 11 Scarborough in 1994.



Hope Ward 5 Toronto 1976



Ying Hope served Ward 5 in the old city of Toronto as a School Board Trustee (1963-1969), then as Alderman from 1969-1985. In later years he worked on environmental issues, and helped to win redress from the Canadian Government for the Chinese head tax levied in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.




The Toronto Star and political controversy go together, whether it’s 2014 or 1969.  York mayoralty candidate Wes Boddington came out swinging.


Boddington Mayor York 1969

Boddington Mayor York 1969-3 Boddington Mayor York 1969- 2




























White Mayor York 1969



But ultimately, the "Star candidate" Phil White was also the "Peoples' Choice" for Mayor of the Borough of York in 1969.