Candidate Profile: Mark Saunders

Mark Saunders, former chief of the Toronto Police Service, has been in public service close to 38 years. After stepping down in 2020 to deal with family matters and losing a run for Queen’s Park last year as a Conservative, he wants to come back – as Toronto’s mayor.

“I thought that when I retired I could walk away from public service, but it’s a button you can’t just turn on and off.”

Saunders says his wife encouraged him to run in light of recent safety concerns in the city’s core and on the TTC. “I feel like we’re at a tipping point with crime and disorder. I think that I have the right skill set and the leadership experience to put the city back on course.”

“A safer city is a healthier city. A healthier city has a vibrancy that helps boost the economy.”

A Toronto resident for over 40 years, Saunders says there’s nowhere else he’d rather live. As part of downsizing, he’s also a regular transit rider. His vision for a safer TTC involves more police-trained special constables, as well as additional lighting and cameras.

“If you hit that yellow [emergency] strip [on the subway], fire, ambulance, and police respond and it shuts the subway down.” He proposes an Assist button that alerts uniformed officers to respond. “Visibility helps reduce the disorder.”

Saunders worries that “we normalize going to meetings downtown, and walking around people that are laying on the ground.” To increase affordable housing and mental health supports, he advocates reallocating funds from things like the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. And he would like housing projects to be approved in one year rather than the usual five.

Cabbagetown South residents contend with things like “human defecation in their backyards, needles in parks, and needles in school grounds.” Not just residents but businesses are hurt, Saunders says.

“When we talk about people with mental health issues, when we talk about substance use, and when we talk about affordability and homelessness, they all intertwine.”

Saunders’ approach to bike lanes is to remove them on some streets and put future plans on hold. “Why would you take the two busiest streets in our entire country and make them single lane? And then question why we’re ranked the seventh in the world for the worst congestion?”

While Queen Street is under construction for the Ontario Line, Saunders proposes bringing through traffic back to King Street, and pressing Metrolinx to work faster with double shifts and night shifts.