City Councillor Josh Matlow is officially joining the race to become Toronto's next mayor, announcing his candidacy on Tuesday along with a tax-based plan to get city services back on track.

"I am focusing on our city's priorities in a way that not only will make our city work, but with a plan to invest in those priorities to achieve results, and I believe that it's important to be upfront with Torontonians if you are asking their for their support to lead the city," Matlow tells STOREYS.

He points to major issues like TTC service cuts, the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on the Gardiner east rebuild, and inadequate timely clearing of snow, as well as smaller, albeit still inconvenient, issues such as public washrooms that are often closed and the hundreds of public garbage bins that are broken.

To help fund improvements in these areas, Matlow is proposing a 2% property tax increase that would cost the average Toronto homeowner $67 per year, raising more than $390M over five years. Although he acknowledges that coming out of the gate with a plan to increase property taxes may not necessarily be the most politically savvy of moves, Matlow says he'd rather be honest and let Torontonians know what they're voting for.

"I think any candidate running for mayor needs to demonstrate, at long last, that they're willing to be up front about how to pay for our priorities," Matlow said. "I'm willing to believe in Torontonians, that they are ready to invest in their city so that it works."

The proposed tax increase, which Matlow notes breaks down to roughly $5.58 per homeowner, per month -- "the price of a sandwich," he adds -- would supply a new City Works Fund, dedicated to improving the critical services communities rely on including timely bus and streetcar service, keeping warming centres open, clearing and repairing roads and sidewalks, and making more recreation programs available.

"If somebody really thinks that the status quo with the state of our roads and our transit system and our social services is good enough and they want to elect somebody else, that's going to be their choice," Matlow said. "But if they want somebody who will be honest about not only our priorities, but also realistic ways to make our city work, then I'm offering them that option."

Over the past few decades, Matlow says property taxes in Toronto have been kept artificially low, starving the city of resources.

Although he'll be releasing a full platform in the coming weeks, Matlow has his eye on other cost saving measures that would afford the city more room to improve services, one of which is stopping the rebuild of the Gardiner Expressway.

"Rebuilding the eastern section of the Gardiner is a black hole sucking away hundreds of millions of dollars that we need for real priorities, especially when there's a preferred alternative option to being the only city in the entire world rebuilding an expressway along the waterfront," Matlow said.

The rebuild of the Gardiner's eastern portion has been criticized by a number of politicians and residents alike on virtually every facet, from its extremely high price tag ($1B, although that number has not yet been updated to account for inflation) to its potential environmental impacts. To date, the City says approximately $500M has already been spent on the project, including $340M worth of completed work.

In Council, Matlow has pushed for a reevaluation of spending on the Gardiner and, despite claims from Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie to the contrary, believes reversing course even now could save the City money in the end. The alternative plan involves removing the elevated portion of the Gardiner east of Jarvis Street and widening Lake Shore Boulevard into an eight-lane roadway -- a move also supported by fellow mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa.

Matlow notes that freeing up City-owned lands along the elevated eastern portion of the Gardiner could provide enough space to build 8,000 new homes and, based on a report from Colliers Canada, could bring in nearly $500M in revenue to the city via land sales.

"If the city keeps boasting about how it wants to use lands to provide housing, why wouldn't we do it? And if an added benefit could be to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to then improve the state of our roads, to invest into LRT, and into doing the kinds of things that just have been on the back burner for so many years because the city has a dearth of resources and funds," Matlow said.

When it comes to public transit, the TTC has struggled in recent years with low ridership, service cuts, and a spike in violent crime. Matlow says the status quo is no longer working, and that the service cuts need to be reversed.

"When it comes to safety, no one is safer if there are longer delays when you're waiting for your bus late at night," he said, noting that more details on his transit plans will be revealed when his platform is released.

Matlow's candidacy comes just weeks after Premier Doug Ford publicly said of the open Toronto mayoral seat, "If a left wing mayor gets in there, we're toast," referencing the strong mayor powers that have been granted to the city. Matlow has staunchly opposed the strong mayor powers and says that, if elected, he would not only disavow the power, but formally request that Ford rescind it.

"There is no democratically elected legislative body that makes decisions by minority rule," Matlow said.

Matlow joins a growing list of candidates vying to become Toronto's next mayor, including last election's first and second runner ups Gil Penalosa and Chloe Brown, as well as former city councillor Ana Bailão and former Toronto police chief Mark Saunders. Others, including City Councillors Brad Bradford and Stephen Holyday appear to be exploring the possibility of a run.

"I actually think it is really, really positive that so many people are willing to to run," Matlow said. "I hope that residents are engaged in this election. There really hasn't been a very competitive election for mayor for many years and the city is at a crossroads, so I'm hopeful that this election is a really thoughtful and substantive test of visions and ideas and priorities."