To the residents of suburban Etobicoke and most of Scarborough who favoured Doug Ford over John Tory in the recent municipal elections, the mayor-elect has a simple message:
“Give me some time and a chance and I will show you as mayor what I showed a lot of people as a private citizen which is that I care deeply about those parts of the city and some of the special challenges that are faced in those parts of the city.”
“I am going to be the mayor of all Toronto and in a year from now when questions are asked about how John Tory is doing, I promise they will say we are quite impressed that he has shown the interest and that he has been present in the community as he was as a private citizen,” Tory said in an interview with Share.
“A lot of people don’t know what I was doing as a private citizen and I am not being critical of them. I was a volunteer and a community activist and they will see that I am going to take it upon myself to show leadership on a number of the special challenges facing different communities in different parts of the city and really try hard to make it what I said I wanted to make it, which is one Toronto where nobody is left out,” he said.
A former Greater Toronto Civic Action Alliance chair, Tory captured 40 per cent of the votes in the hotly-contested race for the city’s top job.
Just days after the election, he assembled two teams to assist with his transition.
Former City of Toronto economic development, culture and tourism commissioner Joe Halstead is on the transition team and ex-Liberal MPP and Speaker of the House Alvin Curling is a member of the transition advisory council that will focus on transportation planning and SmartTrack, congestion and gridlock, and housing.
A former North York Parks & Recreation commissioner, Halstead played a pivotal role in resolving the Pro Line issue that cleared the way for Toronto to land a National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise just over two decades ago. Along with top-notch lawyer, Larry Bertuzzi and former New Democratic Party (NDP) special adviser, David Reville, Halstead negotiated with the NBA after then-Premier Bob Rae refused to give up the $20 million in annual revenues that basketball generated for sports lottery at the time.
Halstead, chair of Ontario Place Corporation and a Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am Games director, also spent 24 years with the provincial government in a wide range of management capacities, rising to the position of assistant deputy minister.
“Joe and Alvin are people who are leading citizens in Toronto,” said Tory. “I wanted to make sure that I have their perspectives. In the case of Joe, he knows the City of Toronto, public service and how things work at city hall and I want to take full advantage of that.”
Tory is stepping in as the city’s top magistrate at a time when the search for a new Toronto Police chief is underway. The composition of the seven-member Toronto Police Services Board will also change.
Regarding his option to join the board, he said he will announce his decision shortly.
“I think you have to decide where the best place to allocate your precious time is and so I will sort that out in the next few weeks,” said Tory.
He encouraged city residents to take part in the consultation process and laid out some of his expectations of the new top cop.
“For me, the individual has to be very focused on accountability and understand the challenges and complexities of this very diverse community,” said Tory. “That person also has to have the ability to administer a big budget.”
For four years, Tory was the volunteer chair of Civic Action, which sets a non-partisan agenda, builds strategic partnerships and launches campaigns, programs and organizations to transform the Greater Toronto Area.
In that role, he sat with bank executives, union presidents, poverty and other social activists, interested citizens and people from all spectrums of the society to discuss ways of tackling poverty along with inadequate jobs and housing.
He said a similar approach is needed to champion the social challenges that many city residents face.
“If you want to build a great city, you need everybody’s participation,” said Tory. “I really believe in my heart that the best thing you can do to make sure that you address poverty and housing inadequacy is to ensure that everybody can have a productive and lasting job. If everybody has those, they will be able to provide for themselves.”
Tory responded to criticism that he suggested that White privilege doesn’t exist in response to a reporter’s question during the campaign.
“I have devoted a huge part of my life in trying to battle discrimination and advance the interests of all of the different communities that I think have often had a much tougher time in our city,” he said. “There are undoubtedly instances where people have been left behind in our city and treated differently than others. This is something I have pledged to fight against.”
The incoming mayor said he’s open to acting as a mediator to settle the controversy between the Caribana Arts Group (CAG), which started the annual Caribana celebration and the Festival Management Committee (FMC).
The CAG, which replaced the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC), has been claiming ownership of the annual festival it ran up until eight years ago when the City of Toronto withdrew its funding and created the FMC to stage the event.
He said he will only step in if asked by the two parties.
“It just pains me because the festival represents something that is so important to the celebration of who we are in Toronto and the celebration of our African-Caribbean community,” said Tory. “I would love to see some of these matters resolved and the history of the festival honoured and respected. If I could help to resolve some of those issues, I am more than happy to do so.”
Tory will be sworn in as Toronto’s 65th mayor on December 2.