Dec. 4, 2018
By Arianne Robinson
Toronto’s new smaller 26-member city council had its first meeting of the 2018 – 2022 term on Tuesday, and comments by the mayor and councillors suggest the tone at City Hall will have a tighter, more syncopated rhythm this term, in contrast with the loose, unpredictable snare drum roll of council dynamics past. Mayor John Tory’s first address to council highlighted the need for councillors to work together, and after the meeting, many councillors were on the same page. Even comments from Councillor Josh Matlow suggested that a different beat could be emerging between him and the mayor.
In his 21-minute long address, Tory advocated for collaboration. “I urge colleagues to work with me, harder than ever, to resist the politics of division which seem to be so prevalent in so many places today, sometimes not too far away,” Tory said.
“We don’t have to divide and polarize here.”
Councillor Paula Fletcher, one of the stronger progressive voices on council, wants to give it a try. “We’ll have to see. I think the mayor said he wants to have all parts of council engaged so if he does that, that will be a good thing. I don’t think we should start, every time, saying, ‘well, he’s wrong.’ Because then, now we’re dividing. But if he veers off, we have to try and bring that back, but the public will also want to try and bring that back.”
Fletcher also said some of the shift in tone this term could come from a combination of fewer councillors, and different councillors. “Some of the really extreme councillors aren’t there. Councillor Mammoliti often created quite a stir and I think this council will probably be more professional and will strive to get along. With 25 [councillors] there’s not a lot of places to hide when things are going wrong.”
The reduction in the size of council and the fight that many councillors had to engage in to keep their seat has also made an impact on attitude. Councillor Jaye Robinson defeated Jon Burnside to keep her seat, and felt quite honoured after the first meeting.
“It was a bit exceptional just because of the fact that this is historic in that this is a very much reduced council of 25, and so I certainly feel honoured to be sitting in the chamber again,” Robinson said.
“It was a very competitive arena, it was a very challenging election, and because of that it makes it… much more significant to be here. Because to be here – some members did not get back to the chambers. I feel very honoured to be here today.”
There is also an underlying hope and optimism for some.
“It’s a new world right now with 25 council members, but I think we’re going to have a good four years. There’s a lot of restructuring that has to take place over the next six months, but I think once we get through the restructuring you’ll find a much more efficient council,” Councillor Gary Crawford said after the meeting.
“It will be a council that will work much better together. There’ll be some growing pains, but I think at the end of the day it will be good for the city.”
Even the Rob and Doug Ford divisive politics of the past at City Hall don’t seem to penetrate through to their nephew Michael Ford, who is a city councillor at City Hall. However, Michael Ford, the youngest member of council, still draws inspiration from his late uncle and former mayor, Rob.
Reached after the meeting, Ford said, “knowing who sat in my chair before, [it’s] a high honour to live up to Rob.” Ford also spoke about how special it was to have members of the Ford family attend the first meeting. “My grandmother – its very, very special to have her here. She, of course, attended her husband’s swearing in more than 30 years ago at Queen’s Park, [and] to Rob in 2000, to Rob becoming mayor [in 2010], and now myself. It was touching to look out into the audience and see her there.”
Matlow, who had some of the most tense exchanges with Tory last council term, had kind words about the mayor’s comments about divisive politics.
“I thought his words were wonderful,” Matlow said after the meeting.
Asked about whether there is room for him and the mayor to share kind moments, Matlow hinted that things may change from how they were in the past.
“We’ll see where it evolves.”