July 27, 2018
By Arianne Robinson
Mayor John Tory’s record shows he was never in favour of expanding the number of council seats to 47, but he has yet to comment on the latest news that could change the course of the municipal election scheduled for October.
A report by The Toronto Star’s Robert Benzie on Thursday night says, according to sources, Premier Doug Ford will be slashing the size of Toronto City Council almost in half before the October election, and will cancel the regional chair elections in Peel and York, where Patrick Brown, the former Progressive Conservative leader, was reported to have ambitions to run.
In the article, Benzie quotes an unnamed senior government official who said this is something Ford wanted to do when he was a Toronto councillor between 2010-2014.
Asked for reaction to the news, Mayor John Tory did not provide comment on Thursday evening but did schedule a news conference for Friday morning.
Tory did speak to CP24 on his way out of a pub near city hall late Thursday evening. “I saw the same stories everybody else did and I can just say that I had a very animated conversation with the premier this evening and I’ll have much more to say in a major statement I’ll make tomorrow morning.”
When asked by the reporter why nothing tonight, Tory responded, “Well, because, obviously, you’ve got to make sure you collect your thoughts and choose your words carefully and so we’ll have a major statement to make tomorrow morning.”
When pressed further if he was concerned, the mayor retorted, “Well, of course I’m concerned about anything that affects the wellbeing of the people of the city of Toronto.”
Tory’s track record at council shows the mayor was never in support of increasing the number of wards from 44 to 47 in 2016 (a change that was implemented for the 2018 election), but Tory was also not in support or reducing the number of wards to 26 (the other option). Instead the mayor favoured the option that would keep the same number of wards – but redo the boundaries.
Tory’s words from that time also highlight the mayor’s position on more councillors. “I am not in favour of adding any more politicians here,” Tory said at the Executive Committee on May 24, 2016. “So when you talk about the stew, I guess the only thing – I won’t say I wouldn’t add more fat because that would be very provocative. I won’t even say I wouldn’t add more beef. But I just wouldn’t add more politicians. I have yet to meet my first person, except perhaps in this building, that wants to add any politicians to any level of government, anywhere… I have nothing against politicians, I am one.”
Other political reactions on Thursday night were critical of the move.
A statement from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said, “It’s clear that Mr. Ford wants a smaller number of councillors to have more power, fewer checks and balances, and less accountability. This is obviously a move to make it easier for the premier to control Toronto City Hall.”
Also on Thursday night, Global News’ Travis Dhanraj tweeted quotes from internal documents sent to Ontario PC Party caucus members with talking points on tomorrow’s announcement. “Nobody in ON believes that we don’t have enough politicians. In fact it’s the opposite. We believe in Better Local Government. We’re going to reduce the size and cost of Toronto’s City Hall so that decisions can be made quicker while services can be delivered more efficiently,” Dhanraj wrote. “An oversized council makes it almost impossible to build meaningful consensus and get things done. As a result, infrastructure crumbles, the housing backlogs grows and transit isn’t built.”