On the evening of Friday, February 10, from a podium at City Hall, Mayor John Tory announced to the city his resignation as mayor and apologized for a months-long, as he called it, inappropriate relationship with a former staffer throughout 2022.

Within a few hours of the story breaking in the Toronto Star Friday night, Tory was set to give up the post he had held since his initial election in 2014, following the tumultuous mayoral tenure of the late Rob Ford. Tory’s resignation comes just four months after getting re-elected with a 62 per cent majority in October’s municipal election.

Upon Tory filing his resignation paperwork and formally departing from the position – which he has not given a date for yet – deputy mayor and Ward 25 Councillor Jennifer McKelvie will step in as interim mayor. A by-election can occur no sooner than May 1, 2023, but is more likely to be held later in May or June.

A divisive budget left hanging

Tory’s sudden resignation is leaving city council in limbo, as his recently proposed 2023 budget is set to be debated at City Hall later this week. The budget, which consists of a $16.2-billion city operating budget and $49.3-billion capital plan, came under fire at public sessions held in January. Criticism for elements such as increase in property taxes, a $48 million budget hike for Toronto police and higher TTC fares.

City council is set to debate the budget on Wednesday, February 15, although it is currently unclear if Tory will be present at the meeting. Concern has been expressed about the budget going forward when its author will not be present to oversee the spending choices. Wednesday’s budget deliberations were also set to be the first under new strong mayor legislation that would have allowed Tory to veto any amendments backed by less than two-thirds of city council.

Contenders to watch

Ward 19 Councillor Brad Bradford has already emerged as a leading contender for the spring by-election. As a member of Tory’s executive committee and newly appointed Chair of the Planning and Housing Committee, Bradford’s policy positions align with that of Tory’s, including support of strong mayor powers and legalization of rooming houses citywide to increase capacity. Bradford was also endorsed by Tory during the 2022 municipal election. Bradford has not yet confirmed his intention to run.

Other notable contenders include:

  • Gil Penalosa, renowned urbanist and Tory’s runner-up in the fall election, who has already confirmed he will run. Penalosa leans left on policy issues and is in favour of building affordable housing units on city-owned land as well as replacing the Gardiner East with green space.
  • Ward 12 Councillor Josh Matlow, a progressive who has often clashed with Tory on hot-button city issues such as homelessness, police budget and property taxes. He has not yet officially announced intention to run.
  • Chloe Brown, a policy analyst who came third in the fall election, who wants to modernize practices for renting, taxation, and development with a community-based approach. She has not yet officially announced intention to run.
  • There is also opportunity for a well-known outsider to throw their hat in the ring, such as former Chief City Planner and mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat or former Member of Parliament for Spadina—Fort York Adam Vaughan.

It has been close to a decade since Toronto has had a new mayor. Lots has changed since 2014, and with a city that is still only operating at a fraction of pre-pandemic business targets, the situation seems poised for a radical change in one direction or another.

H+K will be watching in the coming weeks as Tory formally resigns, McKelvie steps in as deputy mayor and more by-election candidates announce their campaigns and platforms. We will be focused on making sense of a turbulent few months to provide you with actionable advice to help you through this transitionary time.