After a very successful re-election campaign where incumbent mayor John Tory handily won over rival Jennifer Keesmaat, the focus now shifts to the city’s slimmed down 26-member council (Mayor Tory plus 25 ward councillors) and how it will impact Mayor Tory’s agenda. In his election night speech, Mayor Tory repeatedly talked about his focus on “getting things done.” It appears voters have given Tory a council who will help him do that.
With the Ontario government cutting the size of council by half, this election saw a number of long-time incumbents pitted against each other in an effort to secure another four-year mandate. The result is a Toronto City Council with 26 distinct personalities; gone is the “mighty middle,” the malleable group of councillors who could be moved in one direction or the other on a host of issues.
In its place is a group of councillors who each bring a particular point of view on a host of issues, from taxes to transit. Fortunately for Mayor Tory, Torontonians voted in a number of his allies and supporters who will be needed to secure a majority vote of 14 on the council floor. These include councillors Mark Grimes, James Pasternak, Gary Crawford and Denzil Minnan-Wong, who all won re-election, as well as new supporters in Cynthia Lai, Jennifer McKelvie and Brad Bradford, who Tory endorsed and campaigned for in the final days of the campaign.
A number of outspoken members of Council are also returning, most notably St. Paul’s Josh Matlow, a vocal opponent to the one-stop Scarborough subway – Tory endorsed his opponent Joe Mihevc. Bombastic Scarborough councillor Jim Karygiannis also won re-election, besting former Deputy Mayor and Twitter celebrity Norm Kelly.
The majority of the 25 councillors elected Monday night are less ideological and are open to engaging on issues. However, a collaborative approach by Mayor Tory is still necessary, specifically on issues of importance, such as transit, fighting crime and fiscal management. It will require a detailed understanding of what it will take to keep councillors on his team. This will be especially critical in the second half of the term as ambitious councillors look to the 2022 provincial and municipal elections.
Many of the returning councillors are quite skilled at creating effective coalitions with or without the Mayor’s office and did so during the Rob Ford mayoralty. While the circumstances are entirely different, the ability for council to create new power dynamics is something to be closely monitored.
To continue to move his agenda forward, Mayor Tory will need to persuade a majority of councillors to adopt a larger city-wide perspective, rather than an inward view focused on their local ward. This perspective doesn’t come naturally to many members of council, who have been successful primarily due to their attention to local issues.
But with wards doubling in size, there are fewer councillors to tackle the ongoing challenges facing Toronto. Councillors elected to the next term of council cannot afford to stay disengaged from the issues on the council agenda over the next four years.
It will be Mayor Tory’s task to keep council engaged and moving forward. With the new term officially beginning on December 1 and the 2019 budget process beginning immediately thereafter, it will be Mayor Tory’s task to keep council engaged and moving forward. Luckily for John Tory, voters have given him councillors he can work with and a definite path to the 14 votes he needs to push his agenda over the next four years.
Over the course the election and election night, Mayor Tory focused his efforts on getting things done. Items of importance for the Mayor as he enters the new term will be:
Mayor Tory was elected in 2014 on his signature promise of SmartTrack. It was ambitious plan that was designed to make travel throughout the city more efficient, especially for those travelling from across the outer suburbs. While some of the details remain fluid, there has been progress with significant planning underway.
How SmartTrack and transit planning more broadly evolves given the province’s desire to upload parts of the TTC will remain a question mark in the early days of the new term. What is clear that the time for talking about building transit is over with both municipalities and the province needing to move forward on building transit.
The crime situation in Toronto remained an undercurrent throughout this election given the unease the city had seen from the increase in violent crimes including the Danforth shooting.
To address the root causes of crime requires addressing harder to tackle issues such as poverty, mental health and addiction.
During the last term, council focused on the poverty reduction strategy. This strategy has many tentacles; however, one that Mayor Tory highlighted throughout the campaign was the pledge to ramp up affordable housing and to create 40,000 new affordable rental units in 12 years.
Taxes / Revenue Tools
Mayor Tory has continued his promise to keep the property taxes at rate of inflation.
The fiscal situation remains a priority for council as the city goes almost immediately in to planning for the 2019 budget. Investing in the services that are required for the priorities of council and Mayor Tory will require local creativity on the budget and of course, intergovernmental support.
With Tory pledging to keep property taxes low, the City will need to find additional revenue elsewhere, either through the province granting new taxing powers or council implementing those they already have, such as a parking levy or alcohol tax.
In his first term, Mayor Tory focused on expanding Toronto’s innovative and creative sectors. This had led to major investments from Shopify, Microsoft and Pinewood Studios. More could be seen in this upcoming term.
Elected Toronto City Council
Mayor John Tory
Ward 1 – Mike Ford
Ward 2 – Stephen Holyday
Ward 3 – Mark Grimes
Ward 4 – Gord Perks
Ward 5 – Frances Nunziata
Ward 6 – James Pasternak
Ward 7 – Anthony Perruzza
Ward 8 – Mike Colle
Ward 9 – Ana Bailao
Ward 10 – Joe Cressy
Ward 11 – Mike Layton
Ward 12 – Josh Matlow
Ward 13 – Kristyn Wong-Tam
Ward 14 – Paula Fletcher
Ward 15 – Jaye Robinson
Ward 16 – Denzil Minnan-Wong
Ward 17 – Shelley Carroll
Ward 18 – John Filion
Ward 19 – Brad Bradford
Ward 20 – Gary Crawford
Ward 21—Michael Thompson
Ward 22 – Jim Karygiannis
Ward 23 – Cynthia Lai
Ward 24 – Paul Ainslie
Ward 25 – Jennifer McKelvie