Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Toronto Mayor John Tory addresses reporters Feb. 10 at a City Hall press conference after admitting he had a relationship with a former staffer.Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he will resign after admitting a months-long affair with a woman who had been an employee in his office.

The 68-year-old mayor, who was re-elected to a third term in October after saying his wife of more than four decades had given her blessing for him to run again, said on Friday he would be working with city staff toward “an orderly transition.”

“I recognize that permitting this relationship to develop was a serious error of judgment on my part,” Mr. Tory told reporters in a late evening press conference, saying the relationship happened at a time during which he and his wife were spending extended periods apart during the pandemic.

A former broadcaster, provincial politician and telecom executive, Mr. Tory took office in 2014 on a pledge to return dignity to the mayor’s office after the tumultuous term of his predecessor, Rob Ford. He has been a sedate presence in office, sometimes known around city hall as “No story Tory.”

His pledge to resign comes at an important moment for the city. The 2023 operating and capital budgets are set to be voted on by council next week.

As well, the city is facing a housing crisis that has pushed the cost of real estate out of reach for many. Mr. Tory’s housing plan, which would loosen zoning restrictions across much of the city, is due before council in March.

Mr. Tory is also the first person to serve under strong-mayor powers legislated by the province. With them, he had greater control than historically normal over the hiring of senior municipal staff and the budget process. Under separate legislation, which Mr. Tory requested of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, he was able to pass some measures with the support of only one-third of council.

His resignation followed a report in the Toronto Star that Mr. Tory had been engaged in a lengthy affair with a 31-year-old woman who had worked for him for at least part of the relationship.

Mr. Tory later confirmed the story at the short media appearance.

“I’m deeply sorry and I apologize unreservedly,” he told reporters. “I’ve decided that I will step down as mayor, so that I can take the time to reflect on my mistakes and to do the work of rebuilding the trust of my family.”

He said he will be working with the city manager, the city clerk and Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, appointed by Mr. Tory to the position of deputy mayor, “to ensure an orderly transition in the coming days.”

Under the City of Toronto Act, a by-election is required if the office of mayor become vacant.

The normally loquacious mayor did not take questions.

The premier in a statement on Saturday thanked Mr. Tory for his years of public service and said he would miss working with the former mayor.

“John will be remembered as a dedicated and hard-working mayor who served as a steady leader during the most difficult days of the pandemic. He united Toronto behind an optimistic vision for the future and I will miss working with him to see it come to life,” Mr. Ford said.

“I wish nothing but the best for my friend in the days, weeks and months ahead.”

Kristyn Wong-Tam, an NDP MPP who previously sat on council, called Mr. Tory’s affair an abuse of power.

“It’s no secret that John Tory and I had many political disagreements. Tonight I fully agree that he should resign. His is not a simple, one-time lapse of judgement. Tory was her boss and this is an abuse of power,” the former councillor said on Twitter.

The City of Toronto code of conduct does not explicitly forbid romantic relations between a mayor and staff. But members of council are required to “arrange their private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence and will bear close public scrutiny.”

Mr. Tory said he has asked the city integrity commissioner to review the relationship.

Reached Friday evening, some current and former Toronto councillors said they were shocked at the news of Mr. Tory’s departure.

“Everybody across the city is in shock that he’s just stepping down after a story breaks three hours ago,” said Councillor Paula Fletcher.

“We’re coming up to the budget. It is probably the worst possible time and the worst possible thing to have happen. It’s a terrible lapse in judgment by the mayor during the pandemic and perhaps even a lapse in judgement in running for a third term.”

Former councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who served as a deputy mayor in the last term, said he believed Mr. Tory felt he had no option but to resign. “I think he holds the position in the city with the deepest regards and has the highest respect for the job and the office, as does his relationship with his family,” he said.

The mayor has steered clear of scandal throughout his time in office. He presided from the centre-right and led council to pass a series of low-tax budgets. And he was otherwise successful at corralling council to his bidding, rarely losing a vote. His personal life did not intrude.

In the 2018 election race, his grip on the mayoralty was seen as sufficiently strong that the left did not put up a candidate. Former city planner Jennifer Keesmaat jumped into the race late, after Mr. Ford cut the size of council nearly in half mid campaign. Mr. Tory beat her handily.

Similarly, 2022 was shaping up to be a coronation before urbanist Gil Penalosa entered the race. He also lost by a large margin, confirming Mr. Tory’s popularity and the strength of his machine.

If he had completed his third term, Mr. Tory would have become the longest-serving mayor in Toronto history.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe