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Toronto Mayor John Tory arrives for a press conference at City Hall in Toronto on Feb. 10.Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press

Toronto Mayor John Tory’s sudden decision to step down after the revelation of a months-long affair with a former employee in his office has sparked debate on how the city moves forward, especially as it stares down budget decisions next week.

The 68-year-old mayor, who was first elected in 2014 and won a third term only four months ago, has not formally submitted his resignation as of Saturday evening – a day after his announcement in which he promised to work with city staff “to ensure an orderly transition in the coming days.”

Mr. Tory’s decision followed a Toronto Star report that he had been engaged in an affair with a 31-year-old woman who had worked for him for at least part of the relationship. Had he completed his third term, he would have been the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history.

Once the city council declares the mayor’s office to be vacant, the process will begin to elect a new mayor within the next six months. Owing to legislative changes passed by Premier Doug Ford’s government in the summer, a by-election must be held to replace the mayor, and council no longer has the authority to appoint someone to the role for the remainder of the term.

Gil Penalosa, who was the runner-up in last October’s municipal election, quickly announced Saturday that he will run in the upcoming race. The urban planner told The Globe and Mail he believes the city’s “moving in the wrong direction,” and that he wants to improve transit access across the city and focus on building a more inclusive Toronto. Fourth-place finisher Blake Acton also said he would enter the race.

The shake-up coincides with a critical time for the city, as council is set to debate and vote next week on the 2023 budget that was proposed by Mr. Tory under new rules from the province, referred to as strong-mayor powers. Under the legislation, council has until March 2 to propose and vote on amendments to the budget. The mayor then has time to review the changes and use a veto power.

But Councillor Josh Matlow, who has been a political opponent of Mr. Tory, said he hopes council will be given more time to work on the budget and make necessary changes.

“John Tory likely won’t be the mayor when we approve the budget, so the question will be about the mandate that this budget has,” he said. “I think it’s a moment where council needs to make this not just the mayor’s budget, but Toronto’s budget and make sure we pass amendments that better reflect Torontonians’ priorities.”

The proposed $16.2-billion operating budget includes a 5.5-per-cent property tax increase, more money to hire police and an increase to the Toronto Transit Commission subsidy.

Questions are also swirling around how council will operate prior to the election of a new mayor and who will fill the role in the interim. Second-term Councillor Jennifer McKelvie was appointed by Mr. Tory as deputy mayor at the start of the term, and provincial legislation says that if the mayor’s office is vacant, the deputy would act as mayor and preside at meetings with “all the powers and duties of the head of council.”

It isn’t clear if the strong-mayor powers transfer over to the acting mayor, or if council has a mechanism to revisit the decision and elect a person to the interim role. Ms. McKelvie’s office did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Asked about the transition of power, City of Toronto spokesperson Mike Hajmasy didn’t directly answer the question but said in an e-mail that more details on timelines and next steps would be made available when the resignation notice from Mr. Tory has been received.

Councillor Brad Bradford said he wants council to be able to work together – no matter who is serving as acting mayor – to address challenges facing the city, including lack of housing and crime and safety issues, and pass a budget that supports Torontonians.

“It is my hope that in the days ahead, we use this as a moment of unity where we can come together and focus on the work and put the politics aside,” he said.

Mr. Matlow said that since the deputy mayor was a position appointed by Mr. Tory, council should now have a say on who serves as acting mayor. Whoever it ends up being, he said they should commit to not using the new strong-mayor powers that allow office holders to veto council decisions and pass by-laws related to broad “provincial priorities” with one-third support – a specific request made by Mr. Tory to the provincial government.

Both Mr. Matlow and Mr. Bradford didn’t rule out joining the race for the mayor’s chair. Municipal law expert John Mascarin said sitting politicians who decide to run don’t have to leave their post to do so and can resign if they are successful. Then there would either be a by-election or an appointment to fill the open council seat.

Council is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the budget.

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