Toronto Mayor John Tory won’t resign his post until the city budget is finalized, leaving unclear how long he will remain at city hall after admitting an affair with a subordinate and promising to step down.
As long as he is mayor, there is nothing to prevent Mr. Tory from exercising the powers of the office. Among them are veto powers included in strong-mayor legislation passed by the province late last year, which he could use to thwart attempts to amend his budget. Some of the mayor’s allies are even publicly encouraging him not to resign, and instead serve out the almost four years remaining in his term.
Mr. Tory, 68, announced Friday that he would step down as mayor less than four months after cruising to a third consecutive election victory. He admitted a lengthy affair with someone who was on his mayoral staff when the relationship began. Mr. Tory called this “a serious error of judgment” and said he needed “time to reflect on my mistakes and to do the work of rebuilding the trust of my family.”
He has yet to resign, and his office released a statement Monday saying he would see the budget process through, and that he would announce further details about his departure following city council’s budget meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday. Under timelines contained within the strong-mayor rules, he could need to stay in office as long as 25 days after the budget debate to ensure the fiscal plan’s passage.
The budget being debated Wednesday calls for new money for police, amid growing concerns about social disorder. It also calls for higher public transit fares, and reduced transit service. The fiscal plan also warns of a $1.4-billion pandemic-related shortfall, and projects a worsening capital backlog in areas such as roads, transit and parks.
“He has stated that he is committed to finishing the budget and the budget process,” Councillor Gary Crawford, a Tory ally who chairs the budget committee, told reporters at city hall. “That can end Wednesday afternoon, Wednesday evening or it may be continued for another couple of weeks. But he has committed himself to finishing that process.”
Political scientist Myer Siemiatycki, a professor emeritus at Toronto Metropolitan University, called it inappropriate for Mr. Tory to preside over a budget meeting, effectively locking in spending and priorities for the year, so soon after acknowledging he is unable to lead the city.
“There is a contradiction there, between saying it’s inappropriate for me to remain as your mayor, but I’m going to remain for the most important decision in the year,” Mr. Siemiatycki said.
Gord Perks, a left-leaning Toronto city councillor and regular critic of the mayor, said Mr. Tory’s decision to prolong his departure puts the city in a difficult position.
“I think it is very damaging to the effectiveness and reputation of the government of the City of Toronto that we are in a limbo where it’s not clear whether we have a mayor or not,” he said.
There is little Mr. Tory’s critics can do to force him to follow through on his pledge to resign. As Toronto learned during the tumultuous leadership of Rob Ford, a mayor unwilling to resign cannot be pushed.
Councillor Michael Thompson, one of the mayor’s political allies, said there is no mechanism by which council could prevent Mr. Tory from presiding over the budget.
“Nothing has changed as it relates to the budget itself,” he said. “If we had not known what we learned on Friday night, we would still be going through the same process.”
Others on council said there was no reason Mr. Tory couldn’t run the budget process.
“I feel he has the moral authority, he has the legal authority,” said Mr. Crawford, who has worked with Mr. Tory on nine consecutive budgets. “We need his leadership. He has been a strong leader for this budget, a strong leader for this city. He needs to continue doing that.”
Councillor Jon Burnside said he had encouraged the mayor to reconsider his pledge to resign, and instead stay in office.
Mr. Burnside, who also serves as chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, said he takes issue with the disruption and financial cost that a mayoral by-election would thrust upon on the city. He argued it would detract from city council’s work to address important challenges facing Toronto.
If Mr. Tory does follow through on his pledge to resign, the role of mayor will be assumed by Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, who was named by Mr. Tory as his deputy mayor. A council vote will be needed to start the clock ticking on a by-election race. There are various possible timelines, but Toronto residents should be going to the polls within six months.
According to the province, strong-mayor powers would not be held by an interim office-holder, but would be conferred on the winner of a by-election.
The budding race to replace Mr. Tory continued to evolve Monday, with provincial politician Stan Cho saying that he would not enter. The Progressive Conservative MPP said he had received “several calls and messages” over the weekend encouraging him to run for mayor, but had decided against it.
With a report from Laura Stone.
Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated Myer Siemiatycki's professional affiliation. It has been corrected to state that he is a professor emeritus at Toronto Metropolitan University.