The abrupt resignation of Toronto Mayor John Tory has thrust deputy leader Jennifer McKelvie into the spotlight.
McKelvie, the city councillor for Scarborough-Rouge Park, will likely take on the role of interim mayor after Tory said he would be stepping down Friday night, admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a staffer.
Ontario’s Municipal Act states that a by-election to name a permanent replacement must be held within 60 days once council declares the mayor’s office vacant.
Although Tory remains mayor for now and his interim replacement has yet to be named, as deputy mayor, McKelvie can act as mayor when the mayor is away from the city, absent due to illness, or when the mayor’s office is vacant.
“The Deputy Mayor has, and may exercise, all the rights, powers, and authority of the Mayor, except the by-right-of-office powers of the Mayor as a member of a Community Council,” states Chapter 27 of the Toronto Municipal Code.
McKelvie is a relative newcomer to city hall, having been elected in 2018 after narrowly defeating incumbent Neethan Shan by taking 40.2 per cent of the vote.
In last October’s election, she was re-elected with 72 per cent of the vote and weeks later she was appointed deputy mayor by Tory.
As a city councillor, McKelvie has a record of voting with Tory.
On her website, McKelvie promises to “continue working with residents and the greater community to build a better and more livable city.”
In her capacity as councillor, McKelvie has served as chair of infrastructure and environment committee, Scarborough Community Council and francophone Affairs Advisory Committee. She also sits on the board of the Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto Hydro Corporation and Toronto Zoo.
Before entering politics, McKelvie worked as a professional geoscientist.
She graduated with a PhD in geology, specializing in isotope geochemistry, from the University of Toronto in 2006.
In a profile of their alum, U of T notes “her graduate and postgraduate research were recognized with awards like the prestigious L’Oréal/United Nations Educational Scientific Organization (UNESCO) Women in Science Fellowship.”
She is listed as author on several scientific papers, including one published in 2013 in the journal Environmental Pollution, which looked at the reduction in the earthworm metabolic responses following exposure to Phenanthrene, a compound used to make dyes, plastics and pesticides, explosives and drugs, in soils that have high organic matter.
McKelvie was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto in Scarborough’s chemistry department in 2007, where she researched development of new techniques to assess the sources and fate of environmental contaminants.
She spent the next nine years, starting in 2009, at the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Canada, a non-profit headquartered in Toronto that was established in 2002 under the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act to manage Canada’s used nuclear fuel.
On her LinkedIn page, McKelvie describes her former role as spending “hundreds of hours at community open houses explaining our project to residents,” and conducting geoscientific site assessments in five northern Ontario communities.
McKelvie also worked in the research and development division that studied the prevention of microbiologically influenced corrosion of used nuclear fuel containers.
During that period, she also worked as a senior director at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
McKelvie has lived in her ward of Scarborough-Rouge Park, which touches the city’s northern and eastern boundaries, since 2005.