Toronto Mayor John Tory says he is optimistic he can get his agenda through the city’s newly elected, slimmed down 25-member council, after a handful of tight battles across the city saw candidates more likely to support him take seats.
A day after his own sweeping victory, in which Mr. Tory earned 63 per cent of the vote, the mayor said the fact he posted majorities in every ward across the city gives him a “very solid mandate” for his second four-year term.
The centre-right mayor also acknowledged that setbacks for NDP-affiliated candidates in a handful of close ward contests – many of which pitted incumbents against each other after Ontario Premier Doug Ford cut city council in half – could make his job easier.
“The balance of the council in terms of just what I’ll call the base expectation as to how people will come down on the issues could have been very much different,” Mr. Tory told The Globe and Mail in an interview in his City Hall office on Tuesday.
His endorsement of political rookie Brad Bradford, a city planner, in Ward 19 (Beaches-East York) appeared to pay off, denying former NDP MP Matthew Kellway a seat on council by a razor-thin margin. Meanwhile, Tory ally James Pasternak defeated long-time New Democrat councillor Maria Augimeri in Ward 6 (York Centre), while Jennifer McKelvie narrowly defeated NDP card-carrying incumbent Neethan Shan in Ward 25 (Scarborough-Rouge Park).
On issues such as Mr. Tory’s pledge to keep residential property-tax rate increases at inflation, it looks like the mayor will be able to again depend, as he did in his first term, on a coalition largely made up of right-leaning councillors and centrists to get the 13 votes he now needs. The smaller group of NDP councillors and other progressives expected to reliably oppose him may have a tough task wooing the centrist councillors they need to defeat the mayor and his allies on any key issue.
Mr. Tory is careful to point out that party politics are not supposed to dictate what happens at City Hall, and says he is prepared to work with all members, of any political stripe: “You literally do have to take it one day at a time and one person at a time. … It won’t be a matter of anybody snapping their fingers or just sort of totalling up vote counts before they happen.”
Toronto’s new council, controversially shrunk to 25 members from 47 by Mr. Ford in the middle of the election campaign, will face a number of problems right away, including how to rejig its committee structure now that the city has almost half the number of councillors.
Mr. Tory said his priorities include his affordable-housing plans, which are supposed to see 40,000 new homes built over the next 12 years, and speeding up the city’s public-transit network expansion, but he would not provide details.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a Progressive Conservative ally of Mr. Tory’s who won re-election in Ward 16 (Don Valley East), said the left has lost clout in the new council: “It does look like council might be a little bit easier on the taxpayer.”
City councillor Joe Cressy, a New Democrat who won re-election in Ward 10 (Spadina-Fort York), said he believes the new council strikes a balance between left and right.
“My sense of the council composition is that this is not a left-wing council, nor is it a right-wing council,” Mr. Cressy said. “We are going to have to work together.”