Skip to main content

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne watches Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly speak in Toronto on Thursday, June 5, 2014.Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press

Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly is endorsing Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne in the province's too-close-to-call election.

Mr. Kelly, who has effectively been exercising most of the mayor's powers since they were stripped from scandal-plagued Rob Ford last year, gave Ms. Wynne his blessing after she delivered a speech to the Canadian Club in downtown Toronto Thursday.

"Toronto needs a city-friendly leader and this province needs a city-friendly premier," he said. "Kathleen, that leader – and that premier – is you."

In a subsequent scrum, Mr. Kelly said he decided to endorse Ms. Wynne in part because she has been willing to listen to the city's concerns and in part because the province helped out during the ice storm last December. Ms. Wynne's government agreed to pay most of the cleanup costs for municipalities after the storm.

"When that devastating ice storm hit the city, I picked up the phone and called the Premier right away, and her response was immediate: 'Whatever you need, the province will provide for you.' And it was like that through the entire travail," he said.

That Mr. Kelly – a former Liberal member of parliament – would endorse Ms. Wynne may not be particularly surprising. But it runs against established convention in the province, in which municipal politicians generally stay out of provincial politics and vice-versa. Former Toronto mayor David Miller, for instance, allowed his membership in the NDP to lapse so he would not be seen as unduly favouring one provincial party over another.

Mr. Ford, however, did things differently, endorsing the Progressive Conservatives on several occasions.

And earlier in this election race, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion endorsed Ms. Wynne.

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath played down the significance of Mr. Kelly's endorsement.

"That's one person's opinion," she said in St. Catharines after touring the Meridian Centre, a major multipurpose entertainment facility currently under construction with $1-million in provincial funding. "Mr. Kelly has the right to his opinion, but the people of Toronto will make their decision when June 12 comes."

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Kelly defended his decision to step into the race, arguing that the city should throw its weight around more often to make sure the province respects its interests.

"We're the premier city not only of this province but of this country," he said. "I've long felt the city could be more assertive in its deliberations with its GTA colleagues inside the province and across Canada. So I make no apologies about exercising influence or authority on behalf of the City of Toronto."

Ms. Wynne, who earlier in the day met with a group of Ontario mayors for them to vent their concerns with the province, said Mr. Kelly's support was "gratifying."

Mr. Kelly, who represents suburban Scarborough on city council, was appointed deputy mayor by Mr. Ford last summer to replace Doug Holyday, who became a PC MPP.

With a report from Sahar Fatima.