John Tory made a good showing in his first week as 65th mayor of Toronto. He had a friendly meeting with the premier at Queen's Park. He gave a dignified, moderate performance in his swearing-in at City Hall, a nice reminder to the city of what a welcome change this is. He was a visible, accessible presence all week, fielding questions and laying out plans. He made his first big announcement: a plan to take on the city's traffic problem. He started preliminary work on his SmartTrack transit plan. Those who watched him were bound to come away with an impression of a reasonable, energetic mayor who genuinely wants to put the city back on an even keel and make progress on the city's big challenges.
The only controversy of the week was fleeting, as it should have been. Some left-wing councillors criticized his picks for his governing team, claiming they were deliberately and unnecessarily excluded. He chose conservative Denzil Minnan-Wong as his deputy mayor and former Rob Ford loyalist Frances Nunziata for city council speaker. The left was shut out when he chose his executive committee, the closest thing a mayor has to a cabinet.
While Mr. Tory talks about healing the city's divisions and working with people of every view, some complained, his appointments said something different. Downtown Councillor Gord Perks said the mayor had given no meaningful role to any councillor associated with the NDP.
That line of argument neglects one simple fact: Mr. Tory, a Conservative who once led the provincial party, won the election. The candidate of the left, Olivia Chow, a former NDP MP, lost. Mr. Tory has every right to pick like-minded people to make up his team.
Governing successfully means winning votes. For that, a mayor needs a team he can count on to back him up, at least on most big issues. It is only natural that he should turn to councillors with similar views to head major committees and form his executive. Thus rewarded, they are more likely to support him on key votes.
When he said he would return civility to city council after the turmoil of the Ford era, Mr. Tory didn't mean he was going to abandon his political convictions or turn city council meetings into campfire sing-alongs. He pledged to raise the tone and strive to create an atmosphere of respectful disagreement in place of the mud-wrestling often seen in the Ford years. "I pledge to you an open door and an open mind," he said this week. "I will not let ideology of any kind stand in the way of a good idea or doing what is right."
Even if most left-leaning councillors were left off the core of his team, he says he will hear them out on the issues that matter to them. If he lives up to that pledge, they should have nothing to complain about.
Mr. Tory has promised to work on several issues dear to the left, from better transit to youth unemployment to child poverty. He appointed two left-leaning councillors, Pam McConnell and Glenn De Baeremaeker, as regional deputies and insists they are more than tokens. Ms. McConnell is to handle poverty reduction and Mr. De Baeremaeker the Scarborough subway project. A third progressive, Shelley Carroll, becomes deputy Speaker. She will also sit on the Toronto Transit Commission, the police services board, the budget committee and the economic development committee.
On the executive committee, two centrist councillors, Ana Bailao and Mary-Margaret McMahon, will sit as at-large members among their generally more conservative but hardly scary fellow appointees. The cast of the group is centre right, just like Mr. Tory.
Some of the left's harshest criticism fell on Mr. Minnan-Wong, whose rise to deputy mayor makes him the second most powerful figure in the Tory administration. Left-leaning councillors remember him as a scheming suburban right-winger who helped scrap the Jarvis bike lanes, a big fight in the Ford years.
What they fail to mention is that he played a leading role in curbing Mr. Ford's powers during the crack scandal. It was he who stood up in council to ask the mayor point-blank whether he had ever bought illegal drugs and it was he who delivered an eloquent speech in the chamber in favour of sidelining the disgraced mayor. Lately, he has even gained some credibility in the cycling community by starting to roll out a network of separated bike lanes.
By the end of the week, the complaining about Mr. Tory's picks had faded. One left-leaning councillor, Maria Augimeri, had backed off the idea of challenging the abrasive Ms. Nunziata for the speakership and Ms. Nunziata had promised to study how speakers in other legislatures keep order in a nice way. The two shared a hug.
A centre-right mayor chose a centre-right team. This controversy that never was failed to put any real crimp in the new mayor's solid and promising first week.