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Toronto Former Toronto mayors, leaders press for Gardiner removal vote in letter

The eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway near the Don Roadway is pictured on May 26, 2015.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

On the eve of Toronto City Hall's vote on the future of the Gardiner, another influential group of residents is urging councillors to vote for the "removal" option and against Mayor John Tory's preferred "hybrid" option.

A letter signed by over 80 of the city's most prominent residents – including former mayors, public officials and business leaders was released Tuesday morning. The letter urges councillors who are still undecided on the Gardiner issue to vote this week to remove the portion east of Jarvis Street.

Mr. Tory, meanwhile, has spent the past few weeks campaigning hard for the "hybrid" option, which would see the eastern portion rebuilt, with slight revisions.

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"This decision may be one of the most important you will have to make in this term of city council," the letter says. "We realize that this is difficult, that it sometimes takes courage to make significant change. The stakes could not be higher."

Among those who signed the letter are former Toronto mayors David Crombie and John Sewell, former Conference Board of Canada CEO Anne Golden, and former UN ambassador Stephen Lewis.

Tuesday's letter follows on the heels of a string of high-profile calls for the mayor to rethink his stance on two issues: the Gardiner and police carding.

One of those calls, on carding, has already caused the mayor to dramatically change his mind.

After the release of a letter signed by over 60 city leaders last week urging Mr. Tory to eliminate the controversial practice, the mayor relented over the weekend. Many of the signatories from that carding letter – including Ms. Golden, Mr. Crombie and Mr. Sewell – are the same names attached to Tuesday's Gardiner letter.

On Wednesday, city council will vote on the two Gardiner options presented by city staff: "hybrid" or "remove." An informal survey conducted by The Globe indicates the vote will likely be a close one – with just one vote separating the options as of late last week.

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