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'Mighty Middle' take first step to organize

Toronto councillor Josh Colle is leading a group of centrist councillors. Amid the rigid partisanship that's developed at Rob Ford's city hall, a handful of councillors are trying to build a "Mighty Middle" that can broker compromises between right and left. He is photographed at City Hall March 14, 2011.

Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

The nine councillors who hold the balance of power at Toronto City Hall emerged from their first formal get-together Thursday with a single promise: We'll meet again.

The group didn't come out of a 12th-floor boardroom on Bay Street with a laundry list of policy ideas, as many had expected in the runup to the meeting of the "Mighty Middle."

Instead, Councillor Josh Colle, who organized the off-site chinwag, said the discussion remained "high level."

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"I'm not trying to be coy with you," he said. "We had a two-hour meeting. We're not all of a sudden going to have a platform document. That was never the intention anyways."

The group agreed to "park" talk of transit issues, including a contentious proposal for road tolls or a regional sales tax to pay for transit floated by Councillor Josh Matlow.

Mr. Matlow, who left the meeting early to attend a previously scheduled engagement, is aiming to put the issue on next month's council agenda with a member motion that needs the support of two-thirds of council to be heard, a threshold he's unlikely to cross.

Without mentioning Mr. Matlow by name, Mr. Colle said the group of nine plans to take a more measured approach with its priorities, whatever they may be.

"I don't think we want just a slew of member motions and kind of quick media hits," Mr. Colle said. "When we do drill down to the actual items, we want to move them forward and get consensus from the mayor's office and hopefully from the rest of our councillor colleagues."

The other councillors who attended the meeting, held at the offices of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance, were Chin Lee, Gloria Lindsay-Luby, James Pasternak, Ana Bailao, Mary-Margaret McMahon, Karen Stintz and John Parker.

Under Mayor Rob Ford's leadership, city council is split between loyal Ford supporters and committed left-wingers.

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The nine councillors who met Thursday don't vote faithfully with either faction – each side tries to pick them off individually, issue by issue, inflating their influence.

That influence could grow if they become more organized. Thursday's meeting signalled a baby step in that direction.

"We're not at the point yet of taking any specific policies to our colleagues," Mr. Colle said. "We just didn't get that in-depth."

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