The entrance of a new mayor holds the promise that the city can get back to business. Toronto has operated for about a year under a makeshift two-mayor system, with authority divided between Rob Ford and Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly. Several of the big decisions facing Toronto were put over to the new term.
John Tory – who won't be sworn in as mayor until Dec. 2 – arrives with a pledge to work with his colleagues at the city and other levels of government. Expectations are high that old divisions will be set aside, especially in the early days of his mandate when he has the best chance of getting buy-in for his agenda. In the next month he will work with a transition team to be led by the same former councillor who filled that role four years ago for Rob Ford – Case Ootes. While Mr. Tory will hire staff and select councillors to head committees and sit on his executive, he faces the added challenge of staff turnover at the highest levels. His choices for those top jobs and how he handles himself in the first 100 days will set the tone for the four years ahead.
The early photo ops
Mr. Tory has cast himself as a uniting figure who can bring the city together and work with other levels of government. All eyes will be on those early interactions to see whether he can deliver on that promise – especially when it comes to wringing money out of the other levels of government. It's unlikely that Mr. Tory can land a cheque from the province or the federal government for Toronto's big-ticket requests on transit and housing right away, but early meetings with the Premier and the Prime Minister would go a long way to re-establishing Toronto's place at the table.
The new executive
Expect to see some new faces on Toronto's 13-member executive committee, made up of the chairs of the city's seven standing committees, the mayor and deputy mayor and four councillors. When Rob Ford's term ended, there was not a single female councillor on the committee and no members from the former City of Toronto. Mr. Tory received endorsements from several councillors and from some members of Mr. Ford's executive, including Gary Crawford and Denzil Minnan-Wong, and former executive committee member Jaye Robinson. Look for them when the new executive is announced in December.
Changes at the top
Toronto's top civil servant, Joe Pennachetti retires Nov. 28 and Police Chief Bill Blair's contract is up next year. A short-list of candidates to replace the city manager is in the works, but the final decision will rest with the new mayor and requires the approval of council. Public consultations on picking a replacement for Chief Blair begin immediately after election day. A notice, issued this summer by the civilian body that will do the hiring, gave December as the target date for interviews, with a choice announced in January. Board chair Alok Mukherjee – a provincial appointee with a term that lasts until 2016 – wants a search that looks beyond the force and would shake up how the police service does its job. Mr. Tory gets to pick who will represent him at the board and has said he favours an exhaustive search.
The new mayor and council will have to hit the ground running on the 2015 budget. Expect a report before the new year on the city's financial standing for the first three quarters of 2014 – figures that will set the stage for budget deliberations. As of the end of May, the city was projecting a small surplus of $1.2-million, but a hot real estate market and rising prices could boost that number as they have in recent years, giving the new mayor some much-needed wiggle room for his agenda. And there could always be some unwanted surprises.
Mr. Tory ran on his plan to deliver a new rail system in the existing GO train corridor within seven years. If he is going to meet that deadline, he'll have to get going. On the campaign trail he said would seek the approval of council for his plan, which requires the city to pitch in about $3-billion.
City council voted in April to have staff study a controversial expansion plan of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. That report is expected to land in the first half of next year. Mr. Tory says he is waiting for its findings to decide whether he favours the expansion. On the election trail, mayoral candidate Olivia Chow suggested he might not even be able to vote on the matter because his son works for a company that uses the airport.
Rob Ford tried to make this issue go away early in his term by quietly stopping a planned environmental assessment of the dismantling of the eastern portion of the raised highway. It was an idea that refused to die, coming back to council as part of budget discussions about the huge investments required to repair it after chunks of concrete started falling. City councillors kicked the issue to the new term, so it will be back again in the spring. Mr. Tory says he favours a "hybrid solution" that would keep the link between the Gardiner and the Don Valley Parkway.