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Toronto Toronto’s $300-million chair: Mammoliti haggles over switching seats

Toronto Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, left, talks with then-mayor Rob Ford on Nov. 14, 2013. Mr. Mammoliti has had a seat beside the mayor’s for 15 years, and says he won’t relinquish it for the current deputy mayor, Denzil Minnan-Wong, without concessions from Mayor John Tory.

NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

What's a council seat beside Toronto Mayor John Tory worth?

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, the guy who has it now, figures around $300-million. That's the amount the controversial North York councillor and Ford supporter estimates the city can find in savings before it has to raise property taxes.

Deputy mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong has confirmed he would like to be able to sit beside Mr. Tory. But Mr. Mammoliti has had the seat beside the mayor's for the past 15 years and says he is not going to move without getting something in return.

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"If the mayor doesn't want to sit beside me, then the taxpayer needs to understand that I am not giving it up for no reason," he said Wednesday morning. "I want to be the voice for the taxpayer, so giving up my seat in one way or the other will make me the voice for the taxpayer."

Mr. Mammoliti's opening offer for giving up the prime piece of council real estate, he says, is a pledge from Mr. Tory to freeze property taxes for four years. He won't say what he would settle for instead, but notes that he is happy with the appointments he is in line to get Wednesday afternoon at council. They include seats on the zoo board and the board of Exhibition Place.

Either way, he said he will make his decision Wednesday and even if he decides to move, he said he plans to first take his seat beside Mr. Tory so that he can say he sat beside four mayors.

Mr. Mammoliti said he has been told Mr. Tory wants to make the switch so that Mr. Minnan-Wong can sit beside him and that it is not personal.

"I have my deodorant on. I don't smell and I'm a good guy. There is no other reason," he said.

"The mayor and the deputy mayor have to have a close working relationship," Mr. Minnan-Wong said. "The intention of the mayor and myself is to work co-operatively, and there's a certain utility to being able to sit right next to him so we'll be able to speak and share ideas and matters about important things that are on the council floor."

In response to Mr. Mammoliti's offer to switch seats with the promise of a tax freeze, Mr. Minnan-Wong said he would have to speak to the councillor directly. "These negotiations in public are never an advised thing to do," he said.

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Mayor Tory appeared indifferent to the proposed changes Wednesday when asked by reporters.

"I would be equally happy to sit beside any of the 44 councillors," he said. "It was just thought that if the deputy mayor sat beside me that might make some sense." Mr. Tory said he had no plans to negotiate with Mr. Mammoliti, adding "I guess whatever happens will happen. As I said, I don't care where I sit."

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