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Toronto Uniting a divided Toronto will be a key task for Tory’s transition team

One day after election, Toronto mayor-elect moves into new office, meets city manager and unveils new staff members.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

In a 15th-floor office overlooking the council chambers at Toronto City Hall, John Tory quietly began moving into an office marked "mayor-elect transition" Tuesday.

Just a day after his election win, Mr. Tory has already met with the city manager who presented him with a stack of binders of "homework"; announced his transition team and the hiring of key staffers – including chief of staff Chris Eby and principal secretary Vic Gupta; and vowed to get started addressing gridlock, transit, and housing.

The change at City Hall was made even more obvious when he held his first news conference in Nathan Phillips Square Tuesday afternoon. Whereas outgoing Mayor Rob Ford had an adversarial relationship with the media – refusing to hold regular press conferences in favour of last-minute, frenzied scrums outside his office – Mr. Tory stood in the rain for over 15 minutes, calmly responding to almost every question.

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But for Mr. Tory, who won Toronto's election by promising a fresh start for Canada's largest city after four turbulent years of Mayor Ford's leadership, his biggest promise – bringing together a divided city – may prove to be the most difficult to tackle.

Mr. Tory ran his campaign on "One Toronto," promising to overcome the "left versus right," "downtown versus suburb" divisions stoked over the past four years by the Ford brothers. However, while Mr. Tory won just over 40 per cent of the vote across the city, the heart of "Ford Nation" – Scarborough and much of Etobicoke – remained loyal to Doug Ford. And Monday night's election did not result in major changes to the makeup of the notoriously divided council, either.

The appointment of conservatives for the two most senior positions in his office has already raised a few eyebrows at City Hall.

Chief of staff, Mr. Eby, is a former journalist with the National Post and CTV who worked for Tim Hudak and until recently was at lobbying firm Sussex Strategy Group. Beyond covering City Hall periodically as a reporter, he has not worked there. And Mr. Gupta, who until recently also worked at Sussex, ran as an Ontario PC candidate in 2011. He worked at City Hall as an assistant to former councillor Rod Davis in the late 1990s.

"It'd be good if they took the time to ensure the person coming here had a really firm grasp on City Hall, senior staff, and didn't have ties to lobbying firms," said Councillor Paula Fletcher. "You've really got to put that team together in a good way."

Mr. Tory said in an interview Tuesday he's not daunted by the divisions he faces.

"The [ward results] map doesn't surprise me," he said. "It's really the challenge in front of me that I said I would address … number one, by showing respect and recognition that there are some issues with those other parts of the city that feel they haven't been treated equitably."

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Secondly, he said, "the thing that's really going to help resolve it is results. Results on things they feel have not been adequately addressed, such as jobs, and transportation."

Mr. Tory's transition team will play a part in that, according to chair Case Ootes, who said part of the team's mandate will be to reach across political and geographical divides.

As well as Mr. Eby and Mr. Gupta, it includes former city manager Shirley Hoy, United Way president Susan McIsaac, the former economic development commissioner Joe Halstead, CAA director of government relations Teresa Di Felice, Arthur Lofsky, once an adviser to former Ontario finance minister Greg Sorbara, and Tory campaign adviser Nick Kouvalis.

"The mayor-elect wants to reach out to all parts of the city and all manner of citizens," Mr. Ootes said. In addition, a transition "advisory council" includes former rival David Soknacki, former Speaker of the Ontario Legislature Alvin Curling, and CivicAction chair Rod Phillips.

"That will be part of the mission of the transition team – to make sure that people that are put on committees – councillors that are put on committees – reflect the mayor's wishes to achieve that," Mr. Ootes said.

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