On Friday, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced his resignation after the Toronto Star reported that he’d had an affair with a staffer less than half his age. I found out about the news from a waiter while celebrating a personal occasion at a restaurant in downtown Toronto, and immediately raised a toast. Fuck John Tory.
One of Tory’s last actions before the story broke was voting down a motion to declare homelessness in Toronto a public health crisis and to open 24/7 warming centres. Tory’s faction instead proposed that they push responsibility for homeless people onto other levels of government, and conduct a study on whether warm places are needed to keep them from freezing to death at night.
It was a disgusting action on Tory’s part, but also reflective of his time as mayor. Homeless shelters have consistently been full, with the city’s referral system turning away more than 200 people per night as of December. Last winter, at least four homeless people froze to death on Toronto’s streets. At the same time, Tory has also been using police and security guards to tear down homeless encampments throughout the city, often destroying their possessions and attacking them. In one case, a homeless encampment was evicted, and just two days later the park was taken over by a film crew, using it to shoot a movie.
Tory has yet to formally resign as mayor. In fact, he will remain in the position for at least the 2023 budget meeting on Wednesday, where city council will debate and then vote on how to spend funds throughout the rest of the year. The budget, which Tory’s office was responsible for putting together, includes nearly an additional $50 million for Toronto police, bringing their chunk to more than $1.1 billion. Tory has also announced an effectively-uncapped fund to pay for police in overtime positions on Toronto’s public transit system. This comes after years of protests decrying police brutality and killings in the city, findings of long-term and significant racial biases among the force, and calls to cut back on the behemoth budget that drags down everything else.
Tory’s latest budget also proposes all the wrong ways forward for transit. Tory has promised more than 50 new special constables on the system, another fare increase hike and worse service. Tory is fine with throwing whatever budget police claim to need at them. For transit, however, costs are increasingly downloaded onto individual users, all while the experience of taking it gets worse. At the same time, Tory happily voted yes in 2015 to repair a section of the Gardiner Expressway (responsible for bringing in just 3 per cent of commuters to downtown Toronto) at an estimated cost of nearly $1.5 billion. This was an indicator of just how far he would go to pander to a small number of car drivers over his time in charge. He chose these drivers over pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and so many others who live and work in the city.
On Saturday morning, Ontario Premier Doug Ford released a statement responding to Tory’s resignation announcement, stating, “I want to thank my friend John Tory for his many years of public service, most recently as Mayor of Toronto. John will be remembered as a dedicated and hard-work (sic) mayor who served as a steady leader during the most difficult days of the pandemic.” Ford and Tory were indeed friendly. Just a few weeks ago, Ford granted Tory with new “strong mayor” powers, allowing him to, among other things, pass and repeal by-laws with the support of just one-third of city council. Tory happily supported this change, which critics see as an anti-democratic measure to undermine resistance to neoliberalism.
Throughout his time as mayor, Tory has also had to declare numerous conflicts of interest, and even been investigated by the city commissioner. This isn’t a surprise given Tory’s family history, and the wide reaching nature of his connections. His great-grandfather founded Sun Life Canada. His grandfather founded what the Toronto Star has called “one of the most influential and politically connected law firms in the country.” His father was on the board of directors for Rogers. Tory himself has served as the president and CEO of Rogers Media, is a shareholder in the company as a whole and is also an adviser for the company, receiving $100,000 annually since 2014 for his role. He is an example of the scourge of nepotism and privilege in the country, as well as the chokehold a very small number of companies have on all of us.
I don’t really care that Tory had an affair. There are so many other things that have happened since he became mayor in 2014 that, in a decent world, would have forced him to step down. This article just barely scratches the surface of them. At the same time, if an affair is what it takes, so be it.
Fuck John Tory for what he has done to the city of Toronto. He’ll be fine in whatever he does next, but it will take the city much longer to recover from more than eight years of his rule — if it can escape from his ideology at all.