John Tory resigns as Toronto mayor over affair with former staff member

By Canadian Press

A byelection to replace John Tory as mayor, head of council and chief executive officer of Toronto is expected to be held in the coming weeks, after his abrupt resignation due to what he calls an “inappropriate relationship” with a former employee.

Tory offered few details about the affair during a hastily called news conference Friday evening, only saying it had developed during the COVID-19 and ended by mutual consent earlier this year.

The unnamed employee is now working at another job.

Tory told reporters he notified the Office of the Integrity Commissioner of the relationship and asked him to review it, saying he believes it is important to avoid tarnishing the Officer of the Mayor or putting City Hall through a prolonged period of controversy over what he describes as an error in judgment on his part.

He did not immediately name his replacement, saying he will be working with senior city staff and Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie to ensure an orderly transition.

Tory served two scandal-free terms as mayor of Toronto and had just been re-elected for a third.

Tory thanked the people of Toronto for trusting him as mayor, a position he called “the job of a lifetime.''

“I believe I did some good for the city I truly love, particularly during the pandemic,'' he said.

He said the relationship with the employee developed during when he was spending long periods of time away from his wife Barbara, to whom he has been married for over 40 years.

“I recognize that permitting this relationship to develop was a serious error in judgment on my part,'' Tory said at city hall, where he apologized “unreservedly to the people of Toronto and to all those hurt by my actions including my staff, my colleagues and the public service.''

“As a result, I have decided I will step down as mayor so I can take the time to reflect on my mistakes and to do the work of rebuilding the trust of my family.''

He asked for privacy for all affected by his actions, including his wife, family and himself.

Tory, 68, was first elected mayor in 2014, partially on a promise to restore respectability to the office following the scandal-plagued tenure of his predecessor Rob Ford.

Tory was re-elected to a third term in October, after a campaign that saw him tout his years of experience in the top office of Canada's most populous city.

He secured about 62 per cent of the vote compared to 18 per cent for progressive urbanist Gil Penalosa, who came second. Tory beat out 30 mostly unknown candidates after many criticized his record on transit and housing _ two issues he had highlighted as priorities.

In a tweet late Friday night, Penalosa said “now Torontonians have a chance to elect better.''

Tory's most recent election win came as he faced criticism about the state of Toronto under his leadership. His opponents noted the high cost of housing, aging infrastructure, overflowing garbage bins and shuttered parks.

His leadership saw increased scrutiny in recent weeks over his announcement of a proposed $48.3-million increase to the city's police budget, which would bring police funding to just over $1.1 billion for 2023 _ a figure Tory's critics said was grossly inflated compared to other line items and underfunded social services.

Tory also saw criticism for his handling of the city's housing crisis, as thousands of people are experiencing homelessness and Toronto's shelter capacity is stretched to its limits.

Just this week, Toronto city council scrapped a recommendation to keep its warming centres open around the clock until mid-April after a bout of extreme cold, as well as to declare a public health crisis over lack of shelter space. With support from Tory, council voted instead to call for more federal support and have staff study the idea further.

Kristyn Wong-Tam, a former Toronto city councillor who often disagreed with Tory's positions and current member of the Ontario legislature, issued a tweet calling Tory's affair with a staffer “not a simple, one-time lapse of judgment,” but “an abuse of power.”

Toronto city council is set to debate Tory's proposed budget at a Wednesday meeting. It will be the first under new so-called strong mayor powers granted to Toronto by the province, which Tory had said he would use in a limited and responsible way.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 11, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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