Cressy’s exit, the untouchable Tory and the death of the city council

Toronto could use a serious debate about what the future post-pandemic future looks like for the next election, but it does not look like we will get a


When he got the call from the Toronto Star asking to be interviewed for a story about potential mayoral candidates for John Tory, Joe Cressy got a surprise.

“I told them I would be happy to participate, but it’s going to be a very different story,” Cressy tells NOW.

If you have not heard, the Spadina-Fort York councilor, who many city hall observers have long seen as a possible challenger to Tory in 2022, has not only decided not to run for mayor – he will not seek re-election, period.

Cressy says the decision was made two years ago with his partner when they decided to start a family. The strings of dealing with a global pandemic – Cressy is chairing the city health council – have also taken a toll and only served to bolster his decision.

But Cressy says it has always been his intention to serve for two terms “and then move on to change in other ways.” He does not believe that politicians adhere to their best-before date.

This cannot be said of the majority of the council, a significant number of whom have stuck to the job and continue to win elections for no other reason than that they have name recognition and the power of power behind them.

While Cressy has been able to find a niche after five years on the outside of Tory’s circle of power, thanks to his role in the city’s pandemic preparedness, it’s also true that under Tory’s surveillance, the political environment at City Hall has had its share of toxicity. .

The need to respond to a global pandemic has mostly masked it. But the fact that Tory has surrounded himself with (and handed over plum positions to) the usual right-wing suspects of the council – mostly white, mostly suburban who are hyperpartial – has only exacerbated the divide between suburbs and downtown and undermined progress in a number of areas of major problems.

These include the Tory administration’s inability to respond to the crisis of the crisis or take meaningful actions on the police budget – not to mention, poverty, the growing economic inequality in the city and the new climate crisis.

Then there is the chaos caused by Doug Ford’s municipal interference. Yes, the bomb he threw into grassroots democracy when he reduced the number of council seats to half before the last election has resulted in city councilors riding with the people of PEI – and with little time to both address voters’ concerns and formulate policy on major issues.

Toronto is a city where more than 140 languages ​​are spoken and is made up of people from more than 200 countries. But the council is nowhere near reflecting that reality. A political reform is needed, but the council postponed its decision to move to a hierarchical ballot system before the province introduced legislation that completely abolished the idea.

And that’s the other thing about Cressy’s decision to leave: Local politics – politics in general in these polarizing times – reject people who want to get into it for the right reasons, and increasingly become an area for those with status , money and profile.

There is no clearer indication of this than the fact that a credible challenger to Tory is unlikely to emerge, even from the council, despite there being an argument to be made for the need for radical change. “We are not going to keep the line,” said Mike Layton, another whose name has been kicked around as a possible challenger to Tory, but who tells NOW that he will gladly support everyone with a better chance of ousting the mayor. . .

The reality is that running for mayor is a huge investment of time and money.

And according to public opinion polls, Tory is immovable, practically an institution. No one in the current council has near the name recognition. “He’s become like Lastman,” offers a town hall observer, referring to the populist former mayor of North York and white goods salesman.

Tory came to office and pushed for big ideas, but he has not exactly been a pioneer. Although he deserves credit for the city’s COVID response, after two terms in office, there is no real legacy to speak of.

SmartTrack, the distinctive transit plan that Tory drove to the office on in 2014, has shrunk from a proposal across cities of 22 stops to five and has been folded into GO Transit’s regional expansion plans.

Other large ticket items have also fallen out of the way. Tory’s plans for a railway deck park in the city center, which many considered unrealistic at first given the cost of land, have also been shelved.

The mayor promised to heal the racial divide over carding, but the reassuring words have not been backed up by actions in the police case. Then there is the issue of homelessness, where progress has been made with the purchase of room houses to create permanent housing. But the city’s handling of campsites has been an international disgrace, as has the costly move to keep a two-kilometer stretch of Gardiner up when the money could be better spent on transit and other challenges.

While Tory was a welcome respite from the Rob Ford dysfunction, politically there is not much between them. It’s actually hard to remember now, but Tory was the leader of the Ontario PCs.

Tory owes its popularity to several pedestrian problems such as keeping the line of property tax increases. He has also made a joint effort to be very much in the public spotlight at events around the city. It’s part of what mayors should do, but in Tory’s case, there’s also a feeling among some of his critics in the council that it’s more about building his profile than about the city.

His communications team, for example, “has been in overdrive,” notes Layton, who plans events around the city as the time to declare whether Tory will actually run again approaches.

There is little doubt about that, despite the fact that the mayor’s partner Barbara has been dealing with health issues that supposedly keep her in Florida for half the year. It could affect Tory’s decision. Tory is not getting younger either.

Lately, there have also been questions about his service in his “spare time” as an advisory member of the family trust that controls Rogers Communications, and the apparent conflict in the fact that he receives a salary of 100,000 for that job while he at the same time performing his duties as mayor. It looks like a bad episode of Succession for Tory and a dent in his armor of invincibility.

But without a credible challenger to offer an alternative vision for the city, the decision that Tory should line up has turned into an indifferent vision.

It is a shame. Toronto could use a serious debate about what its post-pandemic future looks like. But it does not look like that is going to happen.

@Amatthew

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