Toronto Star

Tory’s smooth ride about to get bumpy

City council votes have gone his way so far, but bigger challenges are on the way


As captain of Toronto city council, John Tory has, so far, deftly avoided mutiny. The real challenges for the rookie mayor loom on the horizon.

The Star chose15 key council votes since Dec. 2 for examinatio­n based on their impact on the city and ability to split council along ideologica­l and urban-suburban lines.

Tory was absent for two — a vote on moving some Toronto-East York streets to a 30 km/h speed limit, and another on extending the bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide Sts. He won the remaining 13, including authorizin­g studies for his SmartTrack transit plan and opening the door to a Woodbine Racetrack casino.

Some sailed through, including the 42-2 passage of the operating and capital budgets, and the unanimous approval of an ambitious — but largely unfunded — poverty reduction program.

Other battles were bloodier, such as when he scraped out a 24-21 win on the fate of the east Gardiner Expressway.

Unlike his two recent predecesso­rs, Tory seems loath to insist the other 12 members of his executive committee vote with him. Executive members opposed Tory in four of the 13 votes. Fully one-third voted against his “hybrid” Gardiner plan.

Part of Tory’s pitch to voters was that he would stake a “big tent” at city hall, leaving the flap open to good ideas from all parts of the political spectrum.

That’s a 180-degree spin from nowc-ouncillor Rob Ford, who saw himself as a common-sense conservati­ve in righteous battle with spend-frenzied socialists.

Ford started his reign with a commanding grip on council’s right and centre flanks. His first meeting saw council vote to cancel the car-registrati­on tax and ask the province to make the TTC an essential service.

But executive members revolted over a botched waterfront redevelopm­ent plan. Others rejected heavyhande­d lobbying. Council centrists swung against him.

Some describe Ford predecesso­r David Miller as a kinder, gentler ringmaster. But he was not afraid to crack the whip: He asked centrist Brian Ashton to resign from the executive after Ashton cast a deciding vote against new taxes.

While Tory’s geniality has won support, he could face trouble on future close votes if he continues letting his allies defy him.

“His real test is ahead,” said Councillor Gord Perks, unofficial leader of council’s progressiv­e wing. “The Gardiner was as close as he’s come, but he hung on by a thread and had to promise to consider tunnelling.”

Perks doesn’t believe Tory can fund his promises if he holds property taxes to around inflation while also rejecting new user fees.

Tory’s administra­tion has punted some controvers­ial items to 2016, including increasing private garbage collection. Other thorny, costly items ahead include paying for poverty reduction efforts and Toronto Community Housing repairs and SmartTrack approval and funding.

“The mayor’s going to have to say to Torontonia­ns and council: ‘I promised things I can’t deliver’ — or his control of council is going to fall apart,” Perks says.

Jon Burnside, one of two council rookies endorsed by Tory in last fall’s election, lauds the mayor’s quiet diplomacy.

“In many ways it’s a happier council, and I think it goes to his philosophy of working with everyone,” Burnside says. “He recognizes even his biggest supporters might not agree with him on everything, but he’s big enough to work with other councillor­s to get the job done.”

 ?? MELISSA RENWICK/TORONTO STAR ?? The closest vote Mayor John Tory has faced was on the Gardiner Expressway.
MELISSA RENWICK/TORONTO STAR The closest vote Mayor John Tory has faced was on the Gardiner Expressway.

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