Tory denies influence over subway lobbying
Scarborough Town Centre owner says mayor’s office ‘encouraged’ pro-subway push
Mayor John Tory said Wednesday he had no involvement in encouraging the owner of the Scarborough Town Centre to back a pro-subway push, following a Star story outlining those connections.
“It is grossly misleading for both a headline and a story to imply the mayor had any involvement in this whatsoever,” Tory told reporters, responding to a question about whether it was appropriate for his office to privately lobby a developer that does business with the city.
“I didn’t make a phone call, have a conversation, send an email about this ever, ever, not one time, and there would have been nothing wrong if I had.”
The Star reported that Oxford Properties president and CEO Blake Hutcheson told an annual meeting of the pension group OMERS this week that Tory’s office had “bombarded” them to support a subway and influenced them to back the pro-subway ConnectScarborough group.
In an email to the Star on Tuesday, the mayor’s spokesperson Don Peat wrote: “The mayor’s office and other councillors encouraged Oxford to be more public about their views on the subway.”
Speaking to the Star on Tuesday, Hutcheson told the Star no one had “strongarmed” them, but confirmed: “The mayor’s office encouraged us to get involved.”
Last month, council approved moving ahead with a one-stop subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line to the Scarbor- ough Town Centre, which is owned by Oxford — a major property management and development company that also has properties, such as Yorkdale Shopping, in their portfolio.
ConnectScarborough — which is run by Liberal lobbyist Ryan Singh, whose firm works on behalf of Oxford’s interests at council — has been criticized for appearing to be a grassroots organization.
Oxford was funding the group until they quietly withdrew that support ahead of a March council vote on the subway.
At the OMERS meeting, which was recorded in a video webcast, Hutcheson acknowledged they had backed the group, “Which is what the mayor wanted, frankly, asked us to support.”
On Tuesday, Hutcheson told the Star they’re on record supporting the subway at city hall, but when they realized there was opposition to the subway plan, they took a step back, saying they support any transit investment to the region.
Tory responded to a question about his involvement with a question about whether it was appropriate for a “local councillor” to encourage Oxford to withdraw their support of ConnectScarborough.
Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s), who has opposed the subway plan in favour of a 24-stop light-rail network, said he spoke to Oxford about their support of the ConnectScarborough group.
“I asked Oxford to reconsider whether funding a fake grassroots organization that was spreading misinformation was really in the best interest of Scarborough residents,” Matlow said. “We should all stand behind the facts instead of hiding behind lobbyist-run campaigns.”