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.”

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