How John Tory can work with Doug Ford and his 'fixation with Toronto'

John Tory now faces one of his most significant political challenges in his second term as Toronto mayor, working with an Ontario premier who himself might relish the job of running the city. And now he leads a much smaller council, one that is proportionately more progressive and wary of the premier.

Tory leads a new, smaller council, having won 63.5 per cent of the vote

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory meet in the premier's office on July 9. The re-elected Tory must now work with a premier who himself might relish the job of running the city. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

With John Tory's easy and decisive victory, he now faces one of his most significant political challenges in his second term as Toronto mayor, working with an Ontario premier who himself might relish the job of running the city.

However, the election results may have made working with Doug Ford, who certainly has his own vision for the city, even more difficult. The right-leaning mayor still maintains a majority of support on the much smaller council, but one that is now proportionately more progressive and wary of the premier.

"Ironically, the first effect of the downsizing of council is to strengthen the weight of the anti-Ford forces on the city council," said Ryerson University politics professor Myer Siemiatycki.

'Making sure we fix this city'

Ford, a former councillor and failed mayoral candidate, (having lost to Tory four years ago) has made it abundantly clear that Toronto is a main priority and that he and his fellow Progressive Conservatives were in part "elected on making sure we fix this city."

And Ford has indicated he will "fix" the city by doing whatever he feels needs to be done. The proof is in the high-profile battle he waged with the mayor, threatening to use the notwithstanding clause to ram through legislation to cut the size of city council from 47 to 25 in the run-up to the election.

Ultimately, he didn't need the clause, and was able to get his council cuts despite protestations from the city and its mayor. 

Ford has other big plans for Toronto as well. He has already appointed a special adviser to look into uploading responsibility for Toronto's subways to the province. And there are reports that the government is considering plans for a downtown casino.

In an interview this month, Tory shrugged off the idea presented to him by TVO host Steve Paikin that Ford wants to be premier and the mayor of Toronto at the same time.

"Well, he certainly has a preoccupation with Toronto and some might even say a fixation with Toronto," said Siemiatycki. "I think there may well be in his mind and heart some unfinished business that he has with the city and its government."

Some of that, Siemitycki says, may stem from Ford's perception that the city and its politicians did his brother Rob Ford wrong by stripping him of many of his discretionary powers in his last year as mayor.

"And that he can run the city better. He may be on something of a mission to prove that he knows what's best for Toronto, and now that he's the premier he can go about putting that into play and into effect."

Ford has said that he and his fellow Progressive Conservatives were in part "elected on making sure we fix this city." (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Tory has shown he's willing to stand up to Ford. But's he's known as a politician who seeks to avoid conflict, and find compromise.

'He's a pragmatist'

"I get the sense that with Tory, his eyes light up when he's surrounded by difficult personalities because he's not that way," said Dennis Pilon, an associate professor of political science at York University. "He's a pragmatist, he's a problem solver. He's a go along to get along sort of fellow."

"Doug is going to encourage him to play ball with his agenda and I don't see how he's going to be able to resist that."

However, there may already be some indications of common ground. 

While Tory has voiced his opposition to a new downtown casino, he has certainly not rejected outright Ford's plans for Toronto transit. The mayor has remained cautious, calling for "robust consultation," and warned that "we must not see a repetition of what we saw with the city council."

Tory won 63.5 per cent of the vote but his smaller council is proportionately more progressive. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

And a potential conflict was averted on Tuesday, when the province announced that Ontario will keep funding supervised drug consumption sites, a program Tory supports.

Siemiatycki said the two also share a fiscal conservatism and would also likely agree on austerity measures to improve the budgetary bottom line, including the privatization and contracting out of municipal government services.

But with a new council that proportionately leans more to the left, Tory may have to moderate his plans on issues where he and the premier may be in agreement.

"I think it means that Mr. Tory can't presume that he's got a kind of automatic OK from council to make whatever arrangements, agreements with the premier," Siemiatycki said. "There's going to be a stronger stand up for Toronto and stand up against Premier Ford."

However, when it comes to the relationship between Toronto mayor and premier, the players don't much matter, Pilon suggested.

"How successful have the past mayors been at getting their way in the face of opposition from the province? I don't think we can name one," Pilon said. "They make progress on things that the province is already prepared to support."

About the Author

Mark Gollom


Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.


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