1 year out: John Tory spills on 'standing up for Toronto' and his motto for getting things done

One year out from Toronto's next municipal election CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond talks to Mayor John Tory on the challenges he faces at city hall, and what he still wants to get done.

CBC Toronto's Dwight Drummond talks to Mayor John Tory about challenges, goals for city hall ahead of election

Mayor John Tory says he wants to focus on getting things done, not the next election. (John Rieti/CBC)

One year out from Toronto's next municipal election, CBC Toronto's host Dwight Drummond talks to Mayor John Tory on the challenges he faces at city hall and what he still wants to accomplish before the end of his term. 

Dwight Drummond: Is the job what you expected? Is it easier or more difficult than you thought it would be?  

John Tory: I'd say more difficult. That's from the stand point of the number of issues, the breadth of the issues and how long it takes to get things done.

It is frustrating if you've been in business and been involved in a big business organization things just happen faster ... so that makes the job harder.  

DD: Even with the difficulties, what would you say you're most proud of?

JT: I'm most proud of the fact that when I came in here three years ago this place had been in chaos.

The relationships with the other governments were in tatters.

You can't assume you have more than four years.- Mayor John Tory

I've now found ways to work effectively with council the vast majority of the time, to work more effectively with the other governments the vast majority of the time.

The result has been the attraction of hundreds of millions of dollars of funding from the other governments, and as a council, we've moved forward on transit, we've moved forward on housing, we've moved forward and made great progress on jobs ... we've restored that sense of pride and integrity about the mayor's office and about city hall that was lacking before. 

In an interview with CBC's Dwight Drummond, Mayor John Tory says he'll never pit one part of the city against another, taking a shot at local politicians using divisive tactics. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

DD: Did you think consensus building would be this difficult? 

JT: I'm spending more time sitting with councillors and talking to them about the issues than I had expected.

And that's not a bad thing.

I think it pays dividends to actually spend that time ... It does take more time to build those consensuses to get things done around here. I knew those rules, but wasn't as aware of how it was done because I, unlike every previous mayor, has not spent any time as a member of city council, so I had to sort of figure that out.

DD: You seem to be pushing back sometimes against some of those councillors who attack you ... Are you getting tired of some of those attacks? 

JT: No, it's not that. I have sort of determined, and maybe it's easier at my stage in life, you can't assume you have more than four years.

You just want to get things done.

City council meetings have been calmer under Tory's leadership, but there are still sharp divides among some councillors. (David Donnelly/CBC)

People are, I think, sort of play acting and involved in the show business of politics. I am much more interested in just getting things done.

I accept the fact that consensus doesn't mean unanimity. I have no problem with people being against things that I might be trying to put forward. I just don't have time for people who are play acting because I think it's not a good use of the public's time. 

Tory says he's had to stand-up for Toronto, occasionally hurting the city's relationship with the province. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

DD: You've been fighting some political battles with the other levels of government, trying to get more revenue into this city. Tolls on the DVP and the Gardiner were one of the things you were suggesting. What new revenue tools can you get now as you continue this fight? 

JT: We went through a sort of painstaking process of identifying the best one in all of the circumstances as being road tolls, and the province for reasons best explained by them, having initially encouraged me to bring it forward, said "no."

DD: Patrick Brown has also said if he's elected he's going to say no. 

JT: Yes that's right. So we sort of know that one for the moment doesn't have much life to it.

My job is not to stand up for people who live in 905.- Mayor John Tory

At the same time, they did announce some making up for that by saying there's going to be significantly increased amount of gas tax money,  $190-million when it's all said and done, and that is going to help us pay for a lot of transit and a lot of housing. But having said that, that's not coming yet.

Sometimes you have to stand up for Toronto in this job.

My job is not to stand up for people who live in 905. I love them, a lot of them work here and they shop here and they come to baseball games here. But my job is to stand up for people who live in the city of Toronto and make sure they're getting a fair deal. Are we still getting a fair deal on transit funding and housing?

We are the only city by a long shot that has close to two million transit riders a day. We're the only city that has 5,800 units of social housing in our boundaries. And I'm saying that these other governments have a responsibility to step up and take account of that, plus the fact that people in Toronto pay an awful lot of tax to those governments. 

Mayor Tory says policy that's good for the suburbs is good for downtown, regardless of what some of his colleagues may say. (John Rieti/CBC)

DD: You campaigned on the slogan "One Toronto." When you look at the suburban, city divide, and I think this has really come to the fore now with the bike lanes issues. If re-elected how do you try to bring this city together? 

JT: I think it's old fashioned thinking to think people who live in the suburbs are against bike lanes.

DD: That's what some of their councillors are saying...

JT: You get people who stand up around here and describe wars on cars and describe suburban, downtown fights. They're doing that as part of the play-acting of politics. A rising tide lifts all boats.

If Scarborough is better off because we have proper transit out there, this is good for Etobicoke. If downtown is stronger because we're attracting jobs, this is good for North York because everybody lives in the same city.

We all pay our taxes here, we all want to work here and have our kids grow up here, and one city is something. You've never heard me stand up and pit one part of the city against another and you never will as long as I'm able to be here. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

With files from CBC's Dwight Drummond