John Tory wants to keep Toronto 'on course' as its next mayor

CBC Radio's Metro Morning spoke with a number of mayoral candidates in the leadup to the Oct. 24 election. Host Ismaila Alfa sat down with John Tory to discuss why he wants to keep leading this city.

Tory is seeking his 3rd term as mayor of the city

Mayor John Tory speaks during a news conference at Queen's Park on June 27, 2022.
John Tory cruised to victory in 2018, but the last four years have been a tumultuous time at city hall. Tory is campaigning on the promise of stability, but is that what Torontonians are looking for? (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

There's less than one week left before Toronto goes to the polls and CBC Radio's Metro Morning is hosting several mayoral candidates this week to hear about their vision for the city.

Wednesday's interview was with John Tory, who has been Toronto's mayor since 2014 and is now seeking a third term in office.

He spoke with host Ismaila Alfa at 7:13 a.m. ET. 

LISTEN | John Tory's full Metro Morning interview:

John Tory joined Ismaila Alfa to talk about his record and why he should get a third mandate.

Below is a partial transcript of the interview. It has been edited for clarity and length.

Alfa: What are you trying to get done with another term that you weren't able to accomplish in the first two? 

Tory: Well, I think building on the leadership that I tried to show Torontonians during the pandemic, we've got to move forward and use my experience to make sure the transit plan gets done. Even now during the election, there's a debate about should parts of it be done and other parts not and should we change out one thing for another. And we just can't afford to do that again. We've done that.

A Toronto resident captured these images of a basketball net in disarray in Grandravine Park and overflowing garbage bins in Fountainhead Park. (Park Perceptions and Racialized Realities)

I think the principal issue that's a focus to me is housing. We've got to move forward and I put forward a five point plan to make sure that we can move forward, especially with an increased supply of housing and an increased supply of affordable housing. And then I think I've got to put my experience to work on the city's finances.

There's going to be some uncertain times, some choppy waters and I think that it's going to take experienced leadership to deal with that, continue the partnerships with the other governments and get the economy back on its feet. So you know, those are the things that are going to be very basic to just getting us back to where we were in 2019 or better. And I'm offering myself to do that. 

The pandemic effect

Alfa: People have concerns about overflowing garbage bins, potholes, billions of dollars in repair backlog. How has the city gotten to this point? 

Tory: I think a lot of it had to do with the pandemic, to be frank... People in their own lives know how much it disrupted them and their work and so on. The city was disrupted too. We had hundreds of workers that were redeployed, some, as recently as this year, to help in long term care, to help in shelters and so on.

I think that some of that kind of nimbleness that we needed to have in dealing with those kinds of things which we had done successfully, you know, was changed. And so I indicated as far back as April, my own dissatisfaction with that and that we move motions to say to the city staff: we need a plan to get back to the kinds of standards we expect. I asked the legal staff to look into that garbage can contract. It's just not satisfactory was entered into years ago and it has years to run.

Exponential demand for shelter beds

Alfa: People are looking for a lot more leadership when it comes to homelessness in the city. We are seeing more and more people experiencing homelessness last month, an average of 100. Many people were actually turned away per day from homeless shelters every night according to city data. This comes at a time when, I mean you're closing hotel shelters where people had their own room.

What are you going to do to get more people into shelter beds now? 

Tory: Well, the first thing we have to do is really provide housing for them and I'm very pleased that the progress we've made. So for example, we've put in the last two years more than 3,000 supportive housing units into place and that comes back to exactly what you said. That isn't a shelter bed, that is a home. It is a home in which they pay a modest rent, but it's a home. I've been to them, these new shelters, new supportive housing units.

We've put into place a partnership between the three governments and these are the kinds of partnerships I feel very strongly that we need to maintain. But we've done 3,000 of those. We have to go and do 3,000 more. 

Alfa: But how will you help the 170 people on average who are being turned away from a shelter every night now?

Tory: I will certainly say that if you look at how the shelters are occupied at the moment, a third of the people that are there are refugees. And I've always strongly supported, and still do, our compassionate policies with respect to refugees. But we simply have to find a better answer. We're working with the federal government for refugees.

A third of the people are chronically experiencing homelessness, whereas the shelter system was really meant for people who are experiencing some kind of an emergency. They've lost their home, they've lost their job, whatever. And so the answer rests in what I said earlier, which is that we have to have 3,000 more. We have 3,000 new supportive housing units people are living in today who were chronically homeless. We now have supports there for mental illness and for substance issues and so on.

Toronto's new city council will have to tackle a $857 million deficit shortly after it's elected. The costs are largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Oliver Walters/CBC)

Raising property tax?

Alfa: Your track record has shown that you have kept property taxes but below the rate of inflation during your time as mayor. How specifically are you going to make up $857 million budget shortfall?

Tory: Well you know, I would point out first of all that when we have held property tax increases for the operating budget to at or below the rate of inflation, which was the standard in the previous eight years, we've nonetheless made huge additional investments in housing, huge additional investments in transit. We've done things like mental health professionals answering distress calls instead of the police. We've done things like emotional centred care for our seniors in long term care. And how did we do that? We got good partnerships with the other government so they could help us as they should, but we're still not meeting the need right now.

Alfa: What's your vision for the city?

Tory: That it will still be among the greatest places to live in the world and that has to do with both the things we can do in the public realm. I put some exciting ideas forward about new public spaces that we can have in the city in the east and the West End and downtown.

It means that the economy is back on its feet so this is still a city of opportunity. And that our values have been protected and there are values that can be protected, yes, by supports through government programs, but also through my leadership that I have shown in trying to sort of keep people, you know, united and keep people away from the kind of division and polarization we've seen elsewhere. 

I'm not pointing to any great monument that's going to exist in the sky or on the ground. And I just think if people look back at the pandemic and see when the city faced its worst crisis ever, you know, what did experienced leadership produce for us then in terms of someone who could provide steady, reliable, accountable leadership, have the city growth, the people who will make the city grow. It's the arts and culture who will make the city grow. It's the values that will make the city grow. And I'm just going to be there to make sure that we stay on course.

End of transcript.

If you missed the mayoral debates, you can catch up on what happened in the following links:

On Monday, Metro Morning spoke with environmentalist Sarah Climenhaga about her campaign. On Tuesday, the show featured Gil Penalosa, the urbanist who has emerged as one of Tory's sharpest critics in this election. 

In total, there are 31 people running for mayor — comprising by far the longest list on your ballot. They are:

  • Blake Acton
  • Avraham Arrobas
  • Darren Atkinson
  • Chloe Brown
  • Drew Buckingham
  • Elvira Caputolan
  • Kevin Clarke
  • Sarah Climenhaga
  • Phillip D'Cruze
  • Cory Deville
  • Alexey Efimovskikh
  • Isabella Gamk
  • Arjun Gupta
  • Peter Handjis
  • Robert Hatton
  • Monowar Hossain
  • Soaad Hossain
  • Khadijah Jamal
  • Kris Langenfeld
  • John Letonja
  • Tony Luk
  • Ferin Malek
  • Gil Penalosa
  • Stephen Punwasi
  • D!ONNE Renée
  • Kyle Schwartz
  • Knia Singh
  • Sandeep Srivastava
  • John Tory
  • Reginald Tull
  • Jack Yan