Toronto Mayor John Tory was back in his office early Thursday, working on transition plans after formally submitting his resignation letter last night.
Tory said in his letter that he will officially step down at 5 p.m. on Friday.
At that point, Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie will assume some of the mayor’s responsibilities, but will not in fact hold the position of mayor.
She confirmed in a statement released Thursday that she will not seek the top job herself.
“Residents can rest assured that my entire focus at this time is ensuring a smooth transition and continued good governance,” McKelvie said. “It is in that spirit that I must clarify that I will not be seeking to run for mayor in the upcoming by-election. Representing the residents of my ward, and ensuring a smooth, stable transition until a new mayor is elected, requires my full attention.”
She also thanked Tory “for his years of service here at City Hall” and wished him all the best.
Her duties after he steps down will include acting as a chief executive officer of the city, sometimes presiding over council meetings and providing leadership to council, representing the city and council at official functions and adding new business to council meeting agendas. She will also take over administrative management of the mayor’s office and will be able to exercise any of the powers granted to the mayor by council.
However she will not have the “strong mayor” powers, such as a veto on council decisions affecting provincial priorities or the ability to hire and fire department heads. Nor will she sit on any of the boards the mayor was on, except those the mayor was appointed to by council.
“There are definitely going to be limitations because she will not be having the strong mayor powers that Mayor Tory held,” Toronto Metropolitan University Professor Emeritus Myer Siemiatycki told CP24.
However he added that she’ll essentially “be in the same position as every previous mayor” with various “levers at her disposal” to lead the city.
“So there’s nothing unusual in the role that she will be playing; what was unusual were the strong mayor powers that were conferred on Mayor Tory,” Siemiatycki said.
McKelvie will assume some of the mayoral powers and duties until the mayor’s chair is filled through a byelection.
The next time city council meets after the mayor officially steps down, councillors will declare his seat vacant and set a byelection for a new mayor to be elected. Nominations will open the next day and the clerk will set a nomination period of anywhere from 30 to 60 days. The byelection will be held 45 days after nominations close.
Tory’s departure after more than eight years as mayor swings wide open the door of the mayor’s office and there has already been considerable speculation as to who may run. Urbanist Gil Penalosa, who placed a distant second to Tory in the general election in the fall has said he intends to run again.
Meanwhile Premier Doug Ford, who has sought a city council more cooperative to his agenda, has said that it would be a “disaster” for Toronto to elect a “lefty” mayor. Ford served as a city councillor when his brother Rob Ford was mayor before the Tory years. There has been speculation that the premier might encourage his nephew Michael Ford, who is currently an MPP, to run for the mayor’s chair.
A number of other names have been floated as well, such as former councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, and current councillors Josh Matlow and Brad Bradford.
“I think we can tell already that it’s going to be a spirited, tough, energetic, contentious campaign,” Siemiatycki said. “We’ve seen that signal by Premier Ford’s comments yesterday. So I would imagine there will be some name candidates and they’ll be going at each other.”
Tory announced last Friday that he would be stepping down following the revelation that he had an affair with a woman on his staff. He subsequently said that he would remain as mayor long enough to see through the budget process. That process concluded in an all-day meeting that stretched late into the night Wednesday.
While some councillors had hailed Tory’s resignation as an opportunity to rewrite the budget, there were no major amendments proposed.
In a statement last night, the clerk’s office said all mayoral decisions made to date remain in effect.
Speaking with CP24 Thursday, Coun. Diane Saxe said she’s pleased that the question around Tory’s departure has been settled quickly.
“I’m glad that he didn’t drag us through a long period of uncertainty. That would have been very bad for the city,” she said. “The whole thing is very unfortunate. It certainly distracts us from the necessary business of the city, but at least we now know what to do. We’re moving forward. I’m sure that Jennifer McKelvey will steer us safely through the transition and it’s time to have a good conversation about the future of the city.”
She said she hopes whoever becomes the next mayor brings “a really thorough understanding” of the many challenges the city faces.
“It’s one of the largest governments in Canada and of the large governments, it’s the one with the most difficult financial challenges,” Saxe said. “We also need somebody of course with compassion to understand the ocean of needs that is really surrounding us, that has to somehow be balanced with our very limited resources.
“It’d be wonderful to have someone who can bring some inspiration and collaboration with other councillors.”
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