John Tory elected mayor: Here’s what he promised

TORONTO – John Tory is Toronto’s new mayor, having beaten Doug Ford and Olivia Chow.

He officially takes the reins in December But he won’t have much time to gloat: Here’s what he’s promised to do as mayor of Toronto.


Tory’s biggest promise during the campaign – the one he continuously repeated and included in all his lawn signs – was his “SmartTrack” transit plan. This proposal would create an  $8 billion, 22-stop “surface subway” using existing provincial GO Transit tracks.

The track would run from the Airport Corporate Centre in the east end of Mississauga to Unionville with a stop in the middle at Union Station.

The diagrams are impressive, at least in that they’d bring Toronto closer to having an actual rapid transit network.

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But it faces significant challenges – starting with cash.

Tory has promised he won’t raise property taxes to fund the line, even though surveys done for Global News have shown at least 50 per cent of Torontonians would be more than willing to dig a little deeper for better transit.

Instead, he’s hoping to get more than $5 billion from the province and the federal government – and $2.6 billion using  a scheme called Tax Increment Financing – basically, he’d borrow billions now in the hopes the property tax base grows enough to pay it off.

Both of his opponents argued this is a risky gambit that won’t work; Tory argued it was used successfully in Boston. 

A code of conduct

It’s been a rough several years for mayoral comportment.

And Tory’s first promise of the campaign was to abide by a Code of Conduct.

Among other things, Tory promised to not break laws, show up for work and answer questions.

Tory released that list in March, when Rob Ford was still running for re-election and his long list of scandals – including drugs, conflict of interest accusations and racist, homophobic and misogynistic slurs – were still a topic of discussion in the campaign.

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That changed somewhat when Rob’s older brother Doug ran in his place, although Doug Ford’s behaviour – toward his city councillors, reporters and parents of children with autism, among others – has been less than civil at times.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Tory says he can create jobs in Scarborough the eastern portion of the city by temporarily lowering property taxes along the new Scarborough subway for 10 years in an attempt to encourage employment and development along the route.

But he hasn’t said how low he’d make property taxes in the area or how many jobs it’d create. And government promises of job creation are often wishful thinking at best.

Tory has also promised to focus youth unemployment which is hovering around 20 per cent in Toronto. Tory promised to double the number of companies involved in the city’s Partnership to Advance Youth Employment by 2015.

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Subways, subways, subways

If you thought the city had already started digging the Scarborough subway, you’d be wrong. It hasn’t been built – in fact, the city’s original LRT deal with the province is still technically binding – and there remains debate over whether it will be.

Tory has remained consistent throughout the campaign saying he supports council’s decision to build the subway and not revert back to the fully-funded LRT plan.

Separated bike lanes

Tory build more separated bike lanes and add cycling infrastructure [like, bike racks? Or what?] to subway stations. But he hasn’t said whether he’d increase the city’s bike infrastructure budget, where he’d put the new bike lanes, how many kilometres he’d build or when he’d build them.

The new mayor’s plan wasn’t as ambitious as Chow’s however who wanted to add 200 km of bike lanes in the city.

“I will make a reasonable, achievable, measurable commitment to more separated bike lanes and a network of separated bike lanes rather than these promises people make to build hundreds of kilometres of bike lanes and think that by painting a line on the street you’ve achieved anything of significance,” he told the National Post.

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Affordable housing

Tory has promised to immediately combat Toronto Community Housing’s growing backlog of repairs by spending $864 million.

He should have no problem doing this as mayor since the city has already started. He hasn’t mentioned what he’d do about the hundreds of families now waiting for housing, however.

But he’s also promised to form a taskforce to consider whether the corporation should be restructured.

A city divided

Over and above his campaign promises, Tory will need to deal with a city that’s increasingly fissured: The Ford family’s political success is a testimony to the number of people who feel alienated from the city’s mainstream, left behind as specific sectors (real estate, for example) boom. A huge proportion of the city is unemployed or under-employed, services are unequally allocated, especially outside the downtown core. And while “affordability” was part of Tory’s mantra when his campaign began, he has yet to address how he’d make Toronto more affordable for those it’s now leaving behind.