With 2017 coming to a close, it marks the last full year of Toronto Mayor John Tory‘s first term and he has his eyes on the 2018 mayor’s race as he prepares to fight off a challenge from former councillor Doug Ford.
“I’m very excited about having an election campaign and seeking a second mandate, and putting a clear choice to people and saying look, they can either move forward and they can move forward to build transit, continue the relationships with the other governments, attracting financial support in the billions of dollars from them work well with the city council,” Tory told Global News anchor Alan Carter recently in a year-end interview.
“Or they can go back to the old ways where things were divided, there were poor relationships with the other governments, bus routes were being cancelled and all that sort of thing.”
Although Tory didn’t mention former mayor Rob Ford or his brother Doug by name, he referenced the 2014 campaign in his pitch to voters.
“I came to office committed to restoring a sense of honesty, and integrity and trust in the mayor’s office – some stability – and to getting the money to move forward with these (transit and housing) projects,” Tory said, adding the highlight of 2017 for him were the announcements of money from the upper levels of government.
“It seems mundane, but the receipt of a huge amount of money. $170 million is a consolation prize for the road tolls from the province and fuel tax. $300 million in money for housing because those are the things that are really going to move forward on the stuff I want to do.”
In January, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne rejected a request from Tory and Toronto City Council to toll the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. Carter asked if Tory’s pitch for tolls was a gambit that paid off.
“I would not have put myself through the sort of misery if I didn’t think it was the best available answer of getting it approved by the council and you know having all the public arguments,” Tory said, adding the push for tolls may have prompted the provincial government to announce new funding.
Carter asked Tory about the continued issue of congestion, a major part of his 2014 platform. Tory touted investments such as increasing TTC bus service and the opening of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension, but he acknowledged there’s still work to do when it comes to getting the city moving.
“I’m doing almost everything that’s humanly possible, if not everything humanly possible, whether it’s new technology, smart traffic signals actually stalled, enforcement blitzes, traffic wardens that are coming this new year,” he said.
Tory was asked if he’s concerned about community safety and touched upon road safety.
“Public safety is a concern that’s on your mind when you’re the mayor all the time — public safety in two respects, one from criminal activity and two from road safety and pedestrian safety,” Tory said.
“Every time there’s a tragedy you can’t imagine you feel a sense of personal responsibility.”
The comments come as Toronto continues to see pedestrian fatalities, including the death of a mother in south Scarborough Thursday.
In terms of policing, he said even though he believes Toronto is a “very safe city,” officers need to be on the streets more, especially in areas like The Village where the disappearances of several people have prompted concerns from community members.
“Whether it’s Church-Wellesley, whether it’s Jane-Finch, whether it’s any place in the city at all, the more that we have and the presence of officers in the community as opposed to being at a desk, the more I think we’ll be able to address the community safety issue,” Tory said, adding he supports Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders’ modernization initiative for the service.
Earlier this year, the Toronto Police Association and several of its members wore ball caps in protest over staffing and low morale issues. The union was vocal about a recent shift in staffing levels for street officers and the Toronto Police Service Command Centre, which deals with emergency calls.
In August, an agreement was struck between the Toronto Police Association (TPA), Toronto police and the Toronto Police Services Board to hire 80 new officers despite a hiring freeze and review staffing levels for communications operators and divisional staff. TPA President Mike McCormack told 640 Toronto in August those 80 officers won’t make up for all the resignations and retirements, however. He said the force has lost 203 uniformed officers and 124 civilians this year and expects more in the coming years.
Carter asked Tory about a level of dissatisfaction with Saunders’ leadership among rank-and-file Toronto police officers.
“I don’t accept the premise of the question. I think that perhaps it has been the case that Chief Mark Saunders has not gone out there and sort of sold himself in that way that you might in order to win more affection from the rank and file,” Tory said, adding he has full confidence in Saunders.
“But I think he’s respected by the rank and file. They know of his police service record, which is exemplary. I can tell you what this man is trying to do by way of keeping this city safe, which he’s successful at in my view with some exceptions, but very few.”
With files from Kerri Breen
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