Calling populism ‘dangerous’ and ‘divisive,’ Toronto Mayor John Tory says he may seek third term

Farah Nasser speaks with Mayor John Tory in year-end interview
WATCH ABOVE: Mayor John Tory sits down with Global News anchor Farah Nasser for a year-end interview.

He’s only a few weeks into his second four-year term as Toronto’s mayor, but John Tory says there’s a chance he may seek a third term if there’s a strong challenge by a populist candidate in 2022.

“If I saw us drifting in the direction we’ve seen elsewhere in the world towards an even more polarized version of politics where people are putting on the team sweaters more than ever and dividing each other, and dividing the city and saying, ‘It’s suburbs versus downtown,’ I will tell you I don’t believe a minute of that,” Tory said during a year-end interview with Global News anchor Farah Nasser.

“This populism, so-called, is very dangerous. It’s very divisive, it’s very polarizing, and I just think that the trend around the world – including places very close to home – this division and polarization is very dangerous. It’s dangerous to our way of life and it’s dangerous to who we are in this city, so that would certainly peak my interest.”

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“If I stayed, or tried to stay, it would be because I believed it’s genuinely in the best interest of continuing to move the city forward … I would also say maybe I’m not the best person to contest that election with this popular person, maybe it’s somebody else.”

However, Tory, who was re-elected with 63 per cent of the vote on Oct. 22, said it’s still too early to make a decision on re-election.

“I’d say they’re not zero and they’re not a hundred. It’s somewhere in between and I think the time to assess that is when you get further along,” he said.

“The most important thing to me will be if people are out there seeking to jeopardize our path to building out the transit plan, our path to ramping up affordable housing and making sure we address some of these social equity issues in the city, or threatening the affordability of the city by promising huge tax increases and this kind of thing, that would be more likely to prompt me to say that maybe I have to try to stay for another term.”

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Tory’s election comes after a municipal election campaign that saw drastic changes made by Premier Doug Ford’s government.

Toronto residents were set to elect 47 councillors in the October election, but Ford announced at the end of July — hours before nominations were set to close — that his government would move to reduce the number of city council seats to 25 through the Better Local Government Act. A decision by the Court of Appeal for Ontario cleared the way for a 25-ward election as an appeal continues to make its way through the court system.

Nasser asked Tory if he feels he has an ally in Ford, especially after the decision to alter the size of council.

“I feel that the relationship in terms of the degree to which he wants to be involved in these things, and quite frankly should be or should not be involved in these things, is evolving – describe it as a work in progress,” Tory said.

READ MORE: Mayor John Tory makes appointments to Toronto city council

“I need his help on lots of things. I can’t do what needs to be done on supportive housing, affordable housing, community safety, or transit … but at the same time I think he needs to understand, and his government, that this city will work best if it has a healthy civic democracy where the city councillors who are totally consumed with and informed about these issues on a day-to-day basis are left to do their jobs.”

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While referencing his work with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former prime minister Stephen Harper and former premier Kathleen Wynne, Tory said there is a responsibility to work collaboratively with other levels of government — an approach he admits some have wanted him to change.

“I’ve had some criticism directed at me because I’m not in a constant state of warfare with him, where I’m sort of loading up nuclear missiles to launch at Queen’s Park every day. That’s not consistent with the spirit of partnership either,” he said, referencing his win in this year’s election.

READ MORE: Toronto city council doubles office staffing budgets to accommodate larger wards

“[Toronto residents] voted overwhelmingly across the city for my approach contrasted with that of my principal competitor.”

Despite their differences on the restructuring of council, he praised the additional provincial government money for policing amid a spike in gun violence and homicides in Toronto this year.

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Nasser asked Tory if he thought Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders was doing a good job leading the service and responding to high-profile crime incidents.

“Nobody has had to confront the level of criminal gang activity, for example, that he has confronted. And he has had two spectacularly tragic events that will hopefully never again,” Tory said.

READ MORE: Ontario government to invest $25M over 4 years to combat gun and gangs in Toronto

“We are in a very methodical way investing in the police with the help of the provincial government, trying to change laws which I have been an outspoken advocate of doing in terms of trying to control or ban guns better, and investing in kids and families where we’re getting some much needed help from the federal government.”

He said he’s “optimistic” things will be better in 2019 based on efforts taken this year.

“The good news for people is the governments are all working together, but I think people out there understand we are doing this in a very determined way but there is no magic answer,” Tory said.