Toronto has seen its share of ups and downs over the past year and many of the city’s triumphs and tribulations found their way to city hall.
To anyone familiar with his custom-made blazer, it should come as no surprise that the brightest point for Toronto’s mayor had to do with the Toronto Raptors. After the team brought home its first NBA Championship, John Tory said the Raptors brought the city together.
“In a positive way, celebrating something, this was like nothing that I’ve seen probably since the Blue Jays won the World Series,” said Tory.
While that was a definite highlight, in a year-end interview with Global News, Mayor Tory reflected on some of the challenges the city faces while entering a new decade.
With an agreement with the provincial government to expand transit and a 10-year housing plan, Tory thinks the next decade will reflect much-needed city building. But the mayor also concedes there are major challenges that need to be addressed in the short-term.
In a year that began with the Ford government eyeing a TTC transit takeover, and significant budget cuts for social programs, Tory said the tone ending the year has markedly improved.
“They cancelled some of those cuts and now the challenge will be to go forward and continue to protect the city’s services that it needs,” said Tory.
Mayor Tory said while the relationship was tumultuous at times, he thinks the PCs weren’t counting on the defiant tone he put forward. Still, Tory said if the tide turns once more, he’s prepared to mount another defence for the city.
“Since the time of that fight, since some of the changes the premier himself made at Queen’s Park, the relationship has been significantly improved,” he said.
One of the major changes that helped improve that relationship was the province abandoning its quest to take over Toronto subway expansion. In exchange for city council’s blessing for the Ontario transit expansion plan, the province said it would fund four much-needed transit expansion projects. The deal allows the city to focus its own funds on maintaining the current transit system and other potential expansion projects.
While the deal has been heralded by many, Tory said his last conversation with Ford was dominated by questions about the recent cancellation of the planned Hamilton LRT.
“There was no suggestion, no intimation… nothing that would hint that they’re doing anything other than enthusiastically proceeding with the plan,” said Tory.
While he said he feels bad for what happened to Hamilton, Tory said the agreement with the current government, versus the former Wynne government, has given him more confidence the plan will proceed.
Meanwhile, after a year that saw a spike in pedestrian deaths on Toronto roads, Tory remains hopeful that the Vision Zero 2.0 plan will continue to evolve to end pedestrian deaths.
Tory said the ability to install photo-radar units in 50 locations across the city will help.
“Speeding is a major contributor to a lot of these deaths,” he said, noting his hope that the technology will encourage people to slow down.
Tory said after seeing serious injuries decline for the first time in years, he’s hoping it could be the sign of better days ahead.
“In the end, it’s not going to be about the technology,” he said.
“It’s going to be about people deciding to change their own behavior — who are driving cars, principally.”
With 2019 marking another year where too many people were the victims of gun violence, the mayor is determined to stay the course on current strategies.
“We just have to keep more of them and doing them better,” said Tory. He said he’s not closed off to new ideas but wants to keep working at supporting police, investing in kids and families, and continuing to lobby the government to change gun and bail laws.
“I think if we do that to an increased extent in 2020, we can have a positive impact,” he said.
As Toronto prepares to enter a new decade, Tory said the defining narrative for the city has changed over the last 10 years.
Mayor Tory said the city can’t afford not to fund transit, along with supportive and affordable housing, especially after years of neglect.
“I think, now, we’ve got more of a kind of ‘must-do’ attitude,” he said.
Tory said the measure of the city’s success living up to that new attitude will be whether people can ride on new transit and live in new housing in the coming years.
“I think they would like to see that we’ve made progress on reducing, if not eliminating, some of the disparity that exists between people that live in very marginalized neighbourhoods,” said Tory.