After 12 years in office, Toronto city councillor Mike Layton said he will not seek re-election, becoming the latest in a string of longtime incumbent councillors saying they won’t run again, opening the door to a much different political landscape following October’s municipal election.
In an interview with Global News, the University-Rosedale councillor confirmed his decision to step aside at the end of his term this fall. The decision, he said, was made with consideration of both family interests and future aspirations on climate change initiatives in mind.
“I think I need to put my energy into something to make a difference around the climate as well as spending more time with my kids,” said Layton.
“There is a life after politics, this isn’t me stepping away, this is just me refocusing my energy in a different role.”
Layton said it was a difficult decision to reach after forging so many relationships while at City Hall. “But I can be proud of what I’ve helped accomplish here,” he said, pointing to advancements in Toronto’s Indigenous affairs, securing buildings for community organizations, and helping establish the city’s climate action plan.
Layton said he doesn’t have a job lined up yet, but wants to continue his focus on climate change initiatives after leaving politics.
“The resources that we have at the city are limited because of the powers we have as a city and the power we don’t have to actually implement some of this change,” he said.
Layton feels there are also limitations to how climate-related issues are being presented to government and believes his experience in government can shepherd in some solutions.
Layton also concedes the job of city councillor has changed a lot since the Ford government cut the size of Toronto’s city council in 2018. “There’s just not enough hours in the day to get what we need done,” he said. While that meant less time to engage with his community, it also meant more time away from his two daughters.
Though he’ll be gaining more time at home, he said it doesn’t rule out of a possible return to politics at some point.
“They’re only young once, eventually they won’t (have) dad around. Maybe that’s a time we can prioritize and see what role might come after that,” he said.
Layton, the son of the late NDP leader and former Toronto city councillor Jack Layton, has been one of the leading progressive voices on Toronto city council. While he’s been able to find common ground with Mayor John Tory, the two have often butted heads over a difference of opinion regarding the city’s direction.
Layton said he’s confident like-minded residents will remind their leaders of the importance of making progress on key issues and challenges. As for a champion to take over in his former riding, he said it’s still too early to say, but he’s open to campaigning on their behalf.
In addition to Layton, councillors Ana Bailão, Denzil Minnan-Wong, and John Filion have also announced they won’t be running again. Former councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Michael Ford have already stepped away after successfully making the jump to provincial politics. Former downtown councillor Joe Cressy resigned earlier this year, after heading up the city’s Board of Health for the bulk of the pandemic.
While every election brings the potential for new faces, municipal politicians receive a huge boost in their reelection efforts over newcomers from name recognition alone. The 2018 council cut not only pitted many incumbents against one another, but also stymied the efforts of several new faces.
With seven open races, the upcoming Oct. 24 municipal election has the potential to be much more interesting than previous years.
“It’s pretty tough to beat an incumbent sitting city councillor,” said Ipsos pollster and political watcher Darrell Bricker.”They’re so community connected; they’re out there at community events all the time.”
Replacing the seven incumbent councillors with new blood has the potential to create more excitement in the fall election, Bricker said, especially if higher-profile candidates get drawn into the race.
“The higher quality of the candidates, the harder the choices are that Torontonians will have to make, the better city council we’re going to have,” said Bricker.