Toronto Mayor John Tory announced on Friday that he will step down from his office after admitting to a relationship with a former staffer.
“During the pandemic I developed a relationship with an employee in my office in a way that did not meet the standards to which I hold myself as mayor and as a family man,” Tory said during a brief statement at city hall.
Tory said the relationship ended by “mutual consent” earlier this year.
The employee found employment outside of his office during the relationship, he said.
“I recognize that permitting this relationship to develop was a serious error in judgment on my part.”
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Tory said the relationship came at a time when he and his wife of more than 40 years were “enduring many lengthy periods apart while I carried out my responsibility during the pandemic.”
Tory apologizes to ‘those harmed by my actions’
The mayor said he will take time to reflect on his “mistakes” and will work to rebuild the trust of his family.
“I am deeply sorry and apologize unreservedly to the people of Toronto and all those harmed by my actions, including my staff, my colleagues on city council and the public service for whom I have such respect,” Tory said.
“Most of all, I apologize to my wife Barb and to my family who I have let down more than anyone else.”
Tory said he has informed the integrity commissioner of the situation and has asked the office to review it. He said he will also work with the city manager, city clerk and Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie to ensure an “orderly transition” in the coming days.
“While I deeply regret having to step away from a job I love, in a city I love even more, I believe in my heart it is best to fully commit myself to the work required to repair these most important relationships,” he said.
“As well, I think it is important for the office of the mayor not to in any way be tarnished and not to see the city government itself put through a prolonged period of controversy, arising out of this error in judgement on my part, especially in light of the challenges we face as a city.”
Tory thanked Toronto residents for trusting him as mayor.
“It has been the job of a lifetime,” he said.
In a report on Friday night, the Toronto Star said the woman, a former employee, is 31 years old and worked as an adviser in his office.
Kristyn Wong-Tam, a former downtown councillor who is now a provincial NDP MPP, said Tory had to step down.
“It’s no secret that John Tory and I had many political disagreements,” Wong-Tam tweeted Friday night.
“I fully agree that he should resign. This is not a simple, one-time lapse of judgment. Tory was her boss and this is an abuse of power.”
Based on the City of Toronto Act, there will likely be a byelection in the coming weeks or months. City council is set to meet Wednesday to vote on this year’s budget, a spending plan Tory introduced and championed.
Councillors express shock
Coun. Paula Fletcher, who represents Ward 14, Toronto Danforth, said she was “absolutely shocked” when she heard the news. She said it was a “terrible” lapse in judgment.
“I’m getting texts and calls. I think everybody is in a bit of a state of shock right now,” she told reporters at city hall.
Fletcher said it’s unclear when Tory will resign and McKelvie is in Ottawa at a conference.
“I really think this is the moment when council is going to have to show its stuff, as it has in the past.”
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She said council had to step in and take the reins when Rob Ford was mayor. She added the budget is coming before council next week.
“It’s the mayor’s budget. I have no idea what that’s going to look like, but I do think that all councillors are going to have to step up and keep the best interests of the city at heart during this very difficult time until we have a byelection, which I’m pretty sure we’re going to have.”
Coun. Jamaal Myers, who represents Scarborough North, said he is shocked and feels “very sad” for Tory’s family and for the mayor. He said Tory was well-respected on “all on sides.”
“We’re just all shocked and very, very sad,” he said.
Myers added that council needs to guide the city through the mayor’s resignation
“It really matters that we have a strong council, rather than a strong mayor,” he said.
Myers said he appreciates that Tory has taken personal responsibility for his actions and he is praying for him and his family.
Tory has enjoyed strong support during tenure
Tory cruised to re-election in last October’s municipal election and has enjoyed strong support throughout most of his time in office.
He first won in 2014, beating now-premier Doug Ford and Olivia Chow. He won again in 2018, defeating the city’s ex-chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat.
Tory first became mayor during the turbulent time following Rob Ford’s tenure in office, and appeared focused on creating a sense of stability in the city.
He held property taxes at the rate of inflation while priding himself on building relationships with other levels of government. That served him well at some points — Ford’s government recently gave him “strong mayor” powers over council — and stymied him at others.
He once bemoaned feeling like a boy in “short pants” while approaching Queen’s Park for more power, like the ability to toll the city’s two main highways: the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.
In a statement Saturday morning, Ford thanked Tory for his public service and said he “will be remembered as a dedicated and hard-working mayor who served as a steady leader during the most difficult days of the pandemic.”
“I wish nothing but the best for my friend in the days, weeks and months ahead,” Ford said.
Tory leaves office with some of his legacy projects incomplete. SmartTrack, his 2014 plan to bolster the city’s rail system using commuter lines, has been reduced to a shadow of the original promise. Building Rail Deck Park, another signature plan, appears unlikely.
Tory did, however, lead the city through the height of the pandemic, holding multiple news conferences per week. He also helped lead some reforms within the police department and was on the winning side of the lion’s share of city council votes.
Tory will also be remembered as a mayor on the move. He frequently attended several events every day across the city and was in the media frequently.