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Tory officially resigns following affair announcement

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

John Tory officially resigned as Toronto mayor on Wednesday after confirming last week that he had an affair with a former staffer.

John Tory officially resigned as Toronto mayor on Wednesday after confirming last week that he had an affair with a former staffer.

This means a byelection has to be held within 60 days from yesterday. Four have confirmed their candidacy, including Gil Peñalosa. Others are still deciding whether to run, including councillors Josh Matlow and Brad Bradford, and former councillor and deputy mayor Ana Bailão.

The tenured mayor shocked Torontonians on Friday by stepping down after the Toronto Star reported he had had an improper relationship with a 31-year-old former employee.

“It came at a time when Barb, my wife of 40-plus years, and I were enduring many lengthy periods apart while I carried out my responsibilities during the pandemic,” Tory said. “As a result, I’ve decided that I will step down as mayor so that I can take the time to reflect on my mistakes and to do the work of rebuilding the trust with my family.”

Peter A. Downward, a lawyer for the former mayor, confirmed the relationship in a letter sent to the Star earlier that day.

Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie announced Thursday she would not be running to replace Tory.

“Residents can rest assured that my entire focus at this time is ensuring a smooth transition and continued good governance,” she said. “It is in that spirit that I must clarify that I will not be seeking to run for Mayor in the upcoming by-election.”

McKelvie will serve as acting mayor until the by-election is called.

In an impromptu press conference last Friday, Tory said the relationship started during the pandemic, but that it “ended by mutual consent earlier this year.”

Tory said the staffer had previously left his office and found employment elsewhere before the affair became public.

Toronto city reports show the woman joined Tory on various trips around the United States, Canada, and Europe from 2018 to 2020.

While there is no specific law in Ontario regarding workplace relationships between bosses and employees, Tory said he felt this was a necessary decision.

“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 judgment on my part,” he said.

Toronto’s code of conduct for members of the council also does not strictly prohibit relationships, but state members “should act with integrity and avoid real and apparent conflicts of interest and the improper use of their influence. Members should perform their duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence and bears close public scrutiny.”

He has also informed the Integrity Commissioner of the relationship and asked for a formal review of it.

Responses from city councillors appeared to be split following his resignation. Many voiced their support for Tory and their concerns for the city’s future.

“I think that he made an error in judgement, yes absolutely, but that’s not a reason to resign,” said Council Speaker Frances Nunziata. “In the past, there have been other politicians that have done worse and they never resigned.

“It would be a disaster if he resigned,” she said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford echoed those sentiments of concern on Wednesday.

“In my opinion, it’s not time to change,” he said. “If a left-wing mayor gets in there, we’re toast. I’ll tell you, it would be a disaster in my opinion.”

Several city councillors have also announced their discontent with Tory and would like to move on from the distraction they feel he has caused.

“I am shocked, it was a terrible lapse in judgement by the Mayor during the pandemic and perhaps even to run for a third term knowing that this affair had taken place,” Ward 14 Danforth councillor Paula Fletcher said.

“We need clarity and cohesion as a council so we can govern this city. The mayor said he’s resigning and the sooner that happens, the sooner we can get on with the business of making this city a great place to live,” said Gord Perks, councillor for Parkdale-High Park.

Gil Peñalosa, who ran against Tory in the 2022 election and placed a distant second with 98,525 votes to the incumbent’s 342,158, suggests Tory’s departure could be beneficial for the city.

“This can be very good for Toronto,” he told HumberNews’ Antonio Pelaez Barcelo on Friday.

The announcement marks 13 years to the day when Toronto city councillor Adam Giambrone officially ended his mayoral campaign because of his series of affairs. John Tory reported on this at the time while working for Toronto radio station CFRB.

Tory was elected to the position in 2014 and is the city’s second longest-serving mayor.

His resignation came just months after being re-elected for a third term in October 2022 with 66 per cent of the Toronto vote. His closest competitor, Peñalosa received about 17 per cent of the vote.

Before announcing his most recent re-election campaign, Tory said while he had promised his wife, Barbara Hackett, he would only serve in the position for eight years, he had her blessing before committing to more.

“She’s very happy that I’m continuing to do this. We have found different ways as the family has grown to ensure I can make time for her and for the family,” he said.

The two married in 1978 and have four children together.

The resignation also came after the Strong Mayors, Building Homes Act was passed last September. This bill gives mayors additional power concerning council committees, as well as dictated that if a vacancy occurs, a by-election must be held within 60 days of the vacancy.

Tory’s final council meeting was on Wednesday to deal with the city’s new budget, which was his first following the passing of the strong mayors act.

Protestors disrupted the proceedings three times, including an early call for lunch, during deliberations. But the $16.16 billion budget eventually passed with minor amendments.

Tory said he will work with the City Manager, the City Clerk and the Deputy Mayor in the coming days to help with the transition following his departure.

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