Stunning News from City Hall, Strong Mayor Powers, & the Budget Vote

On Friday evening, the Toronto Star broke the story that Mayor Tory had been in a relationship with a former staff member from his office which came to an end last month. The mayor indicated that the relationship started during the pandemic when the former staffer was in his employ. Shortly after this stunning news became public, the mayor announced his intention to resign from office at a hastily-organized press conference. The mayor’s announcement that he would resign has raised many questions about the final budget vote, set for Wednesday, February 15, and the operation of Council going forward under strong mayor powers (or not).

Here’s what we know so far 

Budget Vote & Mayor’s Resignation

The mayor’s resignation does not take effect until he submits his resignation in writing to the city clerk, which he has not done as yet. The mayor has confirmed he will be attending Wednesday’s budget meeting and plans to stay on until the budget is finalized. 

The budget process could end as early as Wednesday, February 15, or could extend for a few more weeks. If a majority of council votes to make changes to the mayor’s budget on Wednesday, the mayor has up to 10 days to veto the changes under strong mayor powers. If that occurs, council has up to 15 days from the end of the 10-day veto period to override the mayor’s veto; it would take 2/3rds of council to override the mayor’s veto.

In January, the mayor indicated that $6 million had been found in savings, by cutting back on consulting fees and other expenses, and could be allocated to other program areas. At the time, Mayor Tory stated that council should decide, “as colleagues,” how the $6 million (of a $16.16 billion operating budget) would be allocated. No other savings or revenue changes have been announced.

The mayor’s decision to stick around to maintain control over budget decisions, under the undemocratic strong mayor powers, is likely to result in another austerity budget. Both Mayor Tory and former Mayor Rob Ford will have ended their time in power under scandal, but that’s not all they have in common. They also have a shared history of championing austerity budgets, failing to deliver critical programs, services, and infrastructure for Torontonians, and contributing to a crumbling city that leaves more residents out in the cold, while prioritizing low property taxes and hefty police budgets over all else. 

An awful lot of people are fed up and calling on Council to do better. Are you fed up? Join us for the Have a Heart City Budget Rally at City Hall on February 15 at 9 a.m. Social Planning Toronto has drafted a joint letter calling on the Mayor and City Council to immediately invest in urgent community services in the 2023 City Budget. We are reaching out to community-based organizations and workers to sign on to the letter, as individuals and as organizations, by 2 p.m. on February 14. On February 15th the signed letter will be both emailed to Council members and presented at the Have a Heart City Budget Rally outside of Toronto City Hall. Please sign on to the letter by 2 p.m. today and join us on Feb 15th at 9 a.m.


Transition of Power, Strong Mayor Powers, & By-election

Once Mayor Tory submits his resignation to the clerk, Council is required to declare the mayor’s position vacant at its next meeting. This could happen at a special meeting or a regularly scheduled meeting of council. Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie will serve as interim or acting mayor once the mayor’s position has been declared vacant. Municipal legal experts had initially thought strong mayor powers would transfer to the interim/acting mayor, but it doesn’t look that way. According to the provincial government, strong mayor powers do not transfer to the interim/acting mayor but will transfer to the next elected mayor. 

Here’s another twist. The mayor’s allies on Council are urging him to walk back his resignation and stay on as mayor, with a letter circulating among supporters. In addition, last night, several people commented on Twitter that they received a phone poll gauging their support for John Tory. The poll included questions about the mayor’s job performance, if they were aware that he is stepping down, whether it was the right decision for him to resign, if he deserves a second chance, would the resident vote for him in a by-election should he resign immediately or finish the term, and did the resident vote for him in 2022. The poll raises further questions regarding the mayor’s intention to resign.

If the mayor does resign, under strong mayor powers a by-election must be held to elect the next Mayor of Toronto. If the mayor resigns this week, the by-election could take place sometime in May or early June. Here are the details:

  • Under strong mayor powers, council is required to pass a bylaw within 60 days of the date when the mayor’s position is declared vacant, requiring a by-election to elect a new mayor;
  • Under the municipal elections act, the city clerk sets a nomination day for candidates “not less than 30 days and not more than 60 days after” council passes the bylaw calling for a by-election; and
  • Under the municipal elections act, voting day is to be held “45 days after nomination day.”

Get ready for another e-day — if the mayor does submit his resignation as announced.

In the meantime, Council has work to do to build a better budget for Torontonians to support a strong, equitable, and more caring city that works for all. 

Want to show your love for Toronto and a better budget? Sign on to our joint letter by 2 p.m. on February 14 and come out to the City Budget Rally at 9 a.m. on February 15. 

© Copyright 2017-2020 Social Planning Toronto. All rights reserved.