John Tory is not someone who backs away from a good fight, nor does he succumb to defeat. After previous attempts to secure the top governing jobs at the provincial and municipal level, Tory clinched Toronto’s mayoral race with a first-place finish.
Tory, who at one point trailed then front-runner Olivia Chow during the campaign, was elected mayor of Canada’s largest city on Oct. 27 with more than 40 per cent of the popular vote.
While critics once panned him as the “best mayor Toronto never had,” it is left to be seen how Tory – who now represents the country’s sixth-largest government — will heal a divided council in the post-Rob Ford era, mend citizen discord, execute his top priorities, and generally, what legacy he will leave on the city.
Tory’s storied background includes businessman, lawyer, politician, civic leader and now, mayor-elect of Toronto.
John Tory has a story
John Howard Tory was born in Toronto on May 28, 1954. He married Barbara Hackett in 1978 and had four children: John V (fifth), Christopher, Susan and George. The Torys also have four grandchildren.
Tory’s father, John Arnold Tory, was president of Thomson Investments Ltd. and was on the board of directors at Rogers Communications.
He graduated from the University of Toronto in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and received his law degree from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.
In the early 1980s, Tory joined Torys LLP (formerly Tory, Tory, DesLauriers & Binnington) – a law firm co-founded by his grandfather and being run by his father — holding various positions including partner.
It was around this time that Tory began his foray into politics, being hired as principal secretary to the premier and associate secretary of the cabinet under then Ontario premier Bill Davis’ government, where he remained until Davis retired in 1985.
Political career setback
During the 1993 federal election, Tory was part of former Conservative prime minister Kim Campbell’s campaign team that released a television ad that showed Jean Chretien facial paralysis from Bell’s Palsy and questioned: “Is this a Prime Minister?” Tory was heavily criticized, and subsequently, the party was reduced to two seats in the House of Commons.
First business, then more politics
After executive positions at Rogers Media, Rogers Cable and the Canadian Football League, Tory decided to try his luck in Toronto’s political arena, running in the 2003 municipal election to replace outgoing mayor Mel Lastman. He lost to David Miller by around 36,000 votes.
But, Tory wasn’t done with politics yet, and this time had his sights set on running the Ontario PC Party. Leader Ernie Eves was on his way out, and Tory wanted in. At the leadership convention in September 2004, Tory won on the second ballot with 54 per cent of the vote. He also won the 2005 byelection, securing an MPP seat in Eves’ Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey riding.
Another political defeat
It appeared Tory was on track to beat Dalton McGuinty in the 2007 provincial election and become Ontario’s next premier.
However, even before the campaign was officially launched, Tory introduced a plan to allocate public funding to faith-based religious schools, which led to division within the party and discontent among voters.
On Oct. 10, 2007, Tory’s Conservatives eventually lost the election to the McGuinty Liberals with 26 and 71 seats, respectively. Tory, who had also left his previous riding to run in Don Valley West, also lost his MPP seat to now Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Tory leaves the PC party
After a dismal showing in the provincial election, support for Tory was dwindling within his party. However, he decided to stay on as its leader.
Tory also did not have a seat in the Ontario legislature, so when MPP Laurie Scott resigned from her Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock riding in early 2009, that enabled him to run in a byelection. However, he lost to Liberal Rick Johnson.
On March 6, 2009, Tory called it quits and stepped down as leader of the PC party.
Notable projects post-PC party
As a founding member of Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance, Tory served as its chair from 2010 to 2014. In one of its reports, it called gridlock a “paralysis” on the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
Tory chaired a panel of community and business leaders on how best to redevelop Ontario Place, and then present the vision to the province’s minister of tourism, culture and sport. In a report released in June 2012, the proposed revitalization called for a mixed-use destination, including residences, businesses and a recreational space, but ruled out a casino.
Did you know that…?
- Tory served as chairman of the Canadian Football League from 1991 to 1996, but reportedly only got paid $1 a day in his role as commissioner from 1996 to 2000.
- A few years ago, Tory once told political affairs specialist John Stall that the only job he wanted, other than running for political leadership was his – that is, talking politics on the radio. “I never thought he would actually go after it (sort of) when he took the talk show,” Stall said, referring to The John Tory Show on Newstalk 1010.
- In the 1970s, Tory was a reporter and newscaster for Rogers Broadcasting’s CFTR and CHFI, and a member of the press gallery at Toronto City Hall.
- Tory, his great-grandfather, grandfather, father and son are all named John Tory, but with different middle names:
Great-grandfather – John Alexander Tory Sr.
Grandfather – John Stewart Donald Tory
Father – John Arnold Tory
Son – John A.D. Tory
- According to a report in the Globe and Mail in 2012, Tory’s ancestry can be traced back to James Tory, a soldier in the 71st Scottish Regiment who fought during the American Revolution (1765-1783). He was held prisoner of war, and after the war ended, the English gave him land near Guysborough in Nova Scotia.
- Like Tory, his grandfather, his father, and uncle, James Marshall Tory, all attended the private school University of Toronto Schools.
- Tory’s eldest son, John A.D. Tory is the CEO of Private Air Inc., headquartered in Thunder Bay.
- Awarded the Order of Ontario in 1992 for being “a consummate champion for the Greater Toronto Region as a founding member and chair of CivicAction and chairs and volunteers on countless fundraising campaigns.”
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