John Tory steps down as Toronto’s mayor after relationship with former staffer

In a shocking announcement, John Tory stepped down as the city's mayor after admitting to a relationship with a former staff employee during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Lucas Casaletto

John Tory resigned as Toronto’s mayor on Friday after admitting to a relationship with a former office member.

Tory said he had an affair with the woman during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. It mutually ended earlier this year.

“It did not meet the standards to which I hold myself as mayor and as a family man,” Tory said during an emergency press conference at city hall.

“I recognize that permitting this relationship to develop was a serious error in judgment on my part. It came at a time when Barbara, my wife of 40-plus years, and I endured many lengthy periods apart while I carried out my responsibilities during the pandemic.”

“As a result, I have decided to step down as mayor so that I can take the time to reflect on my mistakes,” Tory announced.

Tory has been married to Barbara Hackett, a home builder and renovator, since 1978. The soon-to-be-former mayor said he believes that he must commit himself to the work required to repair his personal relationships.

RELATED: Here’s Toronto Mayor John Tory’s full resignation statement

“I am deeply sorry, and I apologize unreservedly to the people of Toronto and to all of those hurt by my actions, including my staff, my colleagues on city council and the public service for whom I have such respect,” Tory added.

“Most of all, I apologize to my wife, Barb and my family, who I have let down more than anybody else.”

There are no established rules or laws against romantic workplace relationships in Canada between consenting adults.

The Toronto Star was the first media outlet to report on Tory’s relationship with the woman. The employee was not identified, but the Star notes she’s a 31-year-old former advisor in the mayor’s office.

City councillors react to shocking Tory resignation

Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie is expected to take over as acting mayor until a by-election is held. She has represented Ward 25 Scarborough–Rouge Park as a councillor since 2018.

According to the City of Toronto Act, a by-election is required, unlike if a councillor resigns (where it’s up to council to choose to appoint or hold a by-election). Council needs to pass a by-law for a by-election within 60 days of resignation.

City councillor Brad Bradford (Ward 19 Beaches-East York) tells CityNews that everyone is shocked by Tory’s sudden departure from office.

“It’s a difficult night for all of us here at city hall, and it’s a difficult night for Torontonians,” Bradford said on the phone. “This was really unexpected. A lot of us are trying to grapple with what’s next. Despite the circumstances around how we got here tonight, it’s important to remember Tory served as mayor for eight years through some challenging circumstances.”

Bradford said the city clerk will advise council on the next steps, but he acknowledged that Toronto residents will likely be heading back to the ballot soon.

“We will be in a full city-wide campaign, and Torontonians will be going to the polls.”

Councillor Mike Colle (Ward 8 Eglinton-Lawrence) echoed Bradford’s sentiments, saying the news “came totally out of the blue.”

“He’s not that type of guy at all,” Colle told CityNews in a phone interview on Friday night. “I guess he wasn’t thinking straight… I really feel upset for him and his wife and kids.”

Colle said he feels this now taints Tory’s reputation.

“It tarnishes his record, but it doesn’t take away from the amount of work he’s done for years. You can’t forget that.”

Ontario premier Doug Ford, who lost the 2014 mayoral race to Tory, thanked him for his many years of public service, adding he wished “nothing but the best for my friend.”

“John will be remembered as a dedicated and hard-working mayor who served as a steady leader during the most difficult days of the pandemic,” Ford said in a statement released Saturday. “He united Toronto behind an optimistic vision for the future and I will miss working with him to see it come to life.”

RELATED: John Tory resigns — What’s the process for having a new mayor in Toronto?

On October 24, 2022, Tory secured a third mandate as mayor after a campaign that saw him touting his years of experience in Toronto’s top office in his bid for re-election.

At the time, the newly re-elected mayor said he would work with the federal and provincial governments to get more housing built, along with also focusing on other priorities like affordability and economic recovery from the pandemic, saying he wants the city to “fashion the kind of recovery that leaves nobody behind.”

In early December, the Ford government granted “strong mayor powers” to Toronto and Ottawa, with the first set of those powers allowing the leaders to veto council decisions deemed to hamper the creation of new homes, prepare and table the city’s budget, as well as hire and fire department heads. Tory maintained he would use the powers in a limited and responsible way.

The 68-year-old was often criticized for his strong support of Toronto police. Tory announced a proposed $48.3-million increase to the police budget, which would go toward the addition of about 200 officers and bring police funding to just over $1.1 billion for 2023.

In the wake of a recent increase in violent attacks on the TTC, Tory said the announcement of more police in the system is just one step toward addressing safety concerns on public transit that came out of discussions between the city, the TTC, its union representatives and police.

Tory was first elected as Toronto’s mayor in 2014 and was re-elected again in 2018, defeating former chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat with 63 per cent of the vote.

With files from The Canadian Press

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