Gil Penalosa to run for mayor as questions about what’s next for Toronto swirl

By John Marchesan and The Canadian Press

Questions remain about what lies ahead for Toronto following the abrupt resignation of mayor John Tory on Friday night.

The two-term mayor, who had just been re-elected to a third stint in office in October, stepped down over what he described as an inappropriate relationship with a former member of his office staff.

Tory offered few details about the affair during a hastily called Friday night news conference, only saying it had developed during the COVID-19 pandemic and ended by mutual consent earlier this year.

The unnamed employee is now working at another job.

Tory says he’s working with senior city staff and Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie to ensure a smooth transition, but has not formally named his interim successor.

The city clerk’s office tells CityNews that Tory has yet to officially submit his resignation and until so remains mayor.

“Once a resignation notice is received, the City will be able to advise on timelines and next steps,” read a brief statement from City Hall.

Provincial legislation states a byelection will need to take place within 60 days of the mayor’s office officially becoming vacant to name a permanent replacement.

Considering almost three dozen – albeit mostly unknown – candidates ran for mayor in the 2022 municipal election, there will likely be plenty of interest this time around especially with such a strong incumbent eliminated.

With McKelvie expected to take on the interim role until a byelection is held, that would give her a leg up on other candidates heading into the vote. At the time of her appointment last fall as deputy mayor, Tory described her as a “hardworking, experienced City Councillor” who shared his vision when it came to housing and transit, and keeping our city as affordable as possible. For her part, McKelvie said she was “proud to support” the mayor’s agenda.

Progressive urbanist Gil Penalosa tells CityNews he will be running for mayor again once the byelection is set. He was handily defeated by Tory last fall, garnering just 18 per cent support, but noted that had Tory’s “serious error in judgement” come out during the campaign it likely would have changed the outcome.

“Nothing has changed from 100 days ago, if anything, more urgency,” he said. “I feel that I have the experience and knowledge to help create a Toronto for everyone.”

Chloe Brown was a newcomer to the mayoral race last fall, finishing third behind Tory and Penalosa. The first time candidate ran on a campaign of “restoring democracy” to the city through direct community investments in workforce development, and creating stable and simplified tax rates.

Blake Acton, a retired police officer who finished fourth in the 2022 race with under 9,000 votes, says he will be running again.

“I’m being flooded with calls and texts, citizens of Toronto want Blake Acton as their Mayor,” he tweeted late Friday night shortly after the news broke. “I repeat to the people of Toronto, this summer elect Blake Acton as your next Mayor for a CLEAN & SAFE Toronto.”

Former long-time city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti tells CityNews he is considering contesting the vacancy for Toronto mayor. He was unsuccessful in his campaign to be mayor of Wasaga Beach in the last municipal election.

Former veteran Toronto councillor Joe Mihevc said any immediate talk of who should replace Tory should take a back seat in order for everyone to absorb “the pain of the moment.”

“The time to consider the future politics of TO can wait a moment,” he tweeted early Saturday morning.

Toronto city council is set to debate Tory’s proposed budget at a Wednesday meeting. It will be the first under new so-called strong mayor powers granted to Toronto by the province, which Tory had said he would use in a limited and responsible way.

Renan Levine, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto Scarborough, says that debate could see political alliances shift as some look ahead to a potential run for mayor.

“The fact that there is now a mayor’s race is going to mean that potential allies on things like this budget vote will start looking at each other as potential rivals to be the next mayor of Toronto,” Levine tells CityNews. “People who might normally be cooperating might be looking warily at each other.”

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