On Tuesday, Mayor John Tory met with Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) leadership for a fireside chat.

In many ways, the event was an opportunity for Tory to re-emphasize his election platform -- a five-point plan released earlier this summer and focussed on the creation of more housing and addressing affordability in Toronto.

But beyond that, it was a chance to get into the particulars of his electoral promises and his motivations for running for re-election on October 24.

Continuing Partnerships Established During the Pandemic

With municipal elections only a few weeks away, it’s a weighty time for mayoral candidates, but Tory in particular. This will be his third term running, and if re-elected, he will be Toronto’s longest-serving mayor. As for why he’s choosing to run again, Tory said he simply has more work to do.

“The partnerships that were established on transit on housing and during the pandemic are partnerships we needed to continue,” he said. “I just felt that, at this point, the uncertainty of the times requires steady leadership and that I should offer a continuation of those partnerships.”

And with the need for more housing and more transit being as pressing as it is in Toronto, he isn’t willing to sacrifice any progress.

“With the strain on the city's finances and with the uncertainty we face, even in the real estate market, it’s better to have stable, continuous leadership than to have a change,” said Tory. “I have to make what I hope to be an objective assessment for myself, but more importantly, for the people.”

An All-Government Approach to Transit and Housing

In February 2020, the municipal and provincial governments jointly signed off on an agreement for a $28B transit expansion plan. For Tory, multi-government approaches like this one can help to set plans in motion more efficiently and with more resources.

“It's the first time in the history of the city that we have a transit deal… which will help with housing as well and help with mobility around the city,” he said. “But it only came about because, finally, we had all three governments agreeing on the plan and who would pay for it. And construction is underway on all of those projects now.”

If re-elected, he hopes to spearhead more collaborative initiatives like that one.

“Toronto should have more latitude than it has to do things on its own. It's a big city with a big budget, $15B. But at the same time, we are still very much under the purview of the province in particular. And that's fine, you have to make that work,” said Tory. “It's so important that we maintain these partnerships that have been to the benefit of this city on transit, on housing, during the pandemic. Other governments -- they are indispensable to building a great city.”

Tory also raised the point of property taxes, saying that he will not “impose a 10% property tax increase on people when they're struggling and can't afford to pay it.”

“So where does that leave you? Well, it leaves you in a position where you have to have partnerships with the other governments,” he added. “We need those other governments to be at the table. And so that is why the maintenance of these partnerships is crucially important. If we want to do more on housing or more on transit or more on anything, we can't do it alone."

Improving Connectivity Between Municipalities

With the GTHA being as dispersed as is it, there can be a lack of connectivity between municipalities. This becomes especially apparent when it comes to things like transit infrastructure, where there isn’t much continuity from one municipality’s transit system to the next. Tory described bridging the gaps between municipalities as an ongoing challenge.

“Every municipality has its own sense of independence, and I fully understand that. But I have tried to take the initiative and successfully did during the pandemic -- I chaired meetings every Monday at noon for the 11 mayors and chairs of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area,” he said. “We're moving in the direction of now having more cooperative discussions. I think it's essential because most of the problems that exist in the GTHA are regional problems. Housing shortage is a regional problem, not just a Toronto problem. Transit is entirely regional.”

If re-elected, Tory hopes to press on with inter-municipality cooperation.

“When the election is over, I would like to take the leadership role again in convening those meetings. I think they're very important,” he said. “It is also effective for us to stand as a group of municipalities to speak to the province about certain things because there's 11 of us representing I think about 9M people [rather than] one representing 3M.”

Confronting Nimbyism to Ensure a More Inclusive Housing Market

In July 2022, an amendment was adopted by the City to exempt multiplexes with four or fewer units from the development fee increases. But in Tory’s view, enacting policy amendments like that one is merely half the battle when it comes to getting more middle-density housing built.

The other hurdle: getting Toronto residents on board with the idea of reshaping single-family neighbourhoods so that they can lend to middle housing development.

“Even in the neighbourhoods where they might have pushed back the most on this over time, there are today, and have been for decades, duplexes, and triplexes, and four-storey apartment buildings, and so on,” he said. “You have to ask two things of people. One is to be understanding of the fact this is not anything really new, and that we're really just asking for these kinds of balanced neighbourhoods. And second, to accept the fact that it is not going to be good for them or for their neighbourhood or for their city to have a city that excludes people.”

Tory went on to say that diversifying housing options is going to become increasingly more important in the years ahead, as Toronto’s population continues to expand.

“We want all those people to have a place to live in between a 50-storey tower and a two-storey building and to have the feeling of being included in the city,” he said. “People from all different groups [should] be able to find a home here that's affordable for them.”

Keeping Pedestrians Safe Amid Construction and Congestion

At any given time in Toronto, you can hear the whirring of machinery and see the cranes towering overhead. While construction isn’t going anywhere -- “I can't back away from that, because that would involve stopping building transit,” said Tory -- his real concern lies in public safety.

“There are two things I wanted to do that would help with safety and with congestion, but principally safety,” he said. “One is speed cameras... photo radar. The second one is traffic agents; somebody who isn't a fully sworn police officer but has the authority to direct traffic.”

If re-elected, Tory also hopes to implement smart traffic lights, which would hypothetically help to control the flow of traffic, without requiring manpower.

“They measure the flow of the traffic and change the lights automatically,” he said. “These are the kinds of things that we're going to have to do. I'm not saying it has to be a state of affairs that lasts forever, or that we're accepting the present state of affairs -- I don't accept it, we can do better."

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