John Tory tries to have it both ways when it's pointed out his preferred ward boundaries would split up the Beach.
John Tory is generally affable and genial, but when someone pushes back and suggests he did something disagreeable, he can be very sensitive.
This was the case when Beach resident Brian Graff, who ran for Council in Ward 32 in 2014, deputed at Executive Committee to share his concerns about re-drawing Council’s ward map.
The 44-ward map that the mayor has repeatedly supported on the grounds that “City Hall doesn’t need more politicians” would cut the Beach’s representation in half, and local residents like Graff are upset about the proposal. The 47-ward proposal wouldn’t preserve the Beach as a “community of interest,” a term used in the ward boundary review to refer to neighbourhoods with geographic or cultural history.
And so Graff said that the mayor supported splitting the Beach in half. John Tory did not like this suggestion, not one bit.
Tory: You mentioned my name at the beginning of your deputation, and I just wanted to correct the record that if there was some place that it was noted that I had ever said we should divide the Beach or any other neighbourhood in the city?
Graff: No, my understanding—
Tory: That’s what you said.
Graff: No, you came out in favour of the 44-ward one. Obviously these boundaries can change in the process. You were never in favour of splitting the Beach, but you were in favour of the 44 options—
Tory: That’s what you said, though. You’re right. I never did say that.
Tory: I said we didn’t need any more politicians down here. I never commented on specific boundaries, and in fact in this proposal, if it goes forward, for 44 or 47 it could change, and so the notion of splitting the Beach, I’ve never advocated that. You’d agree with that then?
Graff: I agree you probably didn’t look at the details of the plan…
Tory has strongly advocated for the 44-ward option. Consultants did not recommend the 44-ward option in part because it would break up more neighbourhoods than the 47-ward option, including the Beach, Flemingdon, and Lawrence Heights. (The 47-ward option would also break up some communities of interest, though not as many.)
Tory may not have directly said “I want the Beach to be split up,” but he has thrown his political weight behind a plan that would do just that, and do it to more neighbourhoods than the staff-recommended 47-ward proposal. While “no more politicians at City Hall” makes for a good slogan, the staff reports on the subject don’t provide much evidence that it’s the best way to meet the ward boundary criteria or that it’s what the public preferred in the extensive consultations that were conducted. And trying to have it both ways politically by maintaining the number of wards but not taking ownership of the consequences, well, that’s just not a good look.
Ideological preferences have policy consequences on local communities, and no amount of personal sensitivity on the part of the mayor can wish that fact away.