, 02.18.2023 12:23 PM

My latest: farewell John, hello future

He’s gone.

And we don’t even have to say who. You already know: John Tory.

Full disclosure: I’ve known him — and been friends with him — for 25 years. I helped run two of his campaigns, in 2003 and 2018. I stepped away from his 2022 campaign because (tellingly) he had closely associated himself with a political bottom-feeder.

I didn’t know about what he blandly called “a relationship” with a woman to whom he was not married. I was shocked by that.

I was appalled, too, when the Toronto Star transformed itself into a broadsheet Drudge Report, and broke the “story” that every newsroom in Toronto had known about for weeks. I was proud, however, that my own editor refused to let this paper get down in the muck with the Star.

Oh, and this: I’m not worried about John Tory, and you shouldn’t be, either. He’s a white, wealthy man of privilege, and he’ll get by.

Personally, I’m more preoccupied with his wife, an extraordinary and decent person I have also known for a long time. His kids, too, who are wonderful.

For what it’s worth, I also sympathize with the unnamed young woman, who I don’t know. She doesn’t deserve to get the Monica Lewinsky treatment, with her life turned into a punchline. But that sordid process now seems to be well underway.

I told John Tory he needed to resign, and — when he seemed to be wavering — I also told him I would publicly condemn him if he didn’t. But, as he promised, he formally tendered his resignation right after his administration’s $16-billion budget passed. So, that’s settled.

What isn’t settled, however, is the state of Canada’s biggest city. Because, in the Tory years, some things got manifestly worse in Toronto. And, now that he’s gone, I am conflict-free to write about them.

There are five main ones. Each represent a critical failure of leadership over the past eight-plus years.

CRIME: Under Tory, crime got dramatically worse. Period. Every category of violent crime surged. And while murders have dipped slightly in recent years, Tory was at the helm when the city endured a record-high 98 homicides in 2018, smashing a record that had stood for 28 years.

You don’t need to hear the shocking litany of crime statistics to know the truth — in Toronto, crime has become a veritable growth industry. Everyone has heard about the seemingly never-ending stabbings and beatings and robberies. What they haven’t heard, from anyone at City Hall, is an intelligent and practical plan to combat crime.

GRIDLOCK: As in every other major city in the world, the pandemic scared the public away from public transit in Toronto. It isn’t clear if they will ever return because of that, and the near-daily reports of assaults and attempted murders in the transit system certainly haven’t helped matters.

What is clear, however, is that Toronto’s streets, always congested, have become much more so. The city’s total inability to plan, along with its addiction to development fees — and its Byzantine fetish for bike lanes where they are unwanted and unneeded — have rendered Toronto streets virtually impassable. Toronto is getting more and more people every day, and not all of them can ride a bike to get around. Those people deserve less gridlock, and an easier way to get to work, school and the like.

DECAY: Toronto politicians famously like to describe the city as “world class” — whatever that means. But if it means a clean, attractive, prosperous city? Well, Toronto is no longer that.

Overflowing and neglected trash bins. Graffiti and vandalism in every neighbourhood. Shuttered and/or bankrupted businesses. Decline, debris and decay everywhere you look. But we sure have a hell of a lot of cannabis stores. There’s that.

Meanwhile, the services for which Toronto residents pay plenty of taxes are too often nowhere to be seen. Apart from trash and recycle collection, what service do city residents regularly get in exchange for the tax dollars they fork over? Precious little.

FINANCIAL PROBITY: The city has a spending problem. As my colleague Brian Lilley has often pointed out, spending by the city’s managers is essentially out of control when compared to inflation. And the city counts far too often on the province and Ottawa to bail it out.

While this year’s city budget passed relatively quickly, municipal leaders need to exercise more restraint and better judgment. Look at their announced plan to change the name of Dundas Street — at a cost of more than $6 million. Now it turns out their sole reason for doing so — Henry Dundas’ alleged support for the slave trade — is very much in question. Not impressive.

VISION: Taxpayers actually don’t ask for much. And they don’t expect that every wish on their list will always be fulfilled. What they do want, however, is leadership that stands for something. They want a leader, or leaders, who possess a vision for the future, and a plan for executing it in the present.

That necessarily means saying no to some vested interests. That necessarily means planning the way households do — with a budget, and a timeline. That means possessing a real, honest-to-goodness vision.

Because of crime, because of decay, because of reckless spending and decision-making, Canada’s biggest city needs the best leadership it can get.

John Tory very often provided that, but sometimes he and his administration just didn’t (see above). The historians will write his chapter soon enough.

Toronto residents need to start thinking about their city’s future — because, right now, that future is unwritten.


  1. PJH says:

    It saddens me to see that Toronto is no longer “the good”. As a teen some fifty odd years ago, it seemed that every other issue of MacLean’s magazine was lauding “Toronto the Good” with a tiny, perfect Mayor at the helm.

    While it may have its troubles, at least Toronto’s streets dont look like many in Vancouver, (which would not look out of place in a third world country).

    I don’t see these problems as insurmountable, I just think it just takes politicians, bureaucrats, and police forces with the willingness to act. Backbones and grit seem to be in short supply in this country these days.

  2. Warren,

    All these valid points needed to be made. Governments, like individuals, tend to be very far from perfect.

    My personal preference would have been for a bit more of an interregnum before all of this legitimate and appropriate shit actually hit the fan.

  3. The only saving grace in all this is that it was only eggs that hit that window. Thank God for that.

  4. Martin Dixon says:

    The Toronto Daily Star defended their reporting on this story on their editorial page today. If they are going to report this kind of garbage and think it is defensible, then they should report all of it, including about their homies.

    • Douglas W says:

      Report on the PM’s indiscretions? Not a snowball’s chance.

      • Sean says:

        They will when they think it’s certain he’s done. They’ll bury him. But only when they don’t think they can get any more money out of him.

        • Douglas W says:

          He’s going to be around for years to come.

          MSM will go out of their way to protect him, and diminish his opponents.

          • Martin Dixon says:

            Someone from the Toronto Daily Star actually mocked the PM’s dumbass response to the Chinese election story(shoot the messenger and say that the results of the election wold have been unchanged-tell that to the 9 conservatives that lost their seats as a result-who do they see about that).

  5. Sean says:

    My respect level went up for John Tory as a result of this situation and I think many people would agree. If there’s serious grounds for questioning personal integrity, f#&k that he’s outta here… seen that movie before. I have a huge amount of respect for politicians who don’t fight and fight and fight until their political corpse is dragged to the edge of town. That’s rare in the political business and those who can figure it out are at a higher level.

    Also intrigued by all the knee jerk conspiracy theories bouncing around. Maybe… just maybe… he quit because he believes the City’s business is more important than he is… and his family’s recovery is more important to him than the City’s business. I’ll buy that and I don’t think any of us have a reason to think otherwise.

  6. L. Mackenzie says:

    I support lying to family and friends. Email me at mac8300sped1@yahoo.ca.

  7. EsterHazyWasALoser says:

    There seems to be no limit to the depth the Star will descend to. It needs to be pointed out repeatedly that their appallingly sanctimonious and hypocritical behaviour is absent when it comes to serious indiscretions involving their own employees (like the tragic death of one of their reporters in 2016). That being said, bravo to the editor of which Warren speaks. Character matters. I agree wholeheartedly as well with Warren’s opinion on the current state of the city. I am old enough to remember when Toronto was called “New York run by the Swiss”. Boy, those days have passed. Last Thursday, a grade ten student walks out his high school and gets gunned down right in front of the school’s entrance. He is still alive as far as I know, but critically injured. Routine attacks on the TTC are a daily occurrence. There is (and has been) a serious housing crisis in the city for at least a couple of decades now. and what is being done? IMHO, the city needs a no nonsense mayor who isn’t worried about stepping on a few toes to get things done. Although I think John Tory is a decent person, he has shown some real questionable judgement in the past, and sadly this appears to be just another example from someone who should have known better.

  8. Robert White says:

    All great points. I still support the Star editor for outing
    Mayor Tory given the disclosure is mandated via ethical reporting of news agencies.

    I’d like to see a lawyer take charge via the mayoral helm.
    Mayor Kinsella sounds pretty good to moi, frankly.

    I’m not kidding either.

    I watched TVO the other day and Jennifer Keesmat would be an excellent candidate IMHO.

    It’s a drag to see veteran politicians screw up like this.
    One would think that they know better than to engage in that sort of behaviour. The rule is that one shouldn’t do anything they wouldn’t want published on the front page of the New York Times newspaper of record.

    Mayoral candidate Kinsella would be a sufficient candidate for the helm IMHO.


  9. Peter Williams says:

    Torontonians voted for the five outcomes Mr Kinsella wrote about.

    I expect they’ll vote for even more of the same.

    • Derek Pearce says:

      Suburbanites who are insulated from these outcomes voted for them. You can’t have years and years of below-inflation tax rises and expect decent services. If Toronto was still old Toronto before Mike Harris’s phoney-savings amalgamation then old Toronto would be a much better -run city.

      • Peter Williams says:


        You could raise taxes to 100% of everyone’s incomes and you still wouldn’t fix Toronto’s problems. The money would be spent on new programs.

        • Derek Pearce says:

          I’m not asking for utopia but I do want to see properly funded parks maintenance (it’s mostly a mess), public trash collection (again, mostly a hot mess), a reasonably clean and timely TTC (ad nauseum I must say disgusting mess) and both mayors after Miller have let this shit fester and rot in order to to keep Etobicoke and North York ratepayers happy and re-electing them.

          • Martin Dixon says:

            Yes, the voters are the problem. We are painfully aware of that. They keep reelecting JT. Solution is pretty simple but it involves touching the third rail and a lot my conservative friends would disagree. Many Torontonians are now multi millionaires because house prices have increased so much due to JT’s inflationary policies. They won the lottery. Tax them at a higher rate on values in in excess of a percentage above the average price in the country(do that everywhere actually). And get rid of the PRE over and above certain amounts and definitely in the case where you don’t reinvest in another house and certainly in the cases where people get rich on Muskoka type cottages if it isn’t their primary residence-again a lot of Torontonians. The US has a lot of these ideas although their ability to write off mortgage interest is a dumbass idea. You’re welcome.

  10. Derek Pearce says:

    One thing that’s gone downhill is the cleanliness of the TTC. I started a new job in December. So after almost 10 years of working within walking distance of home, I’m back on the subway twice a day every weekday (in addition to a tacked-on bus ride there and back too). I don’t know if the TTC officially scaled back it’s basic custodial budget but the seats on the trains and buses are often pretty gross, waaaaayyy worse than they used to be. I’m no germophobe but I do like to wear decent presentable clothes to work and half the time when seats are available I don’t want to sit down anyhow because the seats are so covered in various stains and crusts and shit. This kind of thing does not encourage an increase in ridership that’s for sure.

  11. Gord says:

    Sadly these problems are not unique to Toronto. Crime and disorder seem to be on the rise in cities across Canada.

    Vancouver threw in the towel a long time ago and let open drug use and the related property crime and social disorder run rampant. Small wonder that a rebranded NPA promising to put the safety of contributing members of society first swept into office last fall.

    Edmonton and Calgary have seen spikes in similar open drug use and anti-social behaviour that have served to make their downtowns even more unattractive than before. Their public transit systems have become mobile homeless shelters / not-so-safe consumption sites. The solution? Bleating from the chattering classes about the provincial government’s failure to embrace “safe supply”.

    I do not know if things were exacerbated by the pandemic or general government neglect, but it’s clear we need to deploy more front-line resources, including, yes, more policing. We also need to admit that the half-century experiment with shuttering mental institutions, pursuing the fantasy of “care in the community”, putting the “autonomy” of mentally ill, drug-addled addicts before the well-being of the general community, and pushing “harm reduction” over treatment has been a colossal failure. Time to put serious money into mental health and addiction treatment, and start working on getting people clean and helping them manage their mental health issues. If that means committing people involuntarily, so be it.

    Everyone on the “harm reduction” train loves to point to Portugal and their decriminalization of drugs, but they conveniently forget that Portugal also has a strict mandatory treatment regime. The status quo is unacceptable and cannot continue.

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