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'I leave knowing our city's best days lie ahead': Tory reflects on time as mayor in final statement

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John Tory's time as mayor of Toronto has come to an end.

The 68-year-old, who first took office as the city's top elected official in 2014, formally stepped down at 5 p.m. on Friday. Before he left, Tory reflected on his time in office, which he said was "the best job anyone could have."

"I've had a number of jobs in my life. I've been a lawyer. I've been a political advisor. I've been a corporate executive, a broadcaster, and the commissioner of a professional sports league. These are all fine positions to have and I was proud to have them. But the career I wanted the most, and the one I was privileged enough to have, was in public service," Tory said during a 4:30 p.m. news conference at city hall.

"To me, there is no greater occupation. Because it is being part of something bigger than yourself. And for myself, Toronto has been my cause."

Tory admitted that it breaks his heart to leave the post but said it is the right thing to do.

He noted that while his resignation and the circumstances that led to it will be among the things he will be remembered for as mayor, Tory hoped his other accomplishments during his nine-year tenure will also stand out, including building more transit and affordable housing and keeping taxes low.

"What I hope is remembered of my time is that I did the work. I did the work of keeping the city stable and moving forward. That I did the work of reaching out to those who share my deep love for the city and try to work with them to make things better," he said, noting that when he became mayor, Toronto was divided and city hall was in turmoil.

John Tory addresses the media at Toronto city hall on Friday February 17, 2023. Tory began to hand over his mayoral powers at Toronto City Hall on Friday, as he makes a scandal-plagued exit from office.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

"And then I tried to demonstrate my respect every day for every single community in Toronto. I wanted all of them without exception to be included. I wanted all of them, without exception, to feel recognized by their mayor. This may well be the single most important aspect of a job of mayor of this very diverse city: to bring people together, to help them to learn about each other and whenever discrimination or hatred show themselves anywhere, anytime, then to do what I've always said, which is to stand up, to speak up to show up and to act."

At the end of his remarks, he thanked Torontonians for supporting him and everyone he worked with at city hall and during his campaigns. Tory added that while he will be focusing on his family, he will continue to contribute to the city in other ways.

He concluded by saying Toronto is a great city and it will grow greater as long as "we continue to care about each other and support each other."

"I leave knowing absolutely confidently that our city's best days lie ahead. I leave with great hopes. I leave with high spirits. I leave with deep humility and ever deeper gratitude," Tory said.

"I want to say thank you to the people of the City of Toronto for the honour and the privilege of allowing me to serve the city that I spent my entire life in and that I love so deeply."

MCKELVIE: FOCUS IS ENSURING SMOOTH TRANSITION

Tory abruptly announced his resignation last Friday night after disclosing that he had engaged in a relationship with a staff member.

He remained in the mayor’s chair to help get the 2023 budget passed but formally handed in his resignation after a marathon council meeting on Wednesday.

Tory did not take any questions from reporters at his final news conference and instead passed the podium to Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, who will assume some of the mayor's responsibilities.

For her part, McKelvie thanked Tory for his service, saying he accomplished a great deal on many issues that mattered most to residents.

"We will miss his strong and steady presence here at City Hall. And I'm thankful that he's been our mayor since 2014. He worked very long days -- often seven days a week -- because he loved the city and wanted to do a good job for all residents," McKelvie said.

"I wish his family, I wish him well in the months ahead and fully respect his calls for privacy at this time."

John Tory walks away from the Toronto city hall podium, as deputy mayor Jennifer McKelvie looks on, Friday February 17, 2023. Tory began to hand over his mayoral powers at Toronto City Hall on Friday, as he makes a scandal-plagued exit from office.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The Scarborough-Rouge Park councillor said she was in Ottawa when Tory called her last Friday to inform her that he would be holding a news conference to announce he was stepping down.

"I burst into tears. I asked him if he would consider taking a leave of absence instead. And he told me that this is what he wanted to do for his family," she said, recounting the Feb. 10 call.

"I admire his sense of duty, his sense of honour. I admire how he's taken full responsibility and how he's resigned. I think he used his heart. And he looked to what was best for him, what was best for his family, and what was best for the City of Toronto and I think that is admirable."

McKelvie reiterated that she will not be vying for the mayor's job and that her top priority is to keep city operations running and ensure a smooth transition.

"I will be entirely focused on being a steady Deputy Mayor for the city for as long as needed. Representing the residents of my ward and ensuring a smooth stable transition until a new mayor is elected requires my full undivided attention," she said.

By law, the city needs to hold a byelection to choose the next mayor, which is expected to be called at the next council meeting.

McKelvie said she had met with the city clerk, who is in the process of preparing for a byelection.

"This is going to be the largest byelection that has ever been run in Canada. That will take some time and some preparation," she said.

City council's next scheduled meeting is on Mar. 29. When asked if an earlier special session could be held to begin the process, McKelvie said she is taking the advice of the clerk on the matter.

"I think it's important that we ensure that it is a fair election that's run well. We have the appropriate polling stations that are needed, and that it is executed in a way that gives credible results that the city of Toronto residents can count on," she said.

TORY DELEGATES POWERS ON FINAL DAY

Earlier Friday, Tory delegated a handful of authorities to City Manager Paul Johnson and city council in what could be his final act as mayor.

Tory issued a memo on Friday morning in which he announced that he would delegate his authority to hire most senior city officials and amend the city's organizational structure to Johnson in order to "ensure continued good governance."

He also said that he would delegate the authority to hire deputy city managers and the city solicitor to council.

Tory was expected to use his strong mayor powers to formalize the delegation of authorities sometime before his resignation takes effect.

"This will be shared by the clerk through a mayoral decision prior to my resignation today," Tory said.

In his memo Tory thanked council for working to finalize the budget, noting that their efforts represented a good example of “working together in challenging circumstances.”

He also thanked them for “their own public service.”

John Tory’s name tag his removed from his seat in the council chamber at Toronto city hall on his last day as Mayor of Toronto, on Friday February 17, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

“Public life is a sacrifice for anyone and one you have made to contribute to a better future for our city. While I am leaving City Hall, I have no doubt you will continue to move our city forward,” he said.

“Furthermore, I am confident the office of the mayor is in good hands with Deputy Mayor McKelvie and she will responsibly fulfill the duties of the office to ensure a smooth transition for our residents. As for me, you can be sure I will be an engaged, contributing citizen trying to ensure, as you are, a bright future for our great city.”

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