Some Toronto city councillors are asking for an explanation after Mayor John Tory’s office reportedly encouraged other councillors to vote against two motions the mayor publicly supported.
According to an article published in The Toronto Star, a “cheat sheet” from the mayor’s office encouraged councillors aligned with the mayor to vote against Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam’s motion relating to gender equality and city budgeting.
When it came time to vote, The Star says Tory was one of the 26 council members who supported the motion while seven of Tory’s executive committee members were among the 18 who voted against it.
Wong-Tam’s motion, which was presented to council in February, asked the city to implement an “Intersectional Gender Equity Lens in all City budget discussions, processes and decisions over the long term.”
“I don’t want to speculate why it happened but I don’t think it’s appropriate for the mayor or the mayor’s staff, whoever it was, to say, vote this way but the mayor might not,” Coun. Joe Cressy told CP24 at city hall on Monday.
In addition to Wong-Tam’s motion, The Star reported that the mayor also publicly supported a motion put forward by Coun. Joe Mihevc about adding a new position to the city’s newcomer office while another “cheat sheet” from the mayor’s office instructed councillors to do the opposite.
“You can’t say on the one hand, I support diversity and inclusivity but on the other hand, you shouldn’t vote that way. You can’t have it both ways. It is for that reason that I think the mayor and his staff should explain to us what happened,” Cressy added.
In an emailed statement Monday, Don Peat, a spokesperson with Tory’s office, said that the mayor’s votes “speak for themselves.” Peat did not confirm or deny whether the mayor’s office distributed a “cheat sheet” encouraging other councillors to vote a different way.
“He voted in favour of Councillor Wong-Tam's gender equity motion and Councillor Mihevc's newcomer office motion because he supported them,” the statement read.
Wong-Tam called the situation “perplexing.”
“I did speak to the mayor that morning before the vote and I asked him if he would be able to support gender-responsive budgeting and he said yes, he could do that… He did say he wanted more information and I agreed, we both agreed, and said that we would set up a meeting for a briefing and then give him more information,” she told CP24 at city hall Monday.
“I thought I had secured the mayor’s support that very morning so it is rather surprising to learn afterwards that there was a cheat sheet and some instructions for the mayor’s friendly councillors, instructing them to vote against the very motion the mayor pledged support on.”
Wong-Tam said she could not comment on the mayor’s possible motivations but said she would like to “rise above what has transpired.”
“I am disappointed but I also want to just stress the fact that this issue about bringing gender equity to the budget process is a much bigger issue than just the mayor and myself. It is about making sure the budget is going to be responsive to needs of everybody in the city,” she added.
“I recognize that there is still a lot of work to do in order for us to achieve that gender equality, which means that the mayor will have ample opportunities to then demonstrate his support.”
The mayor is currently in India on a 10-day trade mission.