Mayor John Tory has appointed Paul Johnson to be the new city manager using the new strong mayor powers granted to him by the province.
Tory made the decision following an "extensive search" by a third-party as well as the recommendation of a four-person hiring panel he assembled in June, which included himself, Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, Coun. Stephen Holyday and former councillor Mike Layton.
“Paul Johnson is a leader with a proven track record of commitment to serving our communities, creating efficiencies and budgeting effectively, all while inspiring teams,” Tory said in a statement. “I know he will make a great city manager for Toronto.”
Tracey Cook has served as interim city manager since Aug. 19. She was appointed to the role after Chris Murray stepped down from the job in June after four years.
Johnson joined the city as deputy city manager for community and social services just over a year ago in September 2021 after holding various posts at the City of Hamilton over a decade-long career there.
“I want to thank Mayor John Tory and the hiring panel for the opportunity to take on this new challenge.” Johnson said in a statement. “It is a privilege to be charged with leading the incredibly talented and hardworking Toronto Public Service to enhance the quality of life for Toronto’s residents, particularly in a post-pandemic era. Toronto is a vibrant city, and I look forward to building upon the important work that is already in progress – providing essential services and enhancing the livability of our neighbourhoods. I can’t wait to get started.”
CONCERNS RAISED OVER USE OF STRONG MAYOR POWERS
The appointment marks one of the first times that Tory has used the new powers granted to him by the province. Previously, the appointment of the city manager -- who is effectively the highest civil servant of the municipality -- was a job for council.
The new legislation by the province allows the mayor to consult council, but also allows him to make the appointment on his own.
The move drew a sharp response Friday from Coun. Josh Matlow, who said he learned about the important decision from a press release.
“Under new mayoral powers created by Doug Ford, rather than participating in the selection of Toronto’s City Manager, I’ve only learned of the appointment by reading a statement from Mayor Tory and a press release,” the Toronto-St. Paul’s councillor tweeted.
Matlow sounded concern in a series of tweets about “the politicization of city staff.”
“I congratulate the new city manager on his appointment, and wish him the very best of success,” Matlow wrote. “My concern is with the fact that his important and powerful role no longer answers to city council, but now is effectively an employee of the mayor, who can hire and fire him and other senior staff unilaterally, without the necessary checks and balances.”
The new powers granted to the mayor of Toronto by the province recently include the ability to create and re-organize city departments and the ability to hire and fire department heads and appoint the city manager. Critics have raised concern that such a system could centralize power around the mayor’s office in a way that is undemocratic.
The Ford government made the changes citing the need to move along housing development.
Tory has already said that he will use his powers to create a new city department focused on housing.
Asked by reporters Friday whether he has concerns that the powers could be used in a harmful way by a future mayor, Tory did not answer directly, but said he is focused on the next four years.
“I would just say that I am the person who was just elected as the mayor and so people can look at me and my track record and how I've committed myself to conducting myself in this office,” he said. “And I will conduct myself the same way as if the law hadn't been changed.”
He added that the new powers “will help us to get things done better and faster.”