Chow calls for special summer meeting of Executive Committee to tackle key priorities, names new chief of staff
Published Thursday, June 29, 2023 4:26PM EDT
Mayor-elect Olivia Chow named her new chief of staff Thursday and also said that she will convene a special meeting of Toronto City Council’s Executive Committee in August to deal with key priorities, including the city’s troubled finances.
“I don't intend to have a holiday,” Chow told reporters at city hall Thursday. “I intend to work right through the summer so that we can tackle some of the challenges and issues we face head on immediately.”
City hall is typically on a break over the summer, but Chow said the city has pressing issues that can’t wait.
Chow was elected mayor Monday night. She is set to be officially sworn in on July 12, but got to work the day after the election, holding meetings with key city officials and councillors at city hall.
She said she plans to bring front-line experts, community leaders and the civil service together in the coming weeks to work on her key priorities: affordable housing and economic opportunities; community crisis response; and supportive housing and wrap around services.
Overshadowing all those issues though, is the massive shortfall that the city faces. Chow had said that she would look to the other levels of government to help out with the city’s $1.5 billion shortfall. Though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed her as the city’s new mayor Wednesday, he said the federal government is not likely coming forward with that money.
Meanwhile, the provincial government has indicated that it's financial help will be contingent upon an outside audit of the city’s finances, which is ongoing.
“My experience is that the city's budget we cut to the bone, but never say never. If savings can be found, I’m glad to take the advice,” Chow said when asked about the audit.
The city manager has previously said that Toronto will have to delay capital projects and potentially cut services or raise taxes if it cannot find a way to close the gap otherwise. The city did raise taxes seven per cent this year, but mainly to cope with inflationary pressures and growth costs.
Chow said she has written a letter to Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie and City Manager Paul Johnson to let them know she plans to call a special early meeting of the Executive Committee in August to deal with “pressing matters including the Long Term Financial Plan.” Council as a whole will then consider the issues when it reconvenes on Sept. 6.
Heading up Chow’s efforts on her key priorities will be Michal Hay, who she named as her new chief of staff Thursday.
Hay was the chief for staff to former councillor Mike Layton, Chow’s stepson. She also served as the Founding Executive Director of Progress Toronto before becoming Chow’s campaign director. She also previously ran Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s 2017 leadership campaign.
Chow called Hay “a colleague, a person I trust very much” and said she will do a great job.
“She is going to be bringing a first class, very, very dynamic, exciting, experienced team of folks to join me at the mayor's office. I am very blessed to have her as my Chief of Staff and she has started already,” Chow said.
The mayor-elect was also asked Thursday how she will measure the success of her first year in office.
She said she will assess her success on the number of planned and underway affordable housing units; improvements in TTC service; financial support from the other levels of government; and concrete service-level improvements to things like parks and washrooms.
But she also said success will mean creating a city hall that feels more “open.”
“Are we able to open up city hall where more people can participate in a meaningful way,” Chow said. “Are they contributing their ideas, talent, passion and feeling like city hall listens.”