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'I didn't take it seriously,' Tory says of Ford's allusion to slashing size of council
Mayor John Tory speaks with reporters on Kingston Road on Saturday morning.
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Saturday, July 28, 2018 10:53AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, July 28, 2018 1:04PM EDT
Mayor John Tory is continuing to brush aside suggestions that he should have alerted members of council about Doug Ford’s plan to slash the number of municipal wards nearly in half, telling reporters on Saturday that he ‘didn’t take it seriously’ when the premier briefly alluded to the idea during a meeting two weeks ago.
Tory and Coun. Mike Layton got into a heated exchange at city hall on Friday evening after the Trinity-Spadina councillor seemed to suggest that the mayor deliberately withheld information about the impending shakeup.
At one point during the exchange, Tory accused Layton of calling his integrity into question and challenged him to “get up” and directly say what he seemed to be implying “if you have the balls to do it.”
Following a transit announcement in Scarborough on Saturday, Tory continued with that line of criticism, categorizing Layton’s attacks as “what is wrong with city hall” and telling reporters that he “will not put up” with people who challenge his integrity.
Tory also dismissed the suggestion that he had any real advance knowledge of Ford’s plans.
“I had a brief, it might have been less than two minutes, conversation with Premier Ford in his office where he suggested that he might look at making some changes before the election. I said it was impractical and just wouldn’t be possible regardless of my willingness to participate in discussions about changing a lot of things to do with city governance and the subject was dropped after that,” he said. “I didn’t take it seriously because it was such a short discussion and it was put forward in that category of musing.”
On Friday morning, Tory told reporters that he didn’t learn about Ford’s plans to slash the number of wards from 47 to 25 until a story detailing the proposal was published in the Toronto Star on Thursday night.
Layton, however, latched on to Tory’s admission that Ford had mentioned the idea briefly and took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to question him for not helping the city “prepare for the bombshell” and instead allowing it to “descend into chaos.”
“I didn’t know anything more than a muse. If I came rushing down to city hall to call a special meeting every time I heard rumours or people musing about things we would be having them every hour,” Tory said on Saturday. “So I didn’t take this seriously because I didn’t think it was something that had been put forward in a serious way. Obviously that turned out not to be true.”
Ford was asked about Tory’s insistence that he didn’t take his suggestion that he would reduce the size of council serious on Friday morning and called it “comical.”
He said that his staff consulted Tory’s office numerous times and were not met with fierce opposition.
“Not only did we speak to him once, we consulted numerous times, and we never had this reaction. Matter of fact, deep down he knows less politicians is good. It will make his job a lot easier.”
Tory still wants referendum
Ford has said that his government will table legislation on Monday to slash the number of municipal wards in Toronto in time for the Oct. 22 election.
At that point, the nomination period for candidates for councillor will be reopened and will remain open until Sep. 14.
Though Tory has called for a referendum on the idea of reducing the number of municipal wards to 25, the city has already missed a March 1 deadline to get such a referendum added to the ballot for October’s election.
Tory, however, said that he remains hopeful that the province will agree to include the question on the ballot in October.
“Why would they not want to give a chance to the people to speak on this?” he said. "To me it is not that complicated; it is just politically complicated because it involves the province agreeing to change the date so we can put that simple question on to the very same ballot that will be used to vote in the new city council."