Seven challenges Tory wants to tackle once he takes office
Sandie Benitah, CP24.com
Published Thursday, November 27, 2014 3:46PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 27, 2014 5:41PM EST
Mayor-elect John Tory has given the public a snapshot of what is ailing Toronto, singling out traffic congestion and the lack of affordable housing as a crisis.
Speaking with reporters at his “State of the City” address on Thursday afternoon, Tory pointed out a number of significant challenges ahead, including getting the federal and provincial governments on board to kick in some funding for relief, but he also said he’s never been as optimistic that Toronto can move forward.
"There does remain the potential for efficiencies and better services," he said. "I have had it confirmed to me that the consolidation of our efforts and resources put into areas like real estate is still, to put it gently, incomplete. There's more that can be done there to achieve benefits for the people that will allow us to say that we're in better shape financially and to deliver improvements and at the same time, deliver better services."
Tory spoke for about 28 minutes, concluding his speech by saying that he is confident but has a "degree of apprehension" about starting his new job as mayor.
Here are seven issues Tory says he will tackle after taking the oath of office on Dec. 2.
1. Transit improvements
Tory campaigned on the promise to alleviate traffic congestion with his SmartTrack plan, but first he wants to iron out some of the existing difficulties that are slowing the public transit system’s progress.
For example, budget cuts in 2011 and 2012 forced the TTC to significantly cut bus service to more than 60 routes, which resulted in some routes being overcrowded. The mayor-elect said he is having conversations about the “practical realities” of restoring bus service but noted that a number of buses were scrapped or retired because of the cuts.
"I've asked to source vehicles if possible in a way that would make an immediate impact but it would be subject of course to our ability to pay for them," he said.
The matter will be brought up during the city's budget debate.
Tory also touched on the modernization of the TTC service, saying he wants commuters to be able to use debit or credit to purchase fares at every station.
"It would be a simple but important sign that we're moving the transit system forward as quickly as possible," he said.
Signal upgrades are also a sore point at the TTC. The upgrades on the Yonge subway line were expected to be completed by 2012 but now the deadline is 2020. Tory said he is talking to the TTC about how to speed up the process.
2. Easing traffic congestion
Congestion in Toronto is at "the level of the crisis," Tory told reporters Thursday, noting how recent studies have shown the city has longer commute times than major North American cities.
He said there have been recent improvement but more has to be done, and fast.
“This problem will not be solved with taxpayers alone,” he said, urging the need for financial support from both the federal and provincial government to help ease both transit and traffic pressures.
3. Poverty and the housing crisis
Poverty is on the rise in Toronto and Tory promises to reverse that trend. Calling the lack of affordable housing in the city a “housing crisis,” Tory said he wants to bring “as much measurable improvements as possible” to the situation.
He noted that Toronto Community Housing Corp. faces a $2.6-billion spike in capital needs over the next 10 years just to keep housing in fair state of repair. There were 118 TCHC units that were uninhabitable in 2014 and that is expected to climb to 4,000 uninhabitable units by 2018 if those repairs are not made.
4. Minimizing cost overruns
Pointing to the rising project costs associated with the revitalization of Union Station, the revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square and the expansion of the York University subway extension, Tory said he would work to keep council disciplined when voting on whether or not to increase the scope of existing projects. He also ensured “personal leadership in creating a culture ofaccountability" to make sure cost overruns are minimized.
5. Improving relationships with police
Tory was frank when he said he was “not at all happy” with the tense relationship between the Toronto Police Service, The TPS board and the community. He said communication between the three groups needs to be improved if the city can ever hope of enhancing its reputation as a safe city that is respectful of diversity.
6. Building relationships colleagues and counterparts
Tory has spent the past month meeting with various city boards as well as the councillors that will sit on his council. He’s met with most of them one-on-one in an effort to build a consensus around key issues on his priority list. The mayor-elect will also be scheduling time with key people in the federal and provincial government in hopes of building a partnership that will help him improve the city’s condition.
7. Boosting morale around Pan Am Games
Tory urged Torontonians to get behind the sporting event and not fall into the trap of putting them down. He said it is "crucially important" for the city to make sure the games are a resounding success.
"I think it's very exciting we're having this event in our city," he said. "Don't fall prey into the temptation that we often have as Canadians and Torontonians to put these kinds of things down."
@sandiebenitah is on Twitter. Remember for instant breaking news follow @cp24 on Twitter.