John Tory sworn in as mayor of Toronto
Mayor John Tory singled out public transit, employment, and poverty as top priorities during his official swearing in ceremony this afternoon. In a 20-minute speech that occasionally deviated from his prepared script, the new mayor paid tribute to his family and council colleagues and outlined the key issues facing Toronto.
Tory said he hopes council comes together to "achieve uncommon results" by building SmartTrack, extending the Bloor-Danforth Line deeper into Scarborough, and improving existing TTC service. Developing a citywide poverty reduction strategy and finding ways to tackle the youth unemployment rate are also important, he said.
Today marked the first day of the first council meeting of the 2014-2018 term of office, but the event was largely procedural. Councillors were led into the chamber by a piper and presented with framed copies of their declaration of office before Tory was handed the chain of office.
Tory received the blue and gold velvet collar from former Ontario premier Bill Davis and Louise Russo, an anti-violence advocate who was left paralyzed in 2004 after being hit by a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting. Tory said Russo was one of his heroes. "To see someone who fought back from unspeakable adversity to devote her life to helping ensure that kids in our city don't get left behind, and are themselves given a fighting chance, is inspiring," he said.
(In 2010, Rob Ford invited Don Cherry to speak at his inauguration. "He's going to be the greatest mayor this city has ever seen, as far as I'm concerned you can put that in your pipe you left-wing kooks," he said.)
The new mayor thanked Ford, who returned to city hall as councillor for Ward 2, calling for a round of applause "for his continued public service" and "a complete and speedy recovery and a return to this place as soon as possible."
Here's a full transcript of John Tory's inaugural speech as mayor, as it was delivered.
Madam clerk, special guest Louise Russo, honourable William Davis and Mrs. Davis, city officials, members of city council, and most welcome guests and all.
Louise, thank you for those wonderful words, I'll mention you again in a moment. I was just a little disconsiderate that you had to raise that 30th anniversary business because, as much as Barb and I love you, I was in some trouble for attending an event. But would have only have been for you on our 30th wedding anniversary, and so far so good after that, so it's going fine.
May I, before I get into my more formal remarks, say a word or two about a couple of other people. First of all I would just like to say to Councillor Norm Kelly, just a sincere word of thanks on behalf of the council and the people of the City of Toronto for your unique contribution in the past years, and I just wanted to say thank you for that.
I said during the election campaign when Rob Ford had to withdraw because of his health challenges that I would miss him at the debates. And I said that I knew that's where he would want to be, at the debates seeking this office that I'm so privileged to hold today and that he held for the last four years.
And I'll tell you that one of the reasons I said I would miss him at the debates was because, it really was, and you sent that brother of yours afterwards, but when you were debating with me, here's exactly what happened ladies and gentlemen, is that we'd be at the debates and at some moment in time in the middle of it, this is absolutely true, he would turn to me and say 'John,' he'd say, 'what's on this page right here, it's going to lay you out in about two minutes. You're going to be out on the floor cold, done, finished.' Absolutely true, he would. I would just say to him, you know, 'OK, bring it on.'
But I think that says a lot about Rob Ford, and this is totally out of order, but it doesn't matter yet because we're not in a formal meeting, we're in a ceremonial meeting. I want to sort of go totally out of order and ask everybody in this room to move a motion thanking Rob Ford for his continued public service and wishing him a complete and speedy recovery and a return to this place as soon as possible. All in favour, say 'aye.'
[Crowd says 'Aye' followed by applause]
I was asked yesterday by a journalist whether I was "just tickled" to hold this office. And as my colleagues will know, you have to think quickly in answering questions like that, and in seconds I had decided not to make any wisecracks in response.
That was my first good decision. But what I did say was something I meant very sincerely then as I do today, and I know I speak on behalf of all of the members of city council in saying in the presence of our guests today that what you do feel is a huge sense of privilege, having the chance to serve your city and to serve the public. And for that, I want to say on my own behalf and I'm sure I speak on behalf of every other member of council here today, say thank you to the people who sent us here, and perhaps, just as important, those who tried to send someone else. Because we are all here now to represent every single person who lives in this city we are so blessed to call home.
I think I can also speak on behalf of every member of city council in saying thank you to our families, which are represented here today. Family members end up deeply involved in public service too, perhaps not always by direct choice, and for all the sacrifices, big and small, the pillow talk which ends up constituting very valuable advice, and for your love and patience - we all say thank you. Let's have a round of applause for our guests.
If you will allow me on this to say a personal word about my own family, I want to acknowledge the presence of my mother Liz Tory. In our family, public service and giving back was itself a given and there was no better example set than by my mother. And she continues to be a tireless volunteer for many causes, though given her occasional outspoken ways, I'm fortunate that never extended to public service, public office that is.
I remember my dad today too. He was a shining example of integrity, hard work, and decency. And I know that he is here and I know that because I am wearing his tie to
My siblings, my sister Jennifer and brothers Jeff and Mike are here. They are people of significant accomplishment and public service and they have all been immensely supportive of my various public endeavours. I am very proud of our four children who are also here--John, Christopher, Susan, and George--and our four grandchildren who aren't here because we weren't sure they could behave long enough to be in something like this.
But I think the children in this chamber, children of all ages who are children of people in public life, have a sense of what is involved in having a parent or parents in public life, and we are very grateful for their endless patience and love. And speaking of endless patience and love, there is Barb, my wife. I have come to understand better and better in the past year or so just how unique the perspective of a partner or spouse is in keeping your feet on the ground and keeping you on track.
After almost 37 years, Barb knows me and understands me better than anyone else - not that she would necessarily put that on her resume as a particular point of pride. And i will just say beyond love, we have a great partnership and I wouldn't be here without her. And I want to say... I want to have a round of applause for her, for heaven's sakes.
I want to say one further word about a couple who may as well be family. My political mentor, my friend, the honourable William Davis is here today. He was previously introduced and helped put on the chain of office, together with his wife Kathleen. I have worked with a lot of elected officials over 45 years. Most of that time, as you know, as an advisor to elected officials. There is no one more decent, more caring, more balanced, from among that group, than premier Davis, and I am honoured he and Mrs. Davis are here today to join all of us.
I said that I would also say an additional word, inadequately I'm sure, about Louise Russo. I said many times when I was a broadcaster that together with my father, and Bill Davis, and Ted Rogers, she too was, and is, one of my heroes. To see someone who fought back from unspeakable adversity to devote her life to helping ensure that kids in our city don't get left behind, and are themselves given a fighting chance, is inspiring, and it was a choice I made quickly and comfortably to have her here today, because, she is speaking of course on her own behalf, but I think it also signals some of the issues which will be fundamentally important to me during this term in office. And so Louise, thank you so much, and your family, for honouring us with your presence here today.
Today we observe not the victory of a group of people, but the renewal of our civic democracy. On October 27th, Torontonians turned out in record numbers to decide the future direction of their city. Five weeks ago, voters asked their elected officials to get to work on the priorities that matter to them. Better transit, better housing, more jobs, and an end to the gridlock that is choking our streets. An end to the division that has paralyzed at times city hall itself over the last few years. Accountable and effective leadership and careful stewardship of their tax dollars. And they want us to act to reduce the isolation experienced by so many on account of a lack of housing, the lack of a job, or the ignoring of mental health issues, just to name a few. The bottom line: Torontonians want results, and it is up to all of us in this chamber to deliver them.
The great industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once said that teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to achieve uncommon results. I know that in this chamber, going forward in the next four years, we can achieve uncommon results.
And that's because I know we can come together on behalf of those who sent us here. Together as a council, I believe we are, the facts show, that we are a group of skilled and dedicated men and women. All of you, all of us, want what is best for your ward and for your city, and I want the same things for your wards and our city. And in the days and months ahead we will be asked to bring judgment to matters large and small. And so let us be honoured and humbled by our responsibilities, but innovative and determined in their execution.
As your mayor I bring a sense of urgency to getting Toronto back on track - but i also bring a sense of perspective. Torontonians are not asking us for miracles, they don't expect miracles of their elected representatives. What they want is visible progress - and soon - on a few critical and shared priorities.
Transit and gridlock top this list at this moment in history. And so, on those subjects, it's time to get to work. We will get SmartTrack up and running in seven years. We will build the Scarborough subway, and we will work with the TTC to improve existing service for its 1.5 million daily riders. Torontonians want a future where we make intelligent decisions that will reduce gridlock. And so we will get to work. We will coordinate construction, we will synchronize traffic lights, and we will do everything we can to see that the laws are enforced.
The damage to families, to businesses, and to the environment caused by out of control traffic simply can't continue, and it is up to us to do something about it, and I know that we can Torontonians also want a mayor who can work with the council and the other levels of government to get things done.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with Premier Kathleen Wynne. We discussed the need to work together on transit and on traffic. We discussed the need for renewed investment in our city and help with housing. I look forward to having the same discussion with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The case I did put forward, the case I will put forward is clear: Toronto is the engine of growth in Ontario and Canada and must remain strong - economically and socially. These are important relationships with these two governments that need to be renewed and strengthened, and I will build trust, I will restore faith, and I will regain respect for the City of Toronto at Queen's Park and in Ottawa, and I think this will bring results for our city.
Torontonians also want good, well paying jobs. That's a big reason we're are going to build rapid transit and improve transit generally, including SmartTrack, to connect people to jobs and jobs to people and bring opportunity to all four corners of the city, because, if we are being honest, it is not present the way it needs to be in all four corners of the city and everywhere in between.
We will ask government partners and the business sector and organized labour to team up and foster opportunities for our youth. They have shown, all of them, including business and labour, working with government. They can do it before, and we have to have them do it over and over and over again. We will create, together, the right business and tax environment so that companies continue to choose Toronto.
And each and every one of us on this council--beginning with me in the mayor's office and under the continued leadership of Councillor Michael Thompson--we must all become business ambassadors for the city. When he was up receiving his declaration I said to him: 'sell, sell, sell.' And I'm counting on him and counting on his continued leadership, together with all of us, and with me, to make sure that that happens.
Because we can no longer assume, and I think we know this, that jobs and investment will beat a path to our door. We must put out the welcome mat and ensure that we seed and we grow the clusters that spell economic success and that spell those jobs for the people young and of other ages in areas like hi-tech, and financial services, and film and animation, bio-science, and food processing. I could go on, but that's just to name a few. And you know what, we have another challenge in front of us as well, if we're being honest about this. We have to bring the operations of the city itself into the 21st century.
We need to get rid of waste and modernize both the services we offer and the way they
are delivered. And that's not a criticism of anybody or anything. It is simply a statement of the fact. I've seen it in the last four weeks as I've gone through this transition and the incredible professional briefings provided by our incredibly professional and competent public service, and I thank them for that, as I'm sure I'll have opportunity to thank them for lots of things over the next four years.
But I've also seen that the processes and the way things work around here are things that are generations behind in some cases what is done elsewhere. And we cannot afford to be in a situation where complacency and stand-still thinking causes this city to fall behind its competitors, and causes it to fall behind the expectations people have of us.
It's ironic when you think about it that a big city and a big city government like this often is way behind its own citizens and its own residents in terms of how to use something like technology to get things done better, and we have to fix that. That's our responsibility not theirs.
I want Toronto as one of North America's great cities to lead from the front of the pack, because that too, I think, is going to help us attract investment. I want us in every single area, including some of the toughest areas that seem to be almost insurmountable challenges, I want us to be more opportunistic and open to change. Our role is not to fight the future, it is to be the future - the place in North America and the place in the world where new Canadians and young people find that first good job they've been looking for. Where entrepreneurs want to come to launch their start-ups, not just the ones who are here, but ones who come here specifically because this is the place they want to establish their business.
And speaking of the future, none of us can be satisfied with the snapshot that has emerged in recent years, of a city unfairly and unjustly, and I'm sure not deliberately, but unfairly and unjustly, divided by income, and by class, and by geography. None of us can rest easy, we can't put our heads down on the pillow at night and go to sleep, knowing that 150,000 Toronto kids are growing up in poverty, or that 15 neighbourhoods in our city have poverty rates of 40 per cent or more. I have devoted a good part of my adult life as a private citizen to combatting this, and believe the job that I now have gives me, working together with you and everybody else, every single citizen, every faith leader, every person who can help, the best chance to continue to fight this.
I signed on during the election campaign, as many of you did before and during, to a poverty reduction pledge that said we were going to develop for the city a poverty reduction strategy. And I said at that time, and I repeat here today, that I want one that has got real targets, and real timelines in it, and real things that we can do together, and maybe a few things that we can call upon some other people to help us to do. And I am delighted that councillor and soon to be deputy mayor Pam McConnell, will help lead the way, working with others, in developing a real poverty reduction strategy for the City of Toronto.
A Toronto with these levels of poverty is not the Toronto we remember, those of us who grew up here, and it cannot be the Toronto that we leave to our children. We are one Toronto, and that means one for all and all for one. And as mayor, I ask you to join me in the months and years ahead in ending the neglect that leaves behind too many citizens in our city's isolated neighbourhoods, join me in tackling the city's unacceptable youth jobless rate, and work with me to build a strong, inclusive city of opportunity from Etobicoke to Scarborough, and from North York to the waterfront.
One where every single resident, without exception, feels confident in their government, confident in their police, and confident in their own future. We have a tremendous amount of work to do, and it begins right here, right now.
As your mayor I pledge to you an open door and an open mind. I will not let ideology of
any kind stand in the way of a good idea or doing what is right. With strong leadership and honest partnership we will move this city forward together. We live in a good city, a really good city, but our goal in the next four years must be to unite us as one Toronto and turn a good city into a truly great one.
I discussed this often during the campaign. We have values that we clearly understand as Torontonians and as Canadians and they do say probably first and foremost that we don't leave anybody behind. And so forgetting about ideology, and forgetting about partisan labels, and forgetting about all those kind of things, I don't think we can look ourselves in the mirror and make sure that people know that we are a truly great city unless and until we honour those values by our work that we're going to do here together and make sure that there really aren't people who are left behind.
We want to create a city where there are opportunities for all, and make no mistake from me, I believe the best way you're going to make people's lives better is through a good, lasting, productive job, and better employment for everybody in the family, starting with young people and working right up through the family.
There are far too many people with huge talent in this city, if we're being frank about it, many of them who are newcomers, and many of them who have skin colours other than my own, who are unemployed, or underemployed, and they're people with great skill, and talent, and determination, they just want a chance to prove themselves, and I think here in government we can offer them that chance and do things to make sure they have it.
I think we all want to create here a safe and prosperous, and caring, and fair, and humane place to live and to work. A place where, in reality, we don't leave anyone behind. A Toronto that we can be truly proud of it. We're proud of it now, but let's make ourselves prouder of the city. I know we can do this. I know we can do this. I know we can act in common to achieve some very uncommon results.
Better days are ahead. Together, let's finish the job that voters began on October 27th and build one great city. One Toronto.
Thank you very much.
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.
Images: Jesse Milns/blogTO
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