Toronto through the eyes of Mayor John Tory
If anyone has seen their share of Toronto, you can be sure it's a Mayor. That makes our current city leader, John Tory, an ideal candidate to provide an insider's perspective on Toronto. He is now, after all, the city's most prominent and full-time ambassador (sorry, Drake).
I sat down with Mayor Tory in his office at City Hall where he was infectious with enthusiasm about all the GTA's nooks and crannies. In the process he shared where he would take a guest to show off the city, what places he's discovered as Mayor, and what spots he loves the most.
If you wanted to show someone who has never been to Toronto what makes our city great, where would you - as an ambassador for the city - take them?
A revitalized Regent Park. Put it all together so they can see the new and the old. BCE Place. It's a spectacular example of how, if you're a bit insistent, you can get things like the galleria. The AGO and the ROM. The BAPS Swaminarayan Temple with the Hindu civilization museum. It's a spectacular Hindu temple. Gorgeous and very interesting. People will often say, "This is in Toronto? How did this get here?"
The North Scarborough Chinese Plazas and big Chinese Malls with the huge 500 seat restaurants. The Evergreen Brick Works and College Street West. If you said "You have three hours or four hours, those are the places I'd take them to show off different things.
What eating spots that you personally love would you take your guests to during your tour?
For breakfast, Over Easy on Bloor Street. It's unpretentious and has a great, long menu of omelets. For Lunch, Apache Burger. It's a burger joint in Etobicoke that's an institution for generations of people. It serves a great burger. For dinner, I'd say Canoe. While a bit tony, it's a place where you get a spectacular view of the waterfront on a decent day. It's a very Canadian-like menu with a lot of light local food. I like it there.
Do you have any favorite spots in the city that you would want to show them in between meals? Spots that aren't about showing off what the city has to offer, but ones you yourself have great affection for?
I'd also say the Corktown Common where I'd show them what's being done on the revitalization of the waterfront, and because I think it's a spectacular park. Then I'd say the BAPS temple again because I'd just want to say, "Look, I want to take you to show you that in Toronto we have things like this. It's extraordinary."
Now that you're settled into City Hall, what do you love in this area of town?
One is Chinatown. I don't go there as much as I used to, but I was there during the election a couple of times and you realize how interesting, bustling and full of enterprise it is. Then I'd say Queen Street West. I think it's fabulous. It's gone further and further west. You used to be able to walk the part that was interesting in probably an hour. Now you can just walk all day.
What spots do you like in the neighborhood where you live?
I live at Bloor and Bedford, so that's why I'd say Philosopher's Walk. When you're in Philosopher's Walk, you can see the university buildings, but you feel very much like you might be in the country.
Then I'd say Taddle Creek Park, which is a little park that was built with the money that came from building our condo. It's a fabulous city park. It's not that big, but we take advantage of it because it's a well-designed park. It's the one with the huge 20 ft. water jug sculpture. In the summer, the water is pouring out of it.
Are there any spots where you can unwind and forget you're the Mayor for a while?
Well, I've only been Mayor for six weeks, but places where I feel at peace in the city? Toronto Island. Ever since I was a kid, I never cease to have a very special feeling when I'm at the island. I look back at this huge city, and you can't really hear the noise of the city. You're in this place that's so incredibly peaceful and you're thinking to yourself, "How is it possible I'm here and it's right there."
Humber Bay Park. It's a similarly beautiful park where you have a different view of the city skyline across the whole of the lake. It's actually a very natural park.
It's a bit remote, but I still love the zoo. Then, the one place I love in the city the most: Riverdale Farm. I've probably been going there for twenty years. It's only because we took our kids there, and now I take my grandchildren there. They never cease to be entertained by going there. If it's the 11,000 time visit they have, they still love going to see the cow - the cow! - and the chickens. I like it there because of the joy they've had in going.
What are three Toronto locations you can't you live without?
The waterfront, Riverdale Farm, and Nathan Phillips Square. Which isn't just because I'm now the Mayor and I spend a lot of time here. It's also because over the years I've been to so many things here. Everything from Grey Cup celebrations to Blue Jays celebrations.
Are there any new areas of the city you've discovered and fallen in love with now that you're Mayor?
Both times I ran for Mayor, I discovered parts of the city. I'll name one from each campaign. The first campaign in 2003, I had never really been to the Swansea/Mimico area down by the lake in South Etobicoke.
When I got there, I was amazed at a number of things: first of all, walk to any part of it, and you have a sense there's a very tight community. Secondly, the proximity to the lake is amazingly close. You associate that with the beaches, but you don't' think of it in the context of the west part of the city. But it's true. It's relatively untouched as of yet. It is at it was. It's got some terrific parks. I think it's a really special part of town.
This second time I ran for Mayor, it was the opposite end of town. If you go to the South part of Scarborough, from West to East, there's a lot of really terrific neighborhoods all the way along there. And, of course, there's a great proximity to the lake.
Brunch: Over Easy
Restaurant to take someone from out of town: Canoe.
Museum or Gallery: The galleries in the Distillery District, or on Queen West. I don't have a particular gallery. Also the AGO and ROM, both of which I'm very proud of.
Bookstore: It's ordinary to say, but Indigo in Manulife. Before I would have said the World's Biggest Bookstore, but it's closed.
Clothing: Again, it's boring, but I would say Harry Rosen.
Movie Theatre: When I was a kid there were these gigantic movie theatres. The Capitol Event place up on Yonge Street. Those were all theatres. Big movie theatres with 400-500 seats, with balconies, and smoking sections of course. Unfortunately, those are all gone. Now I'd say TIFF because there are six or seven theatres and it's an interesting building.
Photo by Jesse Milns.
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