John Tory Made the Right Choice to Resign
The City of Toronto deserves a model leader
By James Jiang, Features & Op-Eds
Disclaimer: Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Trinity Times or its staff.
In Toronto politics, a sex scandal has rocked the municipal government. On February 15th, 2023, Mayor John Tory announced his resignation after news broke of his extra-marital relationship with a former member of his office staff. The 68-year-old mayor’s affair with the 31-year-old female staffer first developed during the pandemic and ended by mutual consent earlier this year. Together, they had taken city trade trips together to Europe, New York, and more. In a press conference, Tory apologized for his error in judgement and confirmed he was stepping down so that he could reflect on his mistakes and rebuild the trust of his family.
One critical question arises: was it the right choice for John Tory to resign? Torontonians are split over this question. In a Forum Research poll of 1,042 Toronto citizens, 45% of respondents did not think he should resign, 43% believed he should resign, and 11% did not know. In this vein, support for Tory generally remains strong and half of Torontonians are amenable to Tory staying as mayor.
In my mind, there is no choice on the table other than resignation. My logic is two-fold: the affair is an abuse of power and Toronto deserves a model leader. At the baseline, it is undeniable that Tory was in a position of power while the female staff member was his subordinate. The latter is someone whose professional advancement—whose career, livelihood, and success—is hinged on her boss. In this sense, consent is irrelevant because of the power imbalance and dynamics at play. Tory’s position of authority may have led to a skewed version of consent—one where the staffer may have felt pressured to accept the relationship and Tory’s sexual advances.
Moreover, because of the inappropriate relationship, Tory fails as a leader and is no longer suitable to lead Toronto. In terms of good leadership, it can be characterized by two traits: competence and character. Tory gets passing marks on competence but fails in character. He has been regarded as a competent mayor who has successfully guided Toronto through the pandemic and enacted key housing and budget policies for the city. His high approval ratings throughout his tenure are a testament to his ability to fill the pragmatic role of a mayor. His competence to do so isn’t any different from a few weeks ago to a few years ago. However, while he may indeed be competent as a politician, he no longer meets the character standards of a leader.
Tory swindled the electorate. Torontonians voted for a family man who children could look up to—who they could view as a role model. I don’t expect Tory to be perfect. No leader is perfect. But Toronto’s leader must be the best of us all. If he cannot meet the moral standards of a leader—of the one in charge of our beloved city of Toronto—he is not fit to be mayor. Tory’s sex scandal tarnishes his remaining chances of being a good leader. It tarnishes the image of the mayor’s office. It tarnishes the good character of our municipal government and thrusts it into controversy and a war of words. Most critically, it betrays the confidence of Torontonians and their trust that Toronto’s leader was a virtuous, upright man who in all aspects was fit to be called the mayor.
Proponents of Tory staying as mayor—who believe a resignation is excessive—may allude to Rob Ford. Infamously serving as mayor of Toronto from 2010 to 2014, Ford was the subject of endless scandals. Yet, he never entertained the thought of resignation and instead remained for his full tenure. Among Torontonians, even while embroiled in controversy, he was regarded as a decent mayor with relatively high approval ratings—a similar situation to Tory.
In this sense, does Tory really need to resign if Ford—an uber-controversial figure—was still a good mayor? The answer is still yes. Consider the following: when you think of Ford, what image comes to mind? No one in Canada will think of a loving and caring family man, nor of a model Canadian citizen. Rather, everyone will remember a crack cocaine-smoking, alcohol-loving, and frivolous man who made crude sexual remarks and was suspected of frequenting prostitutes. Toronto cannot have a repeat of Ford. If Tory stays, while he may still be a decent mayor and have high approval ratings, he would leave another dark blotch in Toronto’s legacy—a scar in its citizens’ minds. Toronto deserves and needs a leader exemplary in all respects.
Ultimately, on whether it was right or not for Tory to resign, half of Toronto believes it was the right choice while the other half believes the opposite. The latter half alludes to Tory’s mayoral competence, citing how his ability to lead Toronto is no different now compared to before the scandal. To me, the answer all boils down to one question: what kind of person do we want as our leader? While Tory is laudable for such a swift resignation and his apologetic words at the press conference, his inappropriate relationship renders him unfit to be mayor. A leader must be the best of us all—and their legacy should be capable of transforming those around them in a positive way. Tory can no longer do so. His decision to resign was the right choice.