The OLIP Interns were excited to step outside Queen’s Park for the day and visit Toronto City Hall! Our long-awaited on-site visit was nothing short of riveting and educational, and helped to develop an already growing interest in municipal politics.
We started our day with a meeting with Mayor John Tory. Mayor Tory spoke to us about his experience going from Leader of the Official Opposition at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to serving as Mayor of Toronto, and the lessons he learned at the Legislature that continue to inform his work at City Hall. During our meeting, we discussed provincial-municipal relations, the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as his early experiences as principal secretary to Premier Bill Davis, whom he fondly refers to as his lifelong mentor. Mayor Tory reminded us to stay curious in our careers, and always lead with a shared sense of responsibility and collaboration.
Next, we met with Paul Johnson, Toronto’s Deputy City Manager of Community and Social Services. Prior to taking on this role at City Hall, Mr. Johnson served for more than 10 years in the City of Hamilton, most recently as the General Manager of the Healthy and Safe Communities Department. Mr. Johnson spoke to us about his current role in which he oversees a diverse range of social and community services including: Children’s Services, Court Services, Economic Development & Culture, and Public Health, amongst others. We learned about the key municipal challenges impacting Toronto today, namely the rising affordability crisis, and where it may be headed in the future. Above all, Mr. Johnson discussed the importance of building community connections within his role in order to work towards enhancing the livability of Toronto neighborhoods and supporting the needs of different equity-seeking groups residing in Toronto.
Lastly, we wrapped up our day with a fascinating session with the Toronto City Clerk, John D. Elvidge. Mr. Elvidge talked about Toronto’s mayor system, the absence of party discipline in municipal government, and the differences in procedure between the Ontario Legislature and City Hall; namely the contrast between bylaws and legislative bills. We were grateful to have gleaned more insight into the procedural side of municipal politics during this session after being immersed in the world of provincial politics over the past year.
We would like to extend a warm thank you to all the distinguished guests and staff at Toronto City Hall that helped us make this visit so special!