Toronto City Councillor Chris Moise for Ward 13, Toronto Centre
Toronto City Councillor Chris Moise

Meet Toronto’s Newest Progressive City Councillors

Mayor John Tory will face a very different city hall when council sits for the first time this term on Wednesday, with many new faces on the progressive side of the political spectrum.

Last month, Toronto voters elected nine new city councillors, including one that replaced a sitting councillor, in what is considered a major churn of the 25-strong chamber.

Eight of the nine newbies on council are filling the shoes of departing councillors, including long-time progressives Joe Cressy and Mike Layton — something that concerned those on the left, as the chamber has long been dominated by suburban centrists and conservatives.

In interviews on Monday, the newly elected councillors acknowledged the city has challenges related to its finances, but they are willing to sit down with each other and make those tough decisions to get the city through a post-pandemic economic slump and focus on the issues that matter to Torontonians.

Dianne Saxe, Ontario’s former environmental commissioner, was elected in Layton’s former ward of University–Rosedale (Ward 11). She stressed, “there are significant differences” between her and Tory, but she hoped “to have a respectful, collegial relationship” with him.

“Obviously, starting with Bill 39 was a bit of a shock, but I do accept that the mayor's interest is in making the city better,” Saxe said. (Bill 39 was introduced on Wednesday by Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, allowing the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa to pass bylaws aligning with provincial priorities if more than one-third of council members vote in favour.) “I hope we can have a respectful conversation about how we disagree and why we disagree and what the way forward is.”

Saxe said “a lot of people feel very passionately that we’re in trouble and need action,” and her role aims to remind Tory of longer-term objectives that need to get done.

“I intend to continue to remind him about the climate crisis and environmental catastrophe, and what’s waiting for young people, if we don’t get our act together,” Saxe said. "To remember these longer-term objectives consistently requires somebody bringing it up over and over.”

Chris Moise, the former vice-chair of the TDSB, was elected in Kristyn Wong-Tam’s riding of Toronto Centre (Ward 13) and echoed Saxe’s approach to working with the mayor.

“There are areas that we can work together on,” Moise said. “So, let’s focus on, you know, the things we can work on together rather than things that we can’t now.”

“I don’t expect to agree with the mayor on everything. And I don’t think he expects that either, but let’s find common ground,” Moise said. “That’s what democracy is all about.”

Moise also acknowledged the looming debate over the city’s 2023 budget, with a pandemic-triggered shortfall that could exceed $1 billion and raise the spectre of service cuts.

“I’m not in support of cutting services,” but if Tory “doesn’t get more money from the provincial and federal government, he will have to,” Moise said. “I think over the years we’ve cut enough — we’ve cut to the barebones” of public services.

Others newly elected last month included Alejandra Bravo, elected in Davenport (Ward 9) to replace Tory ally Ana Bailã, and Ausma Malik, who was elected in Cressy’s former ward of Spadina—Fort York (Ward 10). Community activist Lily Cheng won in Willowdale (Ward 18).