Monday, April 19, 2021

FUREY: As GTA mayors call for reopenings, John Tory still won’t budge

FUREY: As GTA mayors call for reopenings, John Tory still won't budge

It looks to some like Eileen de Villa really runs this city, while Tory plays second fiddle

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Just who runs Toronto anyway? It’s a question more people are asking, as Mayor John Tory still won’t take the reins and call for a responsible reopening of what has become one of the most locked-down cities in North America and, by some measures, the whole world.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown recently signalled that they want Peel Region to finally move out of lockdown on March 9 and skip over “grey zone” lockdown into the slightly more open “red zone.”

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“You have a commitment from me that I will push for Mississauga into the red zone on March 9 unless we see a sudden increase in our numbers,” Crombie said at a news conference on Wednesday.

All of Ontario was originally supposed to move out of lockdown on Feb. 22, but Dr. Lawrence Loh from Peel Region and Dr. Eileen de Villa from Toronto insisted their regions remain closed up.

It’s no surprise that Crombie and Brown are now pushing to free their cities. New cases and hospitalizations have gone down drastically all across the province from where they were in early January. Plus, as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business put it in a news release last week: “Ontario businesses — particularly those in the GTA — have been locked down longer than the vast majority of jurisdictions around the world.”

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What is a surprise is Tory’s unwillingness to join them. “It’s something that I just can’t indicate what I’m going to do,” Tory said on Friday, when asked at a press conference whether he’d join the other mayors in pushing for a responsible reopening.

“There’s some real concerns that have been put in front of us with respect to the activity of these variants,” Tory said, echoing remarks de Villa made last week when she said she’d “never been more worried.” It’s a perspective that not all experts share.

Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s chief medical officer, supports cautious reopenings even with the presence of variants. “Every day we look at that data and we slice it in many different ways and we are not seeing any evidence of explosive activity in the variants,” Kurji told the Sun earlier this week. He says that if cases do surge, the goal moving forward should be targeted interventions instead of blunt lockdowns.

That sounds like a much smarter and more evolved approach than Toronto’s.

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When you listen to mayors like Brown and Jim Watson in Ottawa speak, it’s clear that they are focused on forging a path forward. Instead, Tory seems to narrow in on those pieces of evidence that, no matter how slim, justify keeping things under lock and key.

This approach boggles the mind and it’s what’s making more people in Toronto political and business circles ask among each other — and grumble to the Sun on background — that it looks like de Villa really runs this city while John Tory sits there playing second fiddle.

Whatever dynamic is really going on behind the scenes at Toronto City Hall, one thing’s for certain: John Tory is now the odd man out among Ontario’s mayors, as he presides over one of the most locked-down cities in North America.

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