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EDITORIAL: Farewell Mike (Aug. 2022)

August 17th, 2022 · No Comments

After 12 years on city council, Mike Layton, representative for University-Rosedale’s Ward 11 will not seek another term. Given the systemic changes made to the city’s governance in recent years, it’s no surprise Layton’s made this call—but it’s a shame and a real loss to this community.

He’s not alone in his decision to step away from public service: Joe Cressy, who also served previously as a councillor representing our area, resigned earlier this year after serving as chair of the Toronto Board of Health for the bulk of the pandemic; Councillors Ana Bailao, Denzil Minnan-Wong, and John Filion have also chosen to not seek re-election; Krystyn Wong-Tam and Michael Ford left city council to run successfully in the recent provincial election.

The biggest change to the job of city councillor came in 2018, when Bill 5, the “Better Local Government Act,” cut the number of council seats from 47 to 25. It was widely seen as payback for the city because it refused to elect Ford as mayor. Like most of Premier Ford’s legislation, the bill has had the opposite effect: it doubles the amount of work councillors have on their plates and offers no extra support to help them get it done. Layton’s previous ward had 42,000 residents, but his current one has 104,000, almost the size of Kingston. 

According to Layton’s office, there are over 20 resident associations (RAs) in Ward 11, which does not include issue-specific groups like Avenue Road Safety Coalition, Friends of Kensington Market, or Friends of Chinatown which are also resident-based, but do not identify as RAs.  He also sits on the the board of all 18 Business Improvement Areas in the ward. 

There are currently 99 active rezoning applications; there were times during his term when the number was 150. This number does not include buildings that have been approved and are under construction, nor the management of those processes.

Even with the high caliber crew he has recruited in his office, this job is impossible given the amount of direct and personal attention he must devote to each project or issue.

Layton was elected when he was 30 and is now married with two young daughters. In his parting letter, Layton says he has “missed far too many dinners, and far too many bedtimes” and “let’s face it they’re only young once.” 

About city council working with only half its complement of councillors, he says, “there’s just not enough hours in the day to get what we need done, not enough time to engage with the community.”

And yet, despite all the foregoing, Layton managed to step out of the reactionary box of day-to-day city councillors’ lives and take initiatives such as getting the city to try to forge a path to reconciliation with Indigenous people, setting a city-wide climate change goal of Net Zero by 2040, tirelessly promoting cycling infrastructure, and securing more affordable housing. He even started a targeted “Cask Force” to make it easier to set up craft breweries in the city. 

It’s been a journey, and he should be proud to have made a difference, despite the seeming impossibility of the job.

Thank you, Mike. Au revoir.


Tags: Annex · Editorial · Opinion