Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

FOCUS: Layton reflects on three terms as city councillor (Sept. 2022)

September 27th, 2022 · No Comments

Outgoing Ward 11 representative proud of legacy

A pensive Mike Layton selects a different path as he chooses family over the gruelling life of a Toronto city councillor. COURTESY MIKE LAYTON

By Brian Burchell

As Mike Layton prepares for a very different lifestyle from that as a city councillor in one of the busiest municipal precincts in the country, he took the time to talk to the Gleaner about what he is most proud of.

Q: How are you feeling now that the announcement is made that you will not seek re-election?

A: I am proud of what we have accomplished over the last 12 years. I have pushed council on climate action, road safety, Indigenous reconciliation, supportive housing, and inclusionary zoning, to name a few. We have done this by building strong coalitions of groups and neighbourhoods to ensure the longevity of the policies with broad based support.

Beyond the nitty gritty of constituent complaints requiring resolution, committee and board assignments too numerous to list, and hosting public meetings every night and weekend, this councillor wanted to leave his mark on some bigger files.

Layton chooses to catalogue his larger achievements under the headings of climate action, healthy environments, affordable housing, safer streets, and a more inclusive city. He helped build bike lanes on Shaw, Bloor, Richmond, Adelaide, Palmerston, Argyle, Wellington, Douro, Brunswick, University, and Yonge, as well as upgrades on Harbord and College. He crafted policies to build safer streets, including lower speeds across the network, improved infrastructure, and winter maintenance for bike lanes and sidewalks.

Q: Cycling infrastructure had a huge growth spurt due to the pandemic and Active TO. Do you think that cyclists will be able to hold onto that real estate long-term?

A: I think cycling infrastructure as part of our Vision Zero road safety efforts and part of our climate action policy has become far less controversial and has widespread support.

I’m not worried the real estate will be lost, but we need to keep up the momentum.  

He fought hard to make Toronto more affordable. For several years, alongside housing advocates, he pushed for more affordability in all new developments through inclusionary zoning, which eventually led to provincial policy change and a new city policy. 

Layton also fought against the sale of TCHC scattered houses, of which the Annex has a surprising number, and demanded that tenants be treated with respect. He consistently advocated for better funding for supportive housing and put pressure on the provincial government to address this growing need.

Q: Are there local examples resulting from your work on policies favouring inclusionary zoning? 

A: Unfortunately, the city’s inclusionary zoning policy met many hurdles put up by the province, and it is still being met with resistance. While I would have preferred a faster implementation, we can celebrate that we managed to get the province to change the regulations to allow the city to require affordable housing in new developments.

Perhaps portending what may lie ahead for Layton, he seems most proud of his contributions to important citywide initiatives on climate action and environmental health. He championed many aspects of environmental protection and climate action, including establishing a subcommittee on climate that would become the foundation for TransformTO: Toronto’s climate action strategy.

He wrote (and then seconded) the mayor’s climate emergency motion which led to an aggressive climate target: reducing Toronto’s GHG emissions to net zero by 2040.

Layton initiated the Biodiversity Strategy, the Home Energy Loan Program, stormwater funding tools, bird-friendly programs, funding to implement the Ravine Strategy, motions on protecting the Great Lakes from nuclear waste and invasive species, better regulations on single-use plastics, and increased use of biofuels.

Q: You are obviously very passionate about climate action. Can you give readers a hint about where you will be applying that passion in the future?

A: I don’t know what the future holds for me and I’m looking at how I can best contribute to climate solutions—I owe it to my kids to do the best I can to protect the planet for their generation. 

Q: In 2018, the provincial government enacted legislation cutting the size of Toronto’s city council in half. This effectively doubled the responsibilities for each councillor. How much did that contribute to your decision to not seek re-election?

A: Not that much. While the workload increased and the nature of the job changed dramatically after the election, my decision not to seek re-election isn’t necessarily due to the fact that the province cut council size in half. Prior to the changes I was working most nights, and after the cut to council I was working most nights. My decision is a personal and professional one. I’d like to both have a little more time with my kids and at the same time spend more time specifically on fighting climate change and inequality.  

This October 24 is the municipal election, and there are 14 registered candidates for Ward 11, University-Rosedale. 

Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for your successor?

A: Toronto is a great city, with incredible potential, but a lack of investment and fear of change is holding us back from realizing that potential. I hope the next council will work with each other, with staff, and with their constituents, so we can overcome the challenges we’re facing with bold moves.



Tags: General