When John Tory resigned as the mayor of Toronto in February, there seemed to be some quid pro quo at work. Go quietly and no further questions will be asked about the details of the ‘serious error in judgment’, as he called it, aka, inter-office, extramarital affair with a notably younger, junior staffer that the Toronto Star uncovered late last year after Tory’s 2nd successful re-election campaign. OK, sure. He was allowed to stay on long enough to oversee the safe passage of his 2023 budget and then shove off. So, a relatively quiet exit.
“While I deeply regret having to step away from a job that I love, in a city that I love even more,” Tory stated, “I believe in my heart, it is best to fully commit myself to the work that is required to repair these most important relationships.” Those relationships, presumably, were those with his family, his wife of over 40 years, his children, John Jr., John John Jr. Jr., Johnhanna, yeah, I don’t actually give a fuck. Just go away. Go, patch up things on the homefront. The Toronto condo. Blue Mountain. West Palm Beach. Wherever. Or not. Again. Makes no nevermind to me. Just go. Begone.
That’s the deal, right?
Apparently, a time limited offer, as it was announced that the former mayor and former radio talk show blatherer would be filling in as guest host on Moore in the Morning on NewsTalk 1010 this week. ‘At least temporarily’, the announcement threatened. This after Tory has routinely popped up at sporting events, photo ops and on the campaign trail including the very by-election in June to replace him, going as far as to officially endorse his former deputy Ana Bailão as his successor.
In terms of exile, it seems more Elba than St. Helena. A lukewarm send-off without parting gifts instead of a disgraced exit. Let’s just say Hors D’oeuvre not Au revoir, to paraphrase Martin Mull.
So, we’re all good then? Just like that? John Tory steps down, but not aside, note, causing substantial political upheaval and costing millions of dollars for the city to elect his replacement, and he simply gets to go about his business as if, well, boys will be boys especially if those boys belong to an elite kind of boys’ club? No lasting consequences or fallout for someone as pedigreed as the former mayor.
I’m not being some uptight, puritanical moralizer here. I’m not advocating that John Tory be forced to wear a scarlet letter on his Harry Rosen blazer. I continue to be gobsmacked that this type of scandal was one that derailed John Tory’s political career. (Insert a Simpson’s shiver.) Off the top of my head, I can come up with at least 3 reasons why he should be clamped into a pillory on display in Nathan Phillips Square. This isn’t one of them.
But if he’s decided that he’s done his penance and paid the price for his transgressions, that giving up the job he loved for the city he loves even more is adequate compensation, and now he should be able to go forward in whatever public role he sees fit, I’d argue that’s a decision not John Tory’s to make. He can make it, of course. He’s not a criminal. He just shouldn’t expect the kid glove treatment he received after his illicit affair was uncovered and he resigned from office in order to blunt any further investigation or public disclosure.
At the time, a scant fucking 8 months ago, conventional wisdom had it that Tory fell on his sword in order to save his family further embarrassment and his young companion from the scrutiny of prying eyes. Almost noble when framed like that. Had he simply maintained his part of the unspoken agreement and “slunk his way back into the many board rooms that will embrace him” as Michael Hollett pleaded in Next Magazine, returned to his natural habitat in other words, growing richer, whiter and even more privileged in the private sphere where nonentities like John Tory thrive, that’d be the end of his otherwise disappointing and sordid public story. No more questions asked.
Yet here he is, out cavorting, glad-handing, back behind the mic, shadow mayoring, seemingly unrepentant, on an image rehabilitation tour. Everybody makes mistakes. The key is to learn from them.
What has John Tory learned from his mistake ‘serious error in judgement’?
Maybe it’s time we start asking him, start asking the questions he probably should’ve faced back in January.