Still years away from an election, Mayor John Tory was knocking on doors in midtown Toronto on Saturday morning, freshly printed campaign literature in hand.
But the name on the cards he placed in the hands of residents and slide into the cracks of door frames is not his, it is that of Progressive Conservative MPP Robin Martin. The goal of this campaign is to save Toronto from the senseless and dangerous budget cuts imposed by the province.
In an unprecedented move, Tory went door-to-door to encourage residents to fight back.
This is not a one-off photo opportunity, the mayor said as the canvas began in the pouring rain.
“We’re going to be doing this for as long as we have to in different parts of the city.”
Face time with residents is the latest effort in the city’s clash with the province that has included back-and-forth letters, a war of words via TV news, public statements with other municipal leaders and recently a city-issued petition.
Senior officials say the city faces $177 million in provincial cuts for programs affecting child care, public health and more.
Tory, who was joined by local Councillor Mike Colle and about 25 volunteers and members of his own staff, met residents in Lytton Park, near Avenue Rd. and Glencairn Ave., with a purposely positive message. Saying Martin was a “good person,” Tory asked residents to call or write their provincial representative to encourage her to help reverse the cuts.
“We’re not here to sort of attack anybody,” Tory told those gathered to knock on doors.
Later he told reporters in reference to the MPPs in Toronto ridings: “A lot of these people were very narrowly elected the last time and I hope that they’ll be mindful not only of their own political position but also of the rights and wrongs of this.”
In the pocket of Eglinton-Lawrence that Tory visited Saturday, he had residents’ support.
“I told him I’m very grateful and, you know, my family’s very grateful for having an articulate spokesperson for the city and all the things the city stands for,” said Glenn Miller, who didn’t vote for the PC candidate in the last provincial election and isn’t likely to in the future. “There’s so many threads in the city that need sustaining, quite literally, that we don’t want to see them unilaterally cut.”
Kelly Monaghan had heard about the cuts before Tory arrived at her home and had planned to contact her MPP, Martin.
“I was very disappointed, as the mayor just indicated, that it was done sort of after the budgets had been set ,” she said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me in terms of how to govern, in terms of how to appropriately allocate the resources.”
In one case, the mayor’s efforts quickly preceded him.
After one resident opened the door for Tory and the mayor began to make his pitch, the man cut in: “We just saw that on the news.”
Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags