Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor Norm Kelly is Toronto’s new deputy mayor – a position that will become official as soon as Etobicoke Centre Councillor Doug Holyday either resigns, or the provincial government makes his election as MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore official.
Kelly, 71, spoke with reporters Friday afternoon to make Mayor Rob Ford’s job offer official.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the fourth estate, the Mayor has invited me to be the Deputy Mayor of the City of Toronto and I’ve accepted the invitation to serve the residents of the City of Toronto, the City I love, in this new capacity,” said Kelly before taking questions.
Kelly said the new job as Mayor Ford’s wingman will mean he’ll likely resign as chair of the city’s Government Management Committee. He wouldn’t speculate on how his new role would evolve.
“I haven’t sat down with the mayor and discussed how our relationship would be carried out in the next year and a half,” he said. “Until that happens, anything I say would be speculative.”
The role of deputy mayor has altered significantly depending on the mayor himself, Kelly acknowledged. Under Mayor Mel Lastman, former councillor Case Ootes played a prominent role, often acting as spokesperson for both the mayor and the city and taking the lead in labour negotiations.
Under David Miller, former councillor Joe Pantalone played a diminished role. But Holyday has been a key member of Ford’s administration, carrying out difficult negotiations with the city’s unionized employees, and stepping up on behalf of the mayor as legal challenges and scandal overwhelmed the administration.
This past winter, Holyday was preparing to take over the job as it appeared as though the courts were going to force Ford to leave office on conflict of interest grounds.
Kelly wouldn’t comment on the prospect of taking over the top job.
“I’m looking at the here and now,” he said. “The advice that I would give (the mayor) would be advice I would give him privately.”
Kelly said as deputy mayor, he would commit to supporting the core of Ford’s mandate and agenda.
“There has to be a commitment to the core policies and core direction of the mayor but that leaves a lot of other things open to one’s individual vote,” he said.
In general, Kelly said he couldn’t “think of any place better to be in politics today than in Canada’s largest city, North America’s fourth largest city, at a time when competition around the world is being conducted by cities and urban regions.”
He said he supported the expansion of the Billy Bishop airport, “as well as doing things economically and socially to improve the quantity and quality of life in Toronto.”
When asked why the mayor had picked him for the job, he responded, “That’s the first question my wife asked me. I think working together over the last two and a half years, we’ve gotten to know each other and he’s gotten to rely on advice I’ve given him publicly and privately. Either that, or he owed me old football debts and didn’t want to pay up.”