Home Featured Former Toronto Mayor John Tory violated city’s Code of Conduct, but not harassment policy, with undisclosed relationship: Integrity commissioner

Former Toronto Mayor John Tory violated city’s Code of Conduct, but not harassment policy, with undisclosed relationship: Integrity commissioner

by HR Law Canada

Former Toronto Mayor John Tory violated the city’s code of conduct with his undisclosed personal relationship with a staff member, according to a detailed report released by the city’s integrity commissioner.

The inquiry, initiated by Tory himself on Feb. 10, 2023, scrutinized his actions during the affair which began in the summer of 2020 and continued intermittently until his resignation.

But it also concluded that the former mayor did not violate the city’s human rights and anti-harassment/discrimination policy nor did he use his status to improperly influence executives at the Scarborough Health Network Foundation or Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) to help the staff member find work.

The report, released in October, was published this week on CanLii.

The affair and its HR implications

The report outlines that Ms. A, who worked in the Mayor’s Office from January 2018 until March 2021, had responsibilities that included supporting Tory at events and later, during the pandemic, in other capacities. Their relationship, initially professional, evolved into a personal one during this period.

Despite attempts to end the relationship and manage the situation internally, the affair resumed, raising questions about workplace dynamics and ethical conduct.

“Relationships between a person in authority and someone who works for them are not only a conflict of interest but reflect a significant power imbalance,” wrote Jonathan Batty in the report. “If such relationships are not disclosed and managed appropriately, it may be necessary to investigate whether there has been sexual harassment in the workplace.”

Batty noted that the relationship was consensual and Ms. A was “clear she did not feel pressured by the affection” from the mayor and Tory “reasonably knew” the affection he showed towards her was not unwelcome. 

“I never felt I was in jeopardy, or things weren’t okay,” said Ms. A. 

Violations of the Code of Conduct

The Integrity Commissioner’s investigation focused on six issues, finding violations in two significant areas. Tory failed to adhere to the Human Resources Management and Ethical Framework for Members’ Staff, specifically in terms of disclosure, workplace management, and upholding a safe work environment for Ms. A.

“Ms. A was not provided a ‘safe work environment’ as required by the Ethical Framework for Members’ Staff,” said Batty. “Mr. Tory put his private interests first.”

Batty cited the fact that Tory did not respect established reporting relationships in the mayor’s office so as to not isolate Ms. A; did not respect her right to confidentiality in the workplace and to obtain independent advice; and did not appreciate that the workplace — especially during the pandemic — extended beyond just being physically present in the Mayor’s Office at City Hall.

Voting on World Cup issues

The report also took issue with Tory’s voting decisions related to Toronto’s FIFA World Cup 2026 bid. The investigation revealed that from April 2021, Ms. A played a central role in the city’s World Cup bid under MLSE’s chief venues and operations officer. Tory’s involvement in the City Council debates and votes on matters concerning the World Cup bid, particularly when Toronto’s success in the bid was confirmed and the subsequent decision to negotiate exclusively with MLSE for hosting services, raised questions of conflict of interest.

Despite Tory’s claims of no conflict, the report highlighted that his votes on Council matters directly impacted Ms. A’s employment and potential benefits at MLSE, where she was offered a permanent position shortly after the city’s decision. The investigation concluded that Tory’s actions violated the principles of avoiding conflicts of interest and improper use of office for personal gain.

This was compounded by his failure to be open and transparent with the Council and the public about his personal circumstances, which warranted recusal from these votes. 


Batty’s recommendation is that not penalty be applied to Tory, as the Code of Conduct and the City of Toronto Act, 2006, are intended to apply to people holding office. 

“The penalties available to Council are suspension of a Member’s remuneration or a reprimand of the Member. It is clearly not possible to suspend Mr. Tory’s pay; he has left office,” said Batty. “While it may be within the authority of Council to reprimand a former Member, it is my view that it would serve no purpose to reprimand a person who self-reported their conduct as they resigned office.”

Recommendations and conclusions

The Integrity Commissioner’s findings recommend more robust policies and procedures to handle similar situations in the future, highlighting the need for timely reporting and independent monitoring of such relationships. The report serves as a reminder of the complexities and potential repercussions of personal relationships in professional settings, particularly in the realm of public service.

For more information, see Mayor John Tory, 2023 ONMIC 3 (CanLII).

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