12/22/2014 05:00 EST | Updated 02/20/2015 05:59 EST

John Tory Focused On Modernizing City, Pushing Agenda Forward


Toronto Mayor John Tory is optimistic about what he'll be able to accomplish in his new job, but admits there are parts of life at city hall that have been "immensely frustrating."

Just a month into his new role, Tory has already presided over his first council meeting and picked the members who will serve alongside him on his executive committee.

He knows, however, that he still has much to learn, including about the people who surround him on council.

"I have to get to know the people better and that's going to take a little bit of time," he said.

Tory has also learned he'll have to adjust to the time it takes things to get done at city hall — and that hasn't been easy in every respect.

"I'm used to working in a world where you sort of, if you have an idea, you have to get people to assess it and get the facts and so on, but that can all be done quite rapidly," Tory said in a year-end interview with the CBC's Jamie Strashin.

'That's democracy'

"And this is a much ... more methodical process that has many more steps in it. And that's fine, I mean that's democracy. But I'm trying to instill on things like the traffic and the transit, more of an environment that says, well if there are common-sense things that you actually can do without having to go through the entire committee structure and reports and studies and consultants, let's just do them."

Tory said he's been impressed by the civil servants working in Toronto's public service and believes they are as eager as he is to get moving on key challenges the city is facing.

"I know that what we've got is a bunch of people who really know what they're doing and want to do the right thing, but I've also noticed there’s been a sense of urgency that's sometimes lacking among those people about some of the problems that I came here to address," said Tory.

Tory said that he believes there are still efficiencies to be found at city hall, which could save money. But the new mayor won't be pursuing a strategy whereby he pushes for generalized reduction targets, as his predecessor Rob Ford did.

"I don't think that's the right way to do it," he said.

Pushing forward

Tory believes there may be opportunities to invest in technology, which might allow residents to access services with less staffing behind it one day.

"I want to make those changes and modernize this government," said Tory.

"I believe there is lots more we can do in that area that will then also free up some resources to invest in student nutrition or transit or whatever," he added.

Tory was elected as the city's mayor in October and formally sworn into his new job in early December.

The campaign was long and saw Tory face off against a handful of high-profile opponents, including Olivia Chow, Ford, and his brother Doug Ford.

Both Chow and the Fords had served time on council prior making their mayoral runs. Tory had not.

The new mayor said there are pluses and minuses with that.

"Because I haven't been here, I'm sort of not really close friends with anybody here on the council, but I also don't have any people that I carry a lot of baggage with, or them with me," said Tory.

He'll have the chance to do that in the months and years ahead — and as soon as next month, as Tory gets set to participate in his first budget cycle at city hall.

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