John Tory formally launches his bid for re-election as mayor

In front of a crowd in Liberty Village, John Tory officially kicked off his mayoral re-election campaign by touching on his strengths and achievements over the past four years, and what he plans to do for the next four. 

He began by touching on the issue of gun violence - something that's been in the spotlight over the past few months - by once again asking the question, why does anyone need a gun in the city of Toronto. 

"We will have hired by the end of this year, many more police officers," he told the audience at Zoomer Hall Sunday morning. "In fact, a total of 200 by the end of the year, with 200 more to come in 2019. We've made an urgent plea to the federal government to ban the sale and possession of handguns in the city of Toronto and to enact tougher sentencing and bail requirements."

He spoke of his achievements when it comes to transit, including restoring TTC bus routes that had been cut, opening and funding the Spadina subway extension, adding new express bus service across the city and providing transit free to children.

"I'm proud of what we've done," he said. "I'm proud of my record of standing up for Toronto and working to make Toronto a better place to live."

"There's more to do, and more that we will do, but for a moment let's look at how that we've come, because things, they just feel better than they were, and they are better," he added.

When it came to his transit plan, he touched on how his mayoral candidate opponent Jennifer Keesmat - although he never mentioned her by name - described her enthusiasm for it, "but doesn't quite square with all of her criticism that we hear today about that plan, now that she suddenly decided she wants to be the Mayor," he said.

He also mentioned how Keesmat "loves to pretend" his transit plans - including SmartTrack - aren't happening. 

"She wants to start up the old debates and the old arguments and the studies all over again," he said. "She wants to take us backwards to the days where all we did was redraw plans and re-debate plans and re-decide things, and no work actually got done."

"Well I say to that, no way."

Keesmat quickly responded to Tory's comments in a release sent to the media.

"John Tory promised to build 53 new kilometres of track for 'SmartTrack'," the release reads. "Zero - not a single kilometre - of that track has or will ever be built." 

"He promised to build 22 stations. Now, six new stations are currently planned to be added to the GO system at the City's expense," she added. "John Tory should be held accountable for that record."

She further challenged Tory at an appearance on CP24 Sunday afternoon.

"Council has decided [SmartTrack is] not happening," she said. "So what was SmartTrack? 53 kilometres of new track? Zero. There's no new track being built."

"Mayor Tory ran on a slogan, and that slogan was SmartTrack," she added. "He then spent four years championing that, and where did it get us? It got us no new tracks, no shovels in the ground, it got no new transit. We now have the worst commute times in North America over four years."

She also questioned Tory's response to the recent gun violence in Toronto.

"I'm deeply concerned in this city that on [Tory's] watch, what's happened with public safety?" she asked. "He did not support a handgun ban. Now we've got hundreds and hundreds of shootings, we have a public crisis happening around safety, and now he supports a handgun ban."

"I think we need to be clear about those kinds of things and we need to be honest about his record as mayor and what's happened in this city."

In his speech, Tory also mentioned his plans for 40,000 affordable housing units over 12 years, something he says that can actually be achieved because he received that number from city officials and confirmed it with people in the industry. 

Tory says if he's re-elected, he'll also continue to improve city services - including making it easier to sign up for recreation programs, keeping the city's skyline beautiful, making 2020 the year of public art and moving forward with plans for the Port Lands. 

Tory's speech comes one day before a decision on Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act, which has Premier Doug Ford's government cutting Toronto's wards down from 47 to 25. 

Legislation was passed last month, but the city chose to appeal. Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba will be announcing his decision at 8 a.m. on Monday.