Mike Layton bows out of upcoming Toronto election after 12 years in office

·3 min read
Toronto Coun. Mike Layton, left, and Olivia Chow pose for a photo next to the Jack Layton sculpture by the ferry terminal in 2019. The younger Layton confirmed Wednesday he won't seek re-election in October. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press - image credit)
Toronto Coun. Mike Layton, left, and Olivia Chow pose for a photo next to the Jack Layton sculpture by the ferry terminal in 2019. The younger Layton confirmed Wednesday he won't seek re-election in October. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press - image credit)

Coun. Mike Layton won't seek re-election in October's municipal election, saying he thinks he has accomplished what he could during three terms at city hall and that he wants to spend more time with his family.

"This is a very demanding job. It starts from the moment you wake up and check your phone to the moment you go to sleep ...  And I love doing that work. It's something that's dear to my heart. It's a hard thing to step away from," Layton told CBC News on Wednesday.

"But after 12 years, I've missed, I think, too many bedtimes with my kids to not to look for a little bit more balance in my life."

The move away from municipal politics means Toronto won't have a Layton in office for the first time in decades.

Layton, currently the city councillor for University-Rosedale, has been in office since 2010. His father, the late Jack Layton, was a Toronto councillor beginning in the 1980s before moving into federal politics and leading the New Democratic Party.

At city hall, the younger Layton was one of council's strongest voices on environmental issues and also championed road safety projects like the Bloor Street bike lanes.

He cited his part in developing the city's 2040 Climate Action Plan and the formation of the Indigenous Affairs Office as as among his proudest accomplishments during his time in public service.

"I've had some successes and I've had some losses. But I can be proud of what I what I put into this role," he said.

Layton said that among his regrets is that council should have done more to advance supportive housing initiatives.

"I think we could have been more vocal earlier and sustained how loud we were, and perhaps then we wouldn't be in such a terrible position as we are with our shelter and homelessness crisis," he explained.

Premier Doug Ford's decision in 2018 to shrink the size of city council and dramatically increase the size of many wards only amplified the intense pressures of the job, Layton added. The impacts were particularly felt in the downtown wards, where a complex mix of business and development interests meant less time for community organizing, he said.

The next council faces tremendous challenges, Layton continued, including an $875-million budget hole left by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement posted to Twitter, Layton thanked his constituents, saying it was a great honour to have served the ward.

"Together we have pushed for climate action, healthy environments, affordable housing, safer streets, and a more inclusive and caring city," the statement said.

As for what comes next, Layton told CBC News he intends to work in a climate change-related job, though he's not sure exactly what it will be.

"I think it's time for me to use my skills, my energy, my experience in a different role. I don't know what that role is going to be, but it's certainly going to be trying to fight climate change again so that my kids can have a better place to live when when they grow up and have children," he said.

Layton is the latest progressive councillor to call it quits in the downtown core. Coun. Joe Cressy left municipal politics earlier this year and Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam made the jump to provincial politics this June.

Toronto's election is set for October 24.

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