A posting for a senior position at the city’s new body overseeing its massive real estate portfolio appears tailored to former members of Mayor John Tory’s staff or that of previous mayors.
The job qualifications for CreateTO’s senior vice-president of stakeholder communications and relations included this line: “Experience at the highest level with regards to the City of Toronto’s political realm, ideally having had experience working in the Mayor’s office.”
None of the other more junior postings, including for a director of development, included that qualification. The deadline for applications is March 4.
After being contacted by the Star, CreateTO changed the qualifications to say: “Experience working within a political environment at either the municipal, provincial or federal level.”
CreateTO spokesperson Susan O’Neill told the Star on Friday the wording would be adjusted to the online posting to attract a larger pool of candidates. She said there was no involvement or influence from the mayor’s office.
In 2017, council voted to create a new super realty agency responsible for nearly 8,500 properties, representing more than $27 billion in public assets — which city staff reported then was one of the largest portfolios in Canada — as well as future real estate transactions.
As a public agency of the city, it folded together responsibilities from the city’s real estate division, as well as the former Build Toronto and Toronto Port Lands Corporation. It was called the Toronto Realty Agency and later branded CreateTO.
Several senior members of Tory’s staff left the mayor’s office shortly before or just after his re-election last year.
They include chief of staff Chris Eby, who is now an executive at Downsview Metro Development. Asked if the posting was intended for him, Eby noted his new job in a message and said, “Not for me.”
Siri Agrell, the mayor’s former director of strategic initiatives, is now the managing director for OneEleven Toronto, a startup accelerator where she confirmed Friday that she is “happily and productively employed.”
Amanda Galbraith, who left her post as the mayor’s director of communications in 2016, is now a principal at communications firm Navigator. “While I’m flattered you reached out, I’m happy in my role with Navigator,” she said in a message.
Tory’s former principal secretary, Vic Gupta, has remained “happily unemployed,” he told the Star’s David Rider last week. Gupta left the mayor’s office as the second most senior staffer at the beginning of the second term after co-chairing Tory’s re-election campaign.
Gupta, in an email, said: “I’ve just reviewed the job profile you forwarded and I can confirm that I have no intention of applying for that job.”
Tory was invested in the creation of the new agency to better oversee the city’s real estate portfolio, calling it one of the “most vital, strategic assets that we have in the city” and advocating for less bureaucracy in its governance.
“As long as I’m here, I will be watching this like a hawk,” he told city council in May 2017 when the new body was approved.
“Because I don’t want to have had responsibility for creating something that’s either a monster or that works worse, if there’s such an expression, than what we had there now with that entangled system.”
Tory spokesperson Don Peat said Friday that the mayor’s office had “no involvement in the posting” and referred questions to CreateTO.
City spokesperson Brad Ross said the city “does not provide recruitment support or advice to agencies, boards and commissions,” when asked about whether there are hiring guidelines. “Those matters are handled directly by the agencies themselves.”
Councillor Gord Perks said a posting specifying someone with experience in the mayor’s office was “outrageous.”
“It’s fine to say that you have to have experience in government,” Perks said. “The list gets a lot smaller and a lot more intimate when it’s people who have dealt with Mayor John Tory . . . That narrows it down to about five people and that’s the worst kind of cronyism.”
Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city politics. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags