John Tory’s spokesperson leaving, replacement is former Sun reporter
City hall is getting a shakeup with the exit of Amanda Galbraith as the mayor’s communications director and a council committee shuffle.
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The woman who has spoken for John Tory since the 2014 election campaign is handing the mayoral megaphone to a former Toronto Sun city hall reporter.
Amanda Galbraith, Tory’s amiable 33-year-old communications director and his frequent shadow at public events, is leaving to become a principal at Navigator Ltd., Canada’s best-known crisis communications firm.
She will be replaced by Don Peat who covered Rob Ford’s chaotic mayoralty for the Toronto Sun and the early days of Tory’s administration.
Peat starts Dec. 5 and Galbraith finishes Dec. 16, midway through Tory’s four-year term. The change comes as Tory is set to oversee a shuffle of councillor appointments to key committees that will shape debate in the term’s back half.
Before the 2014 election Galbraith worked in the offices of then-prime minister Stephen Harper and then-cabinet minister John Baird, and later at Playbook Communications. After defending Tory against attacks from Doug Ford and Olivia Chow during the bruising 10-month campaign, she left Playbook, which was bought by Navigator, to join his staff.
On CityTV’s Breakfast Television last week, Tory joked of Galbraith, who had signaled that he had to wrap up his appearance on the show: “She’s my boss. Well, actually my real boss is my wife but then she’s my other boss.” Galbraith replied: “Only sometimes.”
Galbraith is expected to help plan for, and work on, Tory’s October 2018 re-election bid.
She will work in Navigator’s issues management practice and help expand the municipal affairs practice across Canada. The firm chaired is well-known for its work helping companies and public figures, including former attorney general Michael Bryant and, briefly, broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi.
Chris Eby, Tory’s chief of staff, spent four years at Navigator as a communications strategist before leaving on acrimonious terms. The company is a minor player at city hall but has in the past lobbied officials including Galbraith, according to the lobbyist registry.
Peat was the Sun’s city hall bureau chief and a popular figure on Twitter before returning to the Sun newsroom as assistant city editor. Before joining the Sun, according to his company biography, he was a crime reporter at the Peterborough Examiner and worked as a journalist in Honduras.
Other changes at city hall will come next week when the committee responsible for appointments decides how to shake-up the make-up of vital committees and boards. While the changes may not register with the public, they will indicate how satisfied Tory is with his own team and further alienate left-leaning councillors.
Change is expected on the licensing committee, now chaired by Councillor Cesar Palacio. Tory publicly criticized the way members of the public were treated by other committee members during the heated taxi-Uber debate.
Other members of Tory’s executive committee have challenged him.
Councillor Michael Thompson, globetrotting chair of the economic development committee, was unhappy at being removed early in the term from the police services board and publicly pushed the mayor to support the end of police carding.
Councillor Paul Ainslie, who chairs the government management committee, spoke out against the mayor's push for a one-stop subway extension in Scarborough, arguing a plan for LRT lines made more sense for residents.
Both Thompson and Ainslie have picked their current committee seats as their top choices. All of the back-half term picks will be finalized by council next month.
Councillor Jon Burnside, a former cop, has shown interest in a police board spot and could replace the mayor as his designate on that body.
The most popular board for re-appointment was the TTC, with nearly half of council expressing interest in being given a seat.
With files from Jennifer Pagliaro