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Former staffer for Mayor John Tory appointed CEO of agency managing city’s $27-billion real estate portfolio


Former staffer for Mayor John Tory appointed CEO of agency managing city’s $27-billion real estate portfolio

City council has confirmed the appointment of Vic Gupta — a former senior staffer and ally of Mayor John Tory — as the CEO of the city’s real estate agency.

Gupta will become head of CreateTO after a 23 to 2 vote at council on Wednesday.

Gupta, a longtime lobbyist, joined CreateTO in 2019 as one of the best paid employees in the city.

The agency, which manages the city’s $27-billion portfolio of more than 8,000 properties, was first formed in 2018 under Tory’s administration. It is also responsible for leasing land to developers to build affordable housing through various programs.

Tory, in a prepared statement, congratulated his former principal secretary, who also co-chaired his 2018 campaign for re-election, on the appointment.

“Vic has a strong understanding of the city and established relationships across the city’s leadership team and with members of council,” said Tory.

“I am confident he will provide a seamless transition and bring stability as CreateTO continues to work in partnership with the city to develop innovative real estate solutions that deliver meaningful benefits to our city and its residents.”

Gupta’s 2019 hiring was announced after the Star reported a different senior vice-president job posted by CreateTO appeared tailored to a member of Tory’s former staff or that of previous mayors, reading: “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.”

The posting was changed after the Star’s reporting.

Former Create TO CEO Brian Johnston quietly left his post in October last year, after a Star probe prompted the agency to conduct an internal investigation into offers of affordable housing Johnston made to employees against city policy.

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Johnston told the Star then that the offers were “a sincere effort to help those that may be interested” and when he was made aware that they could be interpreted as “unduly” benefiting employees, he withdrew the offers.

Internal emails obtained by the Star through a freedom of information request also showed Johnston sought a below-market unit for his niece.

A press release Wednesday from CreateTO said Gupta’s current role as an agency executive had him responsible for “setting the strategic direction of the agency, leading a multi-disciplinary team that collaborates with partners and stakeholders to identify opportunities to leverage the city’s real estate assets to deliver economic and community benefits, and managing the Port Lands group.”

The release said an executive search firm was retained and an “extensive recruitment process” carried out.

“I am deeply honoured by the opportunity to lead the talented and dedicated team at CreateTO,” Gupta is quoted as saying in the statement.

“Working in the public service is a privilege and I look forward to continuing to advance the delivery of key city priorities in partnership with our city stakeholders and those across the development industry.”

Coun. Josh Matlow was one of two members to vote against Gupta’s appointment Wednesday. Matlow told the Star after the vote that he was concerned about public confidence in a key city agency.

“As Mr. Gupta takes the reins of CreateTO, I’m concerned about public perception and public confidence in the organization,” he said, refusing to disclose confidential discussions at council.

“The public needs to have absolute confidence that the head of CreateTO is neither a political appointee nor too closely tied to the development industry.”

Jennifer Pagliaro is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @jpags

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