Young Torontonians are questioning their faith in political leaders after Mayor John Tory announced his resignation late last week following an affair with a 31-year-old staffer.

Emilyne (Emmy) Egulu, 25, was shocked when he first heard the news. “I really saw the story as a clear example of a vast power imbalance in a relationship between a young employee and a boss,” he said.

Tory announced his resignation after Toronto Star reporters questioned the mayor's office, admitting in a press conference last Friday that he’d had a consensual relationship with a member of his staff during the pandemic that ended in the last six weeks.

Young people know all too well about abuse of power in the workplace, Egulu said.

The communications lead at Ontario Place for All, a grassroots community group lobbying to keep Ontario Place a public space, pointed to a 2020 Statistics Canada report that found young people, women, people with disabilities and LGBTQ2S people were more likely to experience “inappropriate sexualized behaviours and gender-based discrimination.”

Relationships are problematic when one of the parties has more power and control over the workplace environment, Egulu said. “For me, it’s evident that employers truly shape the condition of an employee's work, and they have the ability to fire them. Therefore, this relationship between John Tory and the young staffer allows me to question if consent was freely given,” he added.

The situation also made him ponder if the relationship affected Tory’s responsibilities and duties at City Hall.

The situation has cast a shadow over his time in office, Egulu said. “It allows young Torontonians to be doubtful of his pledge to not tarnish the office of the Mayor.”

Egulu agrees with a recent survey that found younger people trust politicians less than older generations. The survey, conducted by Proof Strategies before Tory’s announcement, gauged the level of trust in Canada. It shows 39 per cent of generation Zers and 45 per cent of millennials think most people can be trusted, compared to 52 per cent of boomers and 76 per cent of Canadians aged 75 and older. The online survey was conducted last month using a point-scale system and included 1,502 Canadians.

Young people know all too well about abuse of power in the workplace, 25-year-old Emilyne (Emmy) Egulu said after Mayor John Tory announced his resignation late last week following an affair with a 31-year-old staffer. #TOpoli

“Politicians have a lot of work to do,” Proof Strategies CEO and president Bruce MacLellan said in a news release. “While trust is improving as we surface from the darkest hours of the pandemic, we see an emerging tsunami of change with younger generations losing trust and changing expectations.”

The survey calls the disparity between younger and older Canadians a “generational trust gap” due to differing perceptions of the role of government and satisfaction with politicians. Ongoing issues such as climate change and unaffordable housing costs are also creating “a new paradigm that could be a barrier to trust with younger Canadians,” the report notes.

Saman Tabasinejad, organizing director at Progress Toronto, a not-for-profit organization advocating for a progressive city, said generation Z and millennials have not seen the government as working for them.

“We are in a worse position now, here in Toronto, than we were 10 years ago. We can’t imagine futures in the city, living in the city comfortably, and frankly, we feel like many of those in power don’t have our best interests at heart and they are not there to work for us,” Tabasinejad said. “Young people are being forced out of the city, and it's understandable why millennials and generation Zers do not trust politicians.”

While the survey notes young people value the institution of government, Egulu said: “We want leaders who keep their campaign promises and address issues that matter the most to Canadian youth.

“I hope that the next mayor can truly abide by the codes of conduct meant to prevent inappropriate sexualized behaviour from happening again at City Hall.”

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Wait, wait, wait. What is this polling nonsense? The article is passing us results about how many of different groups think "most people" can be trusted, then talking as if they've established something about how people view politicians.

Politicians are not "most people". It's absolutely possible to think "most people" can be trusted and at the same time think nearly all politicians CANNOT be trusted. Indeed, I suspect it's quite common. The article's conflation is totally unwarranted and misleading. It gives the impression that only Gen Z and Millennials don't trust politicians while older people do, but that is very far from being established here.

So, on John Tory specifically: Ewwww. What a creep.

You know, I think there's a pattern. On average, the further right and more moralizing the politician, the more lurid their sexual misconduct. John Tory is right wing but not really hard right, so there was infidelity and abuse of power, but not overt coercion, drugs, prostitution and so forth like you'd get if it was an influential evangelist minister or something.

So many questions/concerns arise in my mind from this article. (It's also timely because it touches on some similar, if tangential, themes discussed last night in a webcast presentation from UBC with Dr. John McWhorter.)

First, intergenerational difference in thought is neither new nor exceptional.

Second, was the on-line survey taken from a self-selected population ("oh, here's a link to a survey; let's click") or a true random sample? Full disclosure: I am truly not a fan of opinion surveys for public consumption, particularly those not fully transparent.

Third, before current, intergenerational numbers are deemed useful, I think the age-determined levels of trust need comparisons between the same actual populations over time. That is, what did current older folks, like me, believe 20 or 40 years ago. It is conventional wisdom -- which I believe is evidence supported -- that people become more conservative in their views as they age. On the other hand, there seems to be a major shift in Western societies regarding gender.

Fourth, boss-subordinate affairs -- whether wholly concensual and open-eyed, or with some degree of pressure and/or lack of consent -- have been occurring since forever. That history is what provoked the multitude of organizational policies related to such inevitabilities. And, yet, they frequently recur and, likely, always will. With a generally predictable range of outcomes, from happily-ever-after to regret, trauma and prosecution.

Young people know all too well about abuse of power in the workplace, Egulu said.

All of us were young, at some point, and, except for the deniers, are aware of this.

The current cohort of subordinates is not exceptional in either knowledge of the problem or having been participants, willing or unwilling. If this single example of such a relationship colours the rosy thinking of some younger people, then those people are naive.

Fifth, we boomers (and others, I might add), have trashed the planet to a degree that X, Y and, (I think?) particularly, Z have serious concerns regarding the future viability of this entire human enterprise (in the broader context of the entirety of Nature). For my part, I would nonetheless suggest refraining from conflating all the problems that one sees, if that is a tendency.

So one person in this article is said to wonder if John Tory's partner truly consented to a relationship, and to wonder whether the relationship affected governance. Okay, though there is no reason to believe that a 31 year old has no agency and there is no evidence given that this relationship adversely affected governance. But then the writer leaps to statistics showing a general decline in trust of politicians and attributes this decline explicitly to news of John Tory's affair: Toronto mayor's affair further shakes young people's trust in political leaders!

I do not live in Ontario and I have no particular opinion of John Tory, but the tenuous connections in this article do not seem to meet the standard I would expect from the National Observer.