John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
Posted Thursday, July 28, 2022 6:47 pm EDT
Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro says his comments about ActiveTO in early June were widely misunderstood.
Shapiro spoke to reporters Thursday, his first public appearance since writing an open letter to Toronto city councilors about the show that shut down busy Lake Shore Boulevard West most weekends for the past two years. Shapiro said that he didn’t want ActiveTO to end, just tweak it.
“I’m all for ActiveTO, I’m all for working out and getting out, especially getting out and experiencing it,” Shapiro said at a news conference presenting new renovations underway at the Rogers Center in downtown Toronto. , just north of the lake shore.
“I think ActiveTO is a great idea, but first I have to think about our fans, the hundreds of thousands of fans over the weekend who are affected by the closures.”
ActiveTO was conceived to provide bicyclists, joggers, and other pedestrians with a traffic-free space to exercise during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The city council was scheduled to vote on continuing the program on June 15 when Shapiro issued his open letter.
“I am writing to request that you not vote to extend ActiveTO on Lake Shore Boulevard West,” Shapiro wrote on June 10, noting “unprecedented levels of construction and other deviations.”
Shapiro said Thursday that his intention was to ask the Toronto City Council to recalibrate ActiveTO’s hours and locations.
“So (the message) was just to consider the routes, to consider the other things that were going on, and to consider that we’re not in the same place that we were starting from,” Shapiro said.
RELATED: Blue Jays boss wants major artery shutdown for ActiveTO to stop
Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, the Blue Jays did not play in Toronto for most of the 2020 and 2021 seasons, instead playing at the team’s minor league facilities in Dunedin, Fla., and Buffalo, N.Y. . When the Blue Jays did return to Rogers Center for the end of the 2021 season it was in limited capacity.
That meant traffic caused by Blue Jays games and ActiveTO-related shutdowns didn’t come into conflict until April of this year. Shapiro said in his open letter that he was writing after fan feedback.
“Just complaints about how hard it is to get to games on days when ActiveTO limits access,” Shapiro said Thursday of what, specifically, fans had told him.
Shapiro had been widely criticized online for his letter and Toronto Mayor John Tory publicly defended the Blue Jays president before the city council determined ActiveTO’s fate. Tory then participated in the city council debate on ActiveTO and voted with other councilmembers to approve a new plan that didn’t include closing Lake Shore as often.
Civic activist Adam Chaleff said Tuesday that he filed a formal complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner against Tory for participating in the ActiveTO debate and voting on the issue.
Tory has a long association with Rogers Communications, which owns the Blue Jays. Tory was a Rogers executive in the 1990s and is still on the advisory committee of the family trust that controls Rogers.
“I think Tory has tried to serve two masters at once, Rogers and the public interest, which is what the (integrity commissioner) must avoid,” Chaleff said in a tweet on Tuesday. “I say a judge must now determine whether Tory should face and what consequences he should face for this apparent conflict of interest.”
Don Peat, Tory’s spokesman, released a statement Tuesday saying the mayor’s office respects the integrity commissioner’s office and will not comment on the complaint while in front of him.
“This vote was on a city program that the mayor introduced and championed during the pandemic and this was a very broad public issue that involved all road users in the city,” Peat said. “The city staff report did not mention that organization.
“When the Mayor does have a conflict, he has carefully declared it and he did not have it in this case.”
Shapiro said he was aware of the complaint filed against Tory, but had no comment on it.
“I read it and went back to managing the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s just not my experience. It’s not my area of focus,” Shapiro said.
“I wrote the letter because it was in the best interest of the Blue Jays and our fans and I went back to managing the Blue Jays.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 28, 2022.