2 min

Kyle Rae retires after 19 years on Toronto city council

A career of some success and much controversy

Outgoing Ward 27 Councillor Kyle Rae had little to say to Xtra and sharply refused a final interview before retiring from public office after 19 years.

Rae, who has represented Ward 27 since 1991, has enjoyed a career peppered with accomplishments, controversy, activism and progress.

Over the years, Rae has been an influential presence on Church St and a vocal advocate for the gay community.

But his reputation for aloofness and reluctance to speak to the press has increasingly kept him at a distance from the community he served.

He once submitted a receipt (split between six councillors) for $1,039 worth of Pride parade beads, reports.

Then, just before retiring, Rae raised a few eyebrows when he threw a $12,000 retirement party at the Rosewater Supper Club. Taxpayers picked up the tab.

During the mayoral campaign, penny-pinching Rob Ford, now mayor-elect of Toronto, wasted no time attacking Rae in a press release, using Rae’s lavish bash as proof of the runaway “gravy train” at city council. But when asked for an exit interview to look back on the highs and lows of his time in office, Rae flatly said no.

“Why would I do that?” he told Xtra. “There is nothing reputable about your paper.”

Xtra: “Well, as a long-serving councillor for this ward, we were hoping to look back on your career at council and highlight your notable accomplishments.”

“I don’t think so. It’s been nice talking to you,” he said curtly, before hanging up the phone.

Under his leadership, Ward 27 has seen the greatest influx of development anywhere in the city, and the area remains the top destination for new development projects.

On his City of Toronto profile, Rae touts some of his greatest accomplishments, including helping to launch Nuit Blanche, finding a permanent home for Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and championing the Yonge and Dundas redevelopment.

He remains a voting ex-officio board member for the 519 Church Street Community Centre, has chaired the city’s AIDS prevention program since 1991 and found a permanent home for the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives on Isabella St.

But Rae is no stranger to controversy.

In March, he pressured Pride Toronto to prevent Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) from marching in the 2010 parade, raising the ire of many who argued the effort trampled on free speech.

Pride Toronto complied, issuing a press release urging participants to “reflect Pride’s themes” in their messaging. That announcement sparked outrage in the queer community and was retracted two weeks later.

Incoming Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam takes over his seat in December when council resumes.