Former city councillor Anne Johnston dies at age 86

Anne Johnston — a former Toronto city councillor known for her strong progressive voice in spearheading many civic initiatives — has died at the age of 86.

According to Coun. Josh Matlow, who has a personal relationship with her family, Johnston died peacefully in her home Wednesday morning surrounded by relatives.

“She really was known as one of the strongest and most articulate voices on city council,” Matlow said.

Johnston was first elected to city council in 1972; she was a City of Toronto councillor until 1985 and then a Metropolitan Toronto councillor from 1988 to 1997.

She then served two terms following amalgamation, from 1998 to 2000 and 2001-2003.

Serving as a seniors advocate and a protector of childcare spaces, Johnston fought for years to create an “age-friendly city,” Matlow added. She also worked toward making the city more accessible.

“She left her mark,” he said.

Johnston was a ‘champion of Toronto,’ councillor says

Johnston also asked for a public inquiry into the MFP computer leasing scandal, which exposed a series of ethical breaches by elected officials.

Those moments were testaments to her strong personality, Matlow said.

“Yes, she was a woman in a roomful of men making her voice heard, but she also was a champion of Toronto who left a legacy.”

Johnston ran unsuccessfully for mayor twice. Toronto Mayor John Tory says if she had won, she would have been a valued leader.

“I’m sure she would have been a treasured mayor,” Tory told CBC Toronto in a statement Wednesday.

“Anne Johnston was one of a kind. Smart, dedicated, fierce, and fun,” he added. “We were lucky to have her in our midst.”

‘For me personally it’s a very sad day’

According to former mayor David Miller, Johnston was smart, charming, well-prepared, strong and competitive — and she also treasured her Welsh roots.

Miller says Johnston was his mentor, and acted as a second mother after his own mother died.

“For me personally it’s a very sad day,” he said. “We really had a very personal bond.”

Miller also says the two of them helped save six daycares across the city that wouldn’t otherwise have existed, one of just “hundreds and hundreds of things like that around public health” that she accomplished.

“A lot of what she did was very progressive, but she also knew how to work with people and bring them together around a common cause,” Miller said.

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