TTC chair Josh Colle leaving politics — and his father is seeking his council seat (Toronto Star, July 25, Ben Spurr and David Rider)

TTC chair Josh Colle made the surprise announcement Wednesday morning he’s leaving politics after eight eventful years on Toronto City Council.

Hours later, that news was followed by another surprise: His father is running to replace him.

Josh Colle, who has served as the representative for Ward 15 Eglinton-Lawrence since 2010 and as Toronto Transit Commission chair since 2014, broke the news he won’t seek re-election at a news conference at City Hall — flanked by his three young sons and council ally Mayor John Tory.

The 45-year-old councillor told reporters he had decided to spend more time with his family and planned to take a job in the private sector.

“It has been my great privilege to serve the residents of Ward 15 over the last eight years, and I’m extremely proud of what I’ve accomplished in my time at City Hall and at the TTC,” he said.

He cited as his accomplishments: Enhancements to bus and streetcar service, the opening of the $3.2-billion Spadina subway extension, and the introduction of the policy allowing children 12 and younger to ride free.

Roughly five hours after Josh Colle spoke, Mike Colle, a former municipal councillor and longtime Liberal MPP, quietly arrived at City Hall and registered for the race his son had just vacated.

The younger Colle had made no mention of the impending father-son switch at his news conference.

Mike Colle, 73, said in an interview Wednesday that Josh had made the decision to bow out of the race of his own accord. He said he only decided to run at the city level when his son asked him.

According to Mike, he initially hesitated, in part because only a few weeks have passed since he was narrowly defeated in the June provincial election in Eglinton-Lawrence.

That defeat ended his 23-year run as a midtown MPP.

He said he asked himself: “Do I want to get back into this thing?”

But he ultimately decided to enter the ring because “there’s too many things that I care deeply about (in the community) that I don’t want to see walked away from.”

Political dynasties are not uncommon in Canadian politics, but Mike Colle acknowledged he couldn’t think of an instance in which a father took over for his son.

He rejected the suggestion the last-minute swap, which came two days before the deadline for candidates to register, amounted to a unique form of nepotism.

“All I say to that is, I just ended up getting 19,000 votes in the provincial election,” he said.

“People know my commitment to issues in this community, and in the city, and in the province. That’s what I’ll let people judge me on.”

Mike Colle, who also served as TTC chair in the early 1990s when he was a Metro councillor, said if elected this fall his priorities would be seeing the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and Lawrence Heights revitalization through to completion, as well as preserving the Columbus Centre, a cultural and community hub in North York.

“I’ve fought many battles, and I’ve got a few more to fight,” he said.

Josh Colle’s withdrawal was unexpected because the popular centrist two-term councillor registered a month ago to run in the upcoming Oct. 22 municipal election.

He had been considered a clear favourite for re-election in the new Ward 13, which has been redrawn due to Toronto moving to a new 47-ward model.

He told reporters Wednesday he truly had intended to run this fall but after discussions with his family he reconsidered.

He said he had a position in the private sector lined up, but could not speak about it publicly. He didn’t rule out the possibility of one day returning to public service.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Oleksandr Bomshteyn was the only other candidate signed up to run in Ward 13. The registration deadline is 2 p.m. Friday.

Bomshteyn, who owns a web development company, said in an interview he hopes to bring “positive change” to City Hall, including using Toronto’s “booming” IT sector to modernize municipal government.

But as scrutiny turned on Bomshteyn in the wake of the younger Colle’s announcement, several social media posts the rookie council candidate has made concerning Muslims drew criticism.

In 2017, Bomshteyn responded to a post from Councillor Josh Matlow that condemned “anti-Semitism & Islamophobia” by saying: “Except fear of Islam is a logical fear hence not a phobia.”

Asked why it would be logical to fear an entire religion, Bomshteyn said: “I have Muslim friends. I have nothing against the regular Muslim person out there.”

He said that “85 per cent” of Muslims are “very peaceful, law-abiding citizens.” Asked where he got that figure from, he said: “That’s a quote I’ve seen somewhere.”