I remember City Councillor Jaye Robinson

Jaye Robinson.
Jaye Robinson.

Over the last month, I’ve spent many hours reflecting on the life and legacy of Councillor Jaye Robinson. I had the honour of working with Jaye for close to seven years and I feel immense gratitude for the many lessons I learned under her leadership. To me, she was much more than a boss – she was a mentor, friend, role model, and unwavering supporter.

First elected in 2010, Jaye proudly represented Don Valley West at City Hall for almost 14 years. On City Council, Jaye championed environmental sustainability, responsible budgeting, investment in arts and culture, and protections for Toronto’s tree canopy. The many local parks she created and revitalized are an enduring part of her legacy that will continue to be enjoyed by residents for years to come. 

A highly-respected voice on City Council, Jaye held important leadership roles over her time at City Hall. As chair of Public Works and Infrastructure, she introduced Toronto’s first-ever Road Safety Plan in 2016. From 2018-2022, she served as chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). During this time, she led the TTC through the COVID-19 pandemic – one of the most challenging periods in Toronto’s history – while continuing to advance fleet electrification, fast-track critical infrastructure projects, and secure record-setting investment in public transit.

Before entering municipal politics, Jaye was the Director of Special Events for the City of Toronto and spent more than 20 years of her career in the public service. She was responsible for founding and producing many of our city’s most iconic events, including Summerlicious, Winterlicious, Moose in the City, the Celebrate Toronto Street Festival, and Nuit Blanche.

As a City Councillor, Jaye believed deeply in public consultation, transparent governance, and evidence-based decision-making. She was never afraid to stand up for her constituents and what she believed in, even under intense pressure. If you have attended a public meeting with Jaye, you will know that she was adept at commanding a room. In the most contentious meetings, she would find a way to channel fervent debate into productive solutions.

Throughout my time in the Ward 15 office, Jaye always emphasized the importance of service excellence. She encouraged our team to be responsive to constituent feedback and work collaboratively across the various City Hall departments to find creative solutions. Jaye was passionate about her work and the neighbourhoods she represented in Don Valley West. Late into the evenings and on weekends, she was known to read and respond to constituent emails – in some cases surprising the author with an unprompted phone call. 

Jaye was an inspirational and compassionate leader, who cultivated a sense of shared purpose in her office. With her strong work ethic and meticulous attention to detail, Jaye motivated us to produce our best work and achieve results for the residents of Ward 15. No accomplishment was too small to go unacknowledged, often with a “gold star!” email.

While Jaye had high expectations of her team, she was also a lot of fun to work with. She had a great sense of humour and a knack for finding moments of levity in stressful situations. Never one to take herself too seriously, she was always quick to crack a joke – even while leading lengthy staff and committee meetings.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve spoken with many of Jaye’s former staff about the profound impact she had on our personal and professional development. She will be deeply missed by all, like me, who knew her. She leaves a lasting legacy in Toronto, the city she loved.