A better option for Toronto Council

Toronto City Hall
Toronto City Hall (c) Bigstock Images

The city of Toronto has paid consultants about $800,
The consultants themselves conducted little or no valid research.  However, even they concluded the overwhelming majority of residents who participated in their consultations want city wards to be aligned with federal and provincial riding boundaries.  Yet, this is not an option in the consultants’ report – and it’s not what they’re recommending.

The “Draw the Lines” report recommends an increased council of 47 members.  Nuts.

The mayor’s Executive Committee will consider the Ward Boundary Review report on Tuesday, May 24th.  Here’s what they should do.

First, they should set aside the report and apply some simple, common sense. The federal government is required to review riding distribution every 10 years, based on census data.  Let them do the expensive analysis.  It’s easier for citizens to understand and elected officials to coordinate when the city’s ward boundaries are aligned with provincial and federal riding boundaries.

MPs and MPPs are able to represent their constituents well, so City Councillors should be at least equally competent.  Having one-councillor, one-MPP and one-MP per ward/riding just makes sense.

Here’s a motion the Mayor should move:

A Common Sense Approach to Re-drawing Toronto’s Ward Boundaries

Motion re: EX 15.2  

That City Council:

1.  Receive the City Manager’s report dated May 9, 2016.

2. Direct that Ward Boundaries be aligned with Federal Riding Boundaries within the city’s geographical limits on a one-ward per riding basis. Where a federal riding extends beyond the city’s boundary, the city’s boundary shall be used as the boundary of the ward.

3.  If federal riding boundaries change in future, the number and boundaries of city wards shall be adjusted to reflect those change(s) with effect from the first municipal election immediately following the coming into effect of the federal riding boundary change(s).

4.  Instruct the City Solicitor to submit a bill to implement any change to composition of City Council after either the appeal period has expired without any appeals, or the appeal process for the ward boundary by-law has concluded.

5.  Instruct the City Solicitor to represent the City’s interests in any legal proceedings including appeals relating to City Council’s decision.
But don’t stop there

Simply re-aligning the ward boundaries isn’t going to radically improve governance in the city. There are other structural and procedural changes that should be introduced.  Council should also tackle these. Here’s something they could do that makes sense.

Broad city-wide issues should not be decided by regular councillors.

Right now, only the mayor must campaign on a city-wide platform.  City Councillors campaign on name recognition and commitment to address hyper-local issues.  A smaller group of officials should be elected with a specific mandate to address big-picture issues including: the city budget, transit & transportation, policing, agency management, etc.

I’d do this by electing a “Deputy Mayor” from each of the city’s four Community Council areas.  They’d have to present a campaign platform that addresses city-wide issues and win the confidence of people in all the wards comprising their Community Council.  Once elected, they’d chair their respective Community Councils and sit on the Mayor’s Executive Committee.

The Mayor would determine the order of precedence/succession among the elected Deputy Mayors – so there is always one able to step in if the mayor is incapacitated or absent.

The City Manager, Toronto’s most powerful man and the top city staffer, should report directly to the Mayor, not to Council.  The Mayor is the CEO of the city and should hire, fire and manage the City Manager.  Currently, the City Manager reports directly to Council.  He has 45 bosses – which means, in reality, he has no boss.  He should.  And, it should be the Mayor.

The Executive Committee would deal with and make decisions on all city-wide issues.  Their decisions would go to Council for ratification — a straight up yes/no or back to committee vote.  This would create an appropriate balance of power in Council that currently doesn’t exist.

City Councillors are best employed dealing with local community/ward issues: stop signs, zoning and licensing issues.  More power should be given to Community Councils to dispose of these issues without bringing them to Council.  This focus would allow Councillors to serve more constituents in larger wards.

This would result in a City Council consisting of:

  • Mayor, elected by the entire city.
  • 4 Deputy Mayors, each elected by voters in their respective Community Council areas.
  • 25 Councillors, each elected by voters in their respective wards.
The Executive Committee would decide all city-wide issues and consist of:
  • Mayor.
  • 4 Deputy Mayors.
  • Chairs of each Standing Committee of Council, as appointed by the Mayor.

Community Councils would decide the vast majority of local issues and consist of:

  • Deputy Mayor as Chair.
  • Councillors from each ward with the Community Council area.
If you want to tell the Executive Committee what  you think, send an email to exc@toronto.ca that looks like this:

To the City Clerk:

Please add my comments to the agenda for the May 24, 2016 Executive Committee meeting on item 2016.EX15.2, Final Report – Toronto Ward Boundary Review

I understand that my comments and the personal information in this email will form part of the public record and that my name will be listed as a correspondent on agendas and minutes of City Council or its committees. Also, I understand that agendas and minutes are posted online and my name may be indexed by search engines like Google.

Comments:

Or call the members of the Executive Committee (this is the most effective way to influence them):