What would it be like if Toronto only had 25 council seats? Image

What would it be like if Toronto only had 25 council seats?

By Sam Reiss on Sep 19, 2018

I was avoiding bringing it up, but alas, I could no longer resist. How municipal government operates is crucial when it comes to new home development, and since the whole situation is getting so messy, I’ve grown concerned.

Here’s a rundown of the situation to bring you up to speed in case you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere:

The municipal election is on October 22. Councillors have been campaigning since May. In August, the Ford government introduced Bill 31, The Efficient Local Government Act, which reduces Toronto city council from 47 seats to 25 seats.

This obviously caught everyone by surprise because Ford made no mention of this plan during his campaigning. He basically changed the rules of how many players could be on the ice halfway through the game.

The City of Toronto challenged the Act, bringing it to the Superior Court, which ruled the Act unconstitutional. That didn’t really bother the Ford government though because they decided to go ahead and threaten to use the notwithstanding clause, which is used to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If enacted, it would be the first time the clause was used in Ontario.

This made a great deal of people angry, because you know, what’s the point of court and the legal system if the premier can choose to override rulings?

A recent poll by Mainstreet Research found that 65% of Torontonians oppose the use of the notwithstanding clause, and nearly 56% “strongly disapprove.”

The other frustrating thing is that the Ford government said yesterday that they won’t use the clause…as long as the Ontario Court of Appeal grants a stay, freezing the Superior Court ruling, allowing the election to continue with the 25 wards. Of course, they won’t use the clause if they get their way – they won’t have to! This would likely be a band-aid solution though – I see the fight continuing even after the election is done. This has become a power struggle between egos, and I’m actually kind of embarrassed about it, as I’m sure many Ontarians are.

Toronto city council

So, what happens if Toronto does end up with a 25-seat council? Here’s where I’m sitting on the fence.

I’m actually not opposed to a tighter, more efficient council (assuming the current council is actually inefficient…it may not be compared to other levels of government). In theory, decisions will be made quicker with fewer cooks in the kitchen. I am however opposed to rules changing in the middle of a game. That’s not how things get done. It isn’t fair to the candidates or their potential constituents.

The Ford government is estimating $25 million in savings. I have no idea if this is accurate or not, but of course, I understand that less salaries means lower operating expenses. How the savings are spent will determine whether or not it’s all worth it.

What I’m most scared of is the idea that Toronto residents are not being represented as well as they should be. If you cut the numbers of wards nearly in half, the number of constituents per councillor will nearly double. Can the councillors handle this heavier workload?

When there’s a new housing development in the works in a neighbourhood, there are NIMBYs (not-in-my-backyard) and YIMBYs (yes-in-my-backyard). The NIMBYs often have the louder voice at community development meetings. I’ve been to a few of these community meetings, which are typically attended by the developer, councillor, planners, and architects. It can get hectic. I’m curious as to whether these meetings would double in size.

Getting in touch with your councillor is an option if you have an issue with your neighbourhood or an idea for improvement (potholes, poor lighting in public areas, construction complaints, breaking of bylaws, parking issues, etc.). Communicating with your councillor could get more difficult if they have even more people to answer to.  

That said, I was listening to AM 1010 while driving to a meeting last week, and former city councillor, Karen Stintz (Ward 16), was on the show and they were discussing the city council seat cut. She said she was canvassing for a candidate, going door to door, and she was asking residents what they thought about the cut down to 25 seats, and apparently the overall response was “meh.”

As I sit here worrying about Torontonians not being represented, I’m also left wondering how many people actually communicate with their councillor or even know they are. However the cookie crumbles, I encourage you to do your research, educate yourself, and get out there and vote!


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