How Does Bill 5 Change Toronto City Council?
Bill 5 - Electoral Change by Stealth
By Susan Dexter
The proposal to cut council in half came out of the blue.
Toronto City Council was on the last day of council before the election. completing a week of sitting, dealing with an agenda of more than 500 items. Councillors were preparing for a holiday and the beginning of their campaigns for the October election. In the newly-re-jigged 47 wards, 292 Candidates had signed up to run, many as early as May, when nominations opened.
Rumours had floated around the chamber during the previous day that Doug Ford, the new Ontario premier, was going to cut the size of City Council. By 9.30 that night, the Toronto Star broke the story. The next day, Premier Ford made it official.
In mid-campaign, without warning and without consulting anyone in the city, Premier Ford announced his intentions. His government would be bringing forward an act to reduce the size of council from 47 members to 25.
It threw all the electoral planning into immediate disarray.
It made little sense financially. The savings were modest: $25 million over four years in a City with a 2018 operating budget of $11.12 billion. that's 0.055 % a year. And many critics contend that with half the number of councillors serving the public, there will have to be large additions to the councillors' staffs and perhaps to the city bureaucracy itself.
But all councillors were affected. Half the members in the chamber would not return, as their wards would be merged and they would be forced to run against one another. The prospect: councillor fighting councillor—many friends and longtime allies --for re-election. The workloads for those elected in the larger wards would increase by about 75% or more.
There was no consultation whatsoever--in contrast to the 4-year process of community meetings, research, discussions and debate at City Council that led up to the adoption earlier in 2018 of a carefully-considered consultant's report that recommended adopting 47 wards for the city.
Instead--to many--the move looked like revenge by Premier Ford for his personal defeat in the 2014 race for Toronto Mayor--and payback for the tempestuous relationship he and his brother, former Mayor Rob Ford, had had with the downtown councillors. It is those councillors, and their constituents, who will bear the brunt of the change.
To others, the changes looked like the imposition of an extreme, small government ideology that had been rejected in the 2014 election.
For some, it was the chance to re-fight the ward boundary issue, for others, the outrage was also fueled by the fact it had happened without notice in the middle of an election campaign. It was a challenge to democracy and to the ability of the largest city in Canada to run its affairs.
By evening, 300 demonstrators were in City Hall Square. Councillors from the majority of wards were in full-throated cry. This could not stand.
Here are the main changes brought about by Bill 5, the bill to reduce governance in Toronto:
Revokes the city's power to determine the rules for its own elections, guaranteed since 2006 by the City of Toronto Act
Cuts number of city wards and councillors cut from 47 to 25
Boundaries of city wards will coincide with federal and provincial ridings
No additional resources for councillors who must now represent twice the number of constituents
Councillor (and school board) nominations extended to re-open on August 20 and close at 2 pm on September 14. Candidates who registered in a ward before Bill 5 was passed can change wards.
Mayoral nominations not extended - already closed.
The changes eliminate elected chair positions in the regions of Peel, York, Niagara and Muskoka. Chairs in Durham, Halton and Waterloo will continue to be selected as normal.
Toronto District School Board will have to completely re-arrange its system to account for the changes in city wards.
Consultation - A Comparison
How do the public consultations, research and discussion for the 47-ward option and the 25 ward option stack up?
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