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The City We Want – The Government We Need: The Report of the Governing Toronto Advisory Panel

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Toronto is at a remarkable point in its history. As one of the most prosperous, diverse and inclusive cities in the world, and as a major centre of commerce and culture, it also plays a special role on the national scene. The anticipated powers under a new City of Toronto Act will give Toronto special, unique status in Canada. For the first time, the City will have the power to respond to the changing needs of its residents and to chart its own path for its future. Toronto will have the power to reform its model of democratic government. This report contains our recommendations.
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Governing Toronto Advisory Panel
The City We WantThe Government We Need
The Report of the Governing Toronto Advisory Panel
November 2005
2 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
Contents
Introduction ............................................................................................................................. 5
Summary of Recommendations........................................................................................... 7
How Toronto is Governed Now .....................................................................................11
The Case for Change...........................................................................................................15
A New Model: Our Advice and Recommendations.....................................................25
Looking to the Future..........................................................................................................37
Appendices:
1 – Consultation Process & Summary of Input .............................................................39
2 – Research Paper Summary............................................................................................43
3 – Terms of Reference ......................................................................................................47
4 – Panel Member Biographies ..........................................................................................49
The following papers are available at www.toronto.ca/governingtoronto
Selected Urban Governance Models and Practices, Lionel D Feldman Consulting Ltd &
Katherine A. Graham
Civic Engagement--Review and Reflection on Current Practices and Future Approaches,
Pamela Robinson, PhD, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University
Transcript of Public Consultation Input, November 15, 2005 Public Meeting
The City We Want – The Government We Need
The Report of the Governing Toronto Advisory Panel
www.toronto.ca/governingtoronto
City of Toronto, November 2005
3
To Mayor Miller and Members of Toronto City Council,
Attached is the report of the Governing Toronto Advisory Panel, co-authored by the
three of us, but representing the vision and passion of thousands of Torontonians. We
submit this work humbled by the lessons we have learned, and emboldened by the fact
that this is the time for transformative change.
The City of Toronto Act is expected to provide new and broader powers for the City. In
anticipation of this new world, you asked us to consult with Torontonians and advise
you on our future structure of democratic governance. Through emails, consultations,
one-on-one meetings, briefs and letters, Torontonians shared their love for the city and
their frustration with aspects of how it operates.
Most rewarding was the fact that the diversity of our city was reflected in this feedback–
we heard from families that have been here for generations, and from those for whom
such a generational attachment is still a goal.
The current City of Toronto is an amalgam of former cities, and a mosaic of
neighbourhoods rich in history and a sense of community. Its size, diversity, need for
social cohesion and the necessity to make the city welcoming and supportive of business
and development, make governance both inordinately important and unbelievably
complex. We have one over-arching vision: a government that, with its people, plans for
the future, takes care of the present, and respects the past.
Through the City of Toronto Act, the provincial government is demonstrating its belief in
the uniqueness of Canada’s largest city. History will look back upon this moment in time
and judge us all. Did we have the courage to do what is right for the long-term health of
our city and our province? You must rise to the challenge. Make the necessary changes
and you put to rest the criticism that City government will not take action. Whether or
not you accept the recommendations we offer, this is the time when the pre-eminence
of the City must take precedence.
On behalf of my colleagues Sujit Choudhry and Martin Connell, thank you for the
honour of serving the City as the Governing Toronto Advisory Panel. We have been
impressed by seeing first hand the passion and commitment each of you brings to your
work. We feel even more strongly about our work today than when we began.
Respectfully submitted,
Ann Buller
Chair, Governing Toronto November 23, 2005
Governing Toronto Advisory Panel
Left to right: Ann Buller, Sujit Choudhry, Martin Connell
4 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
INTRODUCTION | 5
Toronto is at a remarkable point in its history. As one of the most prosperous, diverse
and inclusive cities in the world, and as a major centre of commerce and culture, it also
plays a special role on the national scene.
The anticipated powers under a new City of Toronto Act will give Toronto special, unique
status in Canada. For the first time, the City will have the power to respond to the
changing needs of its residents and to chart its own path for its future. Toronto will
have the power to reform its model of democratic government. With its new powers
come new responsibilities, a greater need for accountability and for a model of
democratic government that recognizes the city’s extraordinary complexity and
diversity. We need a government that, with its people, plans for the future, takes care of
the present, and respects the past.
The City of Toronto Act is not the only reason to change Toronto’s model of democratic
government. The underlying catalysts for both the City of Toronto Act and the reform of
Toronto’s system of government are the significant economic, social and planning
challenges we face.
During our five months of review and consultations, the feedback we received, with its
many different approaches and goals, made it clear that a new governance model for
Toronto must:
Be suitable for an autonomous order of government
Ensure the implementation of strategic, long-term, city-wide perspectives
Broaden accountability to the public
Ensure a respectful learning and working environment for City staff and councillors
Facilitate the debate and making of tough city-wide decisions
Increase citizen participation and engagement from across the city
This last point has special significance. Although a City Council that reflects the diversity
of our city is critical to meeting the imperative of social inclusion, increasing voter
turnout and engagement across the city matters just as much.
Toronto’s success depends on decisive and visionary leadership from its elected officials
– in all orders of government. But while Toronto’s government must be structured
properly to give Torontonians the city they deserve, this is not enough. At the end of
the day, it is our people who bring the city to life. Toronto has a wealth of intellectual
and social capital. Highly educated and sophisticated leaders run our major businesses
and educational institutions; impassioned and committed community leaders work
toward greater social inclusion; hundreds of thousands of volunteers support our wide
ranging civil society; youth bring answers upon which we can build for the future. Faith,
ethnic, age-related and other community groups all add to the vibrancy of the city. It is
critical that we capture and act upon their ideas to build the city we want.
Yet as we speak of a city so full of promise, we know we must also deal with very real
challenges. Toronto is losing economic ground. Companies continue to locate in, or
Introduction
6 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
move to, surrounding municipalities and other North American cities. The loss of jobs
and investment is serious. Our commercial tax base has stagnated, exacerbating the
enormous fiscal pressures already facing the city.
The need for social services has never been greater. Toronto has increasing levels of
poverty and unemployment, largely concentrated in at-risk and significantly under-
serviced neighbourhoods. This poverty is disproportionately experienced by visible
minority communities and single-parent families headed by women.
The downloading of an increased share of social programs, and the inheritance of a
housing portfolio in need of serious repair, has placed additional, open-ended stress on
an already severely overstretched City budget.
These are not the only challenges Toronto faces. It currently has a planning process
with both too much and too little local democracy. Local councillors exercise
disproportionate influence over planning decisions at the expense of the city-wide
interest. And every planning decision made by City Council can be appealed to the
provincially-appointed Ontario Municipal Board.
The responsibility to act falls to all three orders of government –federal, provincial and
municipal. But as the order of government most closely tied to the community and to
the daily lives of its peoples, the City of Toronto has a special role to play.
Until now the legal framework set by the Province has hobbled the City’s ability to face
these challenges and control its future. But that will soon change. The Province of
Ontario has indicated it will introduce a new City of Toronto Act by year-end, which is
expected to give Toronto the tools to act like an order of government–that is, to
exercise many of the powers currently held by the Province. Although much more
needs to happen–such as a fair fiscal deal for Toronto–the new City of Toronto Act
represents a major part of a “new deal” for our city.
The new City of Toronto Act raises a fundamental question. How can Toronto’s system of
democratic government ensure that the City fully realize the potential of its new
powers, and face the social and economic challenges ahead? In July 2005, City Council
appointed the Governing Toronto Advisory Panel and asked us to make
recommendations responding to this very question.
The status quo is not an option – that we have concluded beyond question. Toronto’s
current model of democratic government is simply not capable of generating the
sophisticated economic and social policies that citizens rightly expect from the
government of Canada’s largest and most complex urban centre.
Toronto needs a government that acts strategically, takes a city-wide perspective, uses a
coordinated policy approach, and stands accountable to all Torontonians for delivering
on its policy agenda. To do this we need a new approach to governance and a renewed
and strengthened relationship between the political arm and the independent,
professional public service. The importance of an effective and appropriate working
relationship between these two cannot be understated.
These things require dramatic change. Without it, the City will never be able to exercise
its new powers properly. With it, we can create a great and enduring community. We
deserve nothing less.
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS | 7
In presenting our recommendations, we chose to bring forward those that we thought
would be most helpful. We debated presenting options but opted instead for an
integrated set of recommendations that together describe a system of government.
Recommendation One: Strengthen City Council’s ability to focus on
strategic, city-wide priorities
Increase City Council’s term of office from three years to four years
Delegate transactional decision-making to staff, committees of City Council and
other administrative bodies, with appropriate checks and balances
Enforce procedural rules related to agenda deadlines and notice requirements
Adjust the legislative meeting calendar to separate transactional business from
strategic planning and policy-making work
Appoint a full-time Speaker and a Deputy Speaker to preside over City Council
meetings and protect the dignity of City Council’s deliberations through the
enforcement of procedural and behavioural rules
Recommendation Two: Create an Executive Committee with
responsibility for furthering the City’s agenda
Appointed and chaired by the Mayor with membership comprising the chairs of
Standing Committees, Community Councils (to ensure geographic representation),
the Toronto Transit Commission, and the Deputy Mayor
Responsible for:
o Integrating city-wide strategic planning and setting priorities
o Linking city-wide priorities to financial resources through the budget
process
o Coordinating City Council’s agenda management and managing the flow
of policy issues to City Council
o Ensuring that Standing Committees develop work plans consistent with
the City’s strategic direction
Salaries of councillors serving on the Executive Committee should be raised to
recognize their increased responsibilities. The amount of this increase should be
determined following a review of practices used in other cities and orders of
government
Receive advice and analytical support from a dedicated office consisting of
professional, non-partisan staff, free of obligations to individual programs
Summary of Recommendations
8 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
Recommendation Three: Broaden the Mayor’s scope of responsibility
to reflect the public’s expectations of the position and to enable the
Mayor to lead effectively
With the Executive Committee, at the beginning of each term, set a multi-year, city-
wide vision and strategic directions for City Council’s approval
Hold four annual meetings with members of the public (“Mayor’s days”) in different
parts of the city to receive public feedback and input on the City’s direction
Deliver an annual state-of-the-city address reporting on the achievement of the
strategic directions
Appoint and remove the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Standing Committees,
Community Councils, the Toronto Transit Commission, and the Deputy Mayor
Make recommendations to City Council through the Executive Committee on
major city-wide policy issues
Lead a budget process supporting strategic directions; sponsor the budget in City
Council
Speak for Toronto nationally and internationally
Negotiate with other orders of government, within broad policy parameters
established by City Council
Serve as a signing officer on intergovernmental agreements (but with no unfettered
right to bind the City)
Direct, appoint and dismiss the City Manager
Recommendation Four: Ensure Standing Committees move the city-
wide agenda forward
Establish work plans that demonstrate how they will advance the strategic priorities
Committee chairs would be expected to champion the recommendations of their
Standing Committees at City Council
Review the process and approach to deputations, ensuring a respectful environment
is created, and that the public has broadened access
Form a new Standing Committee focusing on economic development and
competitiveness
Recommendation Five: Empower Community Councils
Exercise delegated local transactional decision-making authority, governed by
Council-approved policy
Conduct a minimum of four public engagement sessions annually within their areas,
to provide community input into key issues, such as the setting of strategic
directions and budget
Determine a more effective method of ensuring neighbourhood input using the
City’s 140 identified neighbourhoods, to feed into local priority setting and service
planning
Meet in the evening, when more community members are able to attend
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS | 9
Recommendation Six: Enhance civic engagement and community
involvement
In consultation with the community, the City develop a shared, common civic
engagement strategy that integrates and builds upon activities currently undertaken
In particular, use this engagement strategy in the 13 neighbourhoods identified as
having priority for infrastructure investment under the Toronto Strong
Neighbourhoods Strategy
Recommendation Seven: Retain ward-based representation
City Council maintain wards and reject at-large election of councillors to help
ensure that marginalized communities are not further disadvantaged
Recommendation Eight: A better planning process
Mayor to champion the completion and adoption by City Council of the
comprehensive zoning by-law to implement the new Official Plan, and City Council
commit the necessary resources to complete the process
Require a 2/3 majority whenever City Council wishes to make an amendment to the
new comprehensive zoning by-law, which professional planning staff determines is
contrary to the new Official Plan
In anticipation of Ontario Municipal Board reform, establish a Toronto Appeal
Board for Committee of Adjustment decisions
Establish a professional design review panel to review and amend select
development plans from a design perspective, working within Council-approved
guidelines
Recommendation Nine: Budgeting tied to strategic priorities
The Executive Committee must set out an overall vision for the budget (operating
and capital) and realign resources and/or reduce costs as necessary, based on the
overall vision
The budget process and outcomes must be tied to and implement City Council’s
strategic priorities
Move towards a budget process that places more emphasis on the upfront work of
priority setting and committee review, and where the final step of the budget
process involves City Council voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to adopt the budget as a whole
Recommendation Ten: Strengthen the commitment to economic
development and competitiveness
City Council must act immediately to create a new Standing Committee, the
Economic Development and Competitiveness Committee
The Mayor must provide the leadership on this policy matter
Recommendation Eleven: Engendering trust, respect and civility at
City Hall
City Council institute sanctions for breaches of confidentiality by deeming breaches
to be offences under the Provincial Offences Act
10 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
HOW TORONTO IS GOVERNED NOW | 11
To understand the importance of this opportunity it is necessary to remember where
Toronto is and where it has come from.
Toronto is in its 8th year post-amalgamation. Overriding the concerns and consensus
view of the citizens, the provincially mandated amalgamation in 1998 took the former
two-tiered form of government with its metropolitan-wide political and administrative
structure, and six local municipalities each with its own administrations and local
political systems, and forged a single-tier city administration.
In the process of amalgamation the fiscal structure of the City was also significantly
altered with the Province shifting greater amounts of social service costs with a reduced
contribution for infrastructure and public transportation. Outside of certain shared cost
programs and some transfers from other orders of government, property tax and user
fees are the sole source of revenue for the City.
The consequences of amalgamation are now well understood. It is far from an optimal
system. On the other hand, a return to the state of our pre-amalgamation metropolitan
city, while evoking a nostalgic look back in some quarters, is clearly unrealistic and not
particularly attractive.
City Council
Amalgamated Toronto now has a 45-member City Council with 44 councillors elected
on a ward basis and a Mayor elected city-wide every three years. Once elected, all
members, including the Mayor, have one vote in City Council. The system is very
different from provincial and federal models: members do not run under a party banner
and no formal system of party politics or cabinet model is in play in the decision-making
process.
The City has been carved into 4 regions known as Community Council Districts to deal
with local matters. Each Community Council has between 300,000 to 600,000 citizens
and is represented by 10 to 12 ward councillors. As all City laws require a by-law that
has been considered and approved by City Council as a whole, City Council remains the
sole legislative authority. In addition to passing by-laws, City Council also awards
contracts, makes all major appointments, and approves the hiring and dismissal of
officers and executive staff.
The councillors play both a legislative and constituency role. While they are responsible
through City Council for city-wide issues the sheer volume of constituency related
activities absorbs the bulk of their calendar. Collectively, they are the ultimate power
with both legislative and administrative responsibilities. They pass the laws, create the
policies and programs, determine the service mix and service levels, and oversee the
work of departments.
How Toronto is Governed Now
12 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
The Mayor
The Mayor has one vote in City Council and in theory has political powers equal to all
other members of City Council. In practical terms the true powers are a direct function
of the additional influence contained in the office plus the personality and character of
the individual. As Mayor the person holds the official title of municipal Chief Executive
Officer, presides as chair in City Council meetings, chairs the Policy and Finance
Standing Committee and is a member as-of-right of each Standing Committee and
Community Council.
The Mayor also provides leadership to City Council and represents the City at official
functions. Further enhancement for the Mayor comes from the prestige of the position,
the office they maintain with its current 17 person staff, and visible leadership presence
at most civic functions. The Mayor also has the ability to influence the appointment of
committee chairs and has better access to the public through the media. On the
operational side is an ongoing ability to closely interact with the City Manager and key
staff. It is authority through leadership and relationships, and the ongoing support of not
less than half of the City Council membership.
The Legislative Process
The business of City Council is largely processed through the committee system. There
are six policy Standing Committees of City Council and four Community Councils. In
addition, there are several special committees that meet on an ongoing basis or at the
call of the chair. The Standing Committees are Policy and Finance, Administration,
Planning and Transportation, Works, Community Services, and Economic Development
and Parks. They receive new business specific to their field of interest of a city-wide
nature, hear deputations from the public, deliberate and make policy and legislative
recommendations to City Council.
The Community Councils are geographic standing committees with an emphasis on the
City’s business at the community level. Issues such as traffic plans, parking regulations
and exemptions to certain by-laws are deliberated with a recommendation to City
Council for the appropriate by-law. The chairs of the Community Councils and Standing
Committees are appointed for the half term (eighteen months).
Special committees include the Striking Committee (basically City Council’s
appointment and scheduling committee, chaired by the Mayor or the Mayor’s designate),
the Nominating Committee (to nominate citizens outside of City Council for City
agencies, boards and commissions), Audit, Employee and Labour Relations, and Budget
Advisory. This latter committee reports to Policy and Finance Committee and is
charged with the responsibility of co-coordinating and deliberating over the annual
capital and operating estimates presented by the City Manager, the Deputy City
Manager/Chief Financial Officer and staff.
Under provincial legislation, Toronto is bound by the principle that City Council’s
authority may not be sub-delegated unless express statutory authority exists or where
the sub-delegation is compatible with enabling statutes. Examples of this are the
delegation of administrative functions, or delegation within prescribed policy
frameworks.
Under the current Municipal Act (also provincial legislation) all meetings of Committees
and City Council must be open to the public, and all votes shall be taken in public with
no secret ballots. There are limited exceptions to the open meeting provision, where
HOW TORONTO IS GOVERNED NOW | 13
meetings can be closed to the public on issues related to security of property, personal
matters of identifiable individuals, and labour relations or employee negotiations.
Much has been said to the panel about the heavy work load faced by City Council
members and the Mayor. Long hours, large volumes of paper, excessive numbers of
meetings, ward constituency issues and a massive legislative agenda are a common
theme. In 2004 City Council sat a total of 39 days at 13 different sessions, considered
5,300 items, approved over 75% of these items on consent and held 868 items for
debate. This does not include the 72 days that Standing Committees, Community
Councils, special committees and boards such as the Zoo, Toronto Transit Commission,
and Police Services Board met. The number of meeting hours ranged from 114 at the
Works Committee to 39 hours for Economic Development and Parks. The Standing
Committees received 760 public deputations in 2004. Each Community Council met 9
times in 2004 for a total of approximately 60 hours each and considered 2,089 agenda
items. The average number of items was 90. 896 people appeared before Community
Councils.
The paper flow to councillors is often described as overwhelming. For a typical City
Council meeting over 20 centimetres of paper is presented to each Councillor for pre-
read. No distinction is made on City Council’s agenda between transactional and
strategic matters.
14 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
THE CASE FOR CHANGE | 15
Looking to the Future, not the Present
Toronto’s system of government has been the subject of considerable discussion since
amalgamation in 1998. City Council has turned its mind to this issue on a number of
occasions and at each juncture opted to essentially maintain the status quo.
The question that now faces City Council is fundamentally different.
In the past, City Council has asked itself “What is the appropriate system of government
for the City, given Toronto’s current responsibilities and powers?” In other words, the
focus has been on the present.
By contrast, our panel has focused on the future. The question City Council must now
address is “What is the appropriate system of government, given the City of Toronto’s
future responsibilities and powers?”
Toronto faces a number of serious challenges, which our elected officials at the
municipal, provincial, and federal governments must all address. Toronto faces serious
threats to its economic prosperity, fiscal pressures on its municipal budget, strains on
the fabric of its social cohesion, and a planning process that privileges local interests
over a city-wide agenda.
Alone, any one of these issues would be a challenge. Together, they are truly daunting.
Because these challenges are inter-related—for example, Toronto cannot enjoy future
economic prosperity without social cohesion—our policy solutions must be creatively
interconnected.
The new City of Toronto Act will likely provide the additional tools needed to exercise
new policy mechanisms to the greatest benefit of Toronto’s citizens. But as important as
the tools are, we shall still need to confront and make tough political decisions. To
succeed will require visionary leadership—imagination combined with political courage.
The Basis of Toronto’s Prosperity
Even though Toronto faces serious economic challenges, we must not forget its
successes. Toronto enjoys a world-wide reputation as a good place to do business and
to live. Toronto’s economy generates $125 billion annually ($50,000 per capita) and has
an employment base of 1,400,000. With close to 2.5 million residents, Toronto is the
largest, most culturally diverse and economically significant city in Canada. It is also a
leading economic centre in North America. It stands at the hub of the Greater Toronto
Area (GTA), a city-region of more than five million that is the continent’s fourth-largest
metropolitan area, within one day’s drive of 40% of the United States business and
consumer market.
Toronto’s economic success has made it very attractive to immigrants. Over 50% of all
Torontonians were born outside Canada, making Toronto the country’s most diverse
city. Toronto remains the first-choice destination for immigrants by far. Moreover, the
The Case for Change
16 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
city attracts and retains the best and brightest. Toronto has the most educated
population of any major city in North America, over 50% of the workforce having
completed post-secondary education.
The Threats to Toronto’s Prosperity
While Toronto has enjoyed past economic success, there are ominous signs that the
city is falling behind. A principal factor is economic globalization. For over a century,
Toronto prospered by default. Because of the location close to the U.S. border, the
early development of local infrastructure, and protectionist trade policies, corporations
wishing to do business in Canada were attracted to Toronto. The city did not have to
compete for investment. However, Toronto now faces a much more competitive
economic environment. NAFTA means that corporations can do business in Canada
without being located here. Toronto is now in direct competition with other North
American cities, which are much more aggressive in attracting investment and jobs. This
competition will only increase.
Moreover, Toronto faces new Canadian competition from the Golden Horseshoe,
which has seen explosive population and economic growth in the past 25 years. This is a
struggle the city is slowly but surely losing. For example, while Toronto has lost more
than 100,000 jobs since 1989—7% of total employment—the GTA outside of Toronto
witnessed an increase of approximately 800,000 jobs. In the same period, manufacturing
and warehousing jobs have slipped by a third. Over the past ten years, Toronto
attracted only 21% of the new office space built in the GTA. Since office employment
accounts for almost half of the city’s total employment, this trend is alarming.
Employment growth, 416 v 905
(000's of jobs)
-200
-100
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
416 905
In short, Toronto is in an intense and highly competitive struggle, both nationally and
internationally, in which nothing can be taken for granted. But the City is not powerless
to respond. On the contrary, public policies adopted by the City are pivotal to
economic competitiveness. City policies regarding economic development, social
development, planning, transportation, public security, housing, and the municipal tax
system, will affect Toronto’s ability to successfully compete in the regional and global
economy. The future of Toronto and its citizens depends on visionary, focused and
determined leadership responding imaginatively and effectively to dramatic economic
change.
THE CASE FOR CHANGE | 17
But current municipal policies have hindered Toronto’s ability to compete. As was just
recognized by City Council, a principal cause is tax competition with other GTA
municipalities for business properties. Toronto’s commercial tax rate is 40% higher than
Vaughan’s or Markham’s. Toronto’s relatively high commercial tax rate encourages
businesses to relocate elsewhere in the GTA. At another level, the City has been less
proactive than its competitors in marketing its attributes.
Market share, new industrial and commercial development
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
416 905
The resulting stagnation in the commercial and industrial assessment base fuels a vicious
cycle, worsening the city’s fiscal situation. Exacerbating the problem as well are the
consequences of the conversion of former industrial to condominiums with no offsetting
new construction of employment districts. This market-driven shift, one of the
unintended consequences of policy and taxes, has accelerated the relocation of industry
and commercial development to surrounding communities. Any shift in the assessment
mix from commercial/industrial to residential simultaneously increases service costs
(because home owners need more services per dollar of assessed property values) and
lowers overall tax revenues. While the condominium construction boom has brought a
sense of vitality to some neighbourhoods, it is creating a false sense of economic
security. Toronto is in danger of becoming a dormitory city for the suburbs.
City Council has recently made a decision to gradually lower commercial property
taxes, but there remains a lack of resources devoted to retain and attract business to
Toronto. This lack of commitment is reflected in the below chart from the City’s 2004
budget papers:
Economic development spending per capita,
$CDN
56.66
23.46 23.00
10.08
2.47
0.00
20.00
40.00
60.00
New York Chicago Montreal Calgary Toronto
18 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
In addition, neighbourhood resistance to residential and commercial intensification
discourages investment. For example, the historic lack of funds for brownfield
remediation has added to the attractiveness of locating on “greenfield” sites elsewhere
in the GTA. The opaque, tedious and politicized process that is Toronto’s planning and
zoning system—to which we return below—provides more impetus to look elsewhere.
The City’s inability to maintain steady expansion of its public transit system means less
service to outlying neighbourhoods and neighbouring communities; commerce and
industry find it easier to follow the labour pool there.
Many of these challenges threatening Toronto’s prosperity are the result of policy silos,
which the current political system seems ill-prepared to take down.
Toronto’s Fiscal Pressures
The pressure on Toronto’s tax base caused by the shift of economic activity to outlying
municipalities comes at a time of enormous fiscal pressures. The City operates on a
capital and operating budget woefully insufficient for its current needs, let alone for
meeting future goals. The City may be running behind on both the capital and operating
budgets by more than $500 million a year. And this figure does not factor in deferred
capital expenditures, which far exceed the so-called annual current state-of-good-repair
capital budget.
Property taxes: 42% of Toronto’s annual revenues—approximately $3 billion—
comes from property taxes. Relative to assessed values, commercial, industrial and
multi-residential taxes are disproportionately high, while residential taxes are
disproportionately low (see chart below).
Share of
assessment base Share of taxes Tax rate %
Assessed rate (1)
Residential 71% 40% .91%
Multi-residential 9% 19% 2.56%
Total residential 80% 59%
Commercial 18% 37% 4.51%
Industrial 2% 4% 4.89%
Total non-residential 20% 41%
(1) includes education tax
These patterns have developed over time and for various reasons. City Council’s ability
to recognize and tackle these imbalances is hampered by the way City government
works. Since commercial and industrial property owners don’t vote, councillors are
understandably more sensitive to residential property owners. Multi-residential tenants
pay three times as much tax as residential property owners although since the taxes are
buried in monthly rental payments, the tax burden is less apparent. This helps to create
a bias that keeps residential property taxes low.
Commercial and industrial property owners have been historically—and mistakenly—
viewed as less sensitive to taxation rates. The silent shift of commercial development
away from Toronto confirms that this assumption is no longer correct. It should be
noted that this situation is not helped by the higher business education tax rates set by
the Province for Toronto compared to surrounding regions. If the Province were to
reduce the Toronto rate to the regional average this would reduce the tax burden for
Toronto businesses by $120 million. City Council has urged the Province to act, but
the decision is up to Queen’s Park.
THE CASE FOR CHANGE | 19
City Council recently announced a long-term plan to bring tax rates for both
commercial and multi-residential housing properties in line with neighbouring
communities in the GTA. City Council has committed to hold multi-residential,
commercial, and industrial increases to one-third of the residential increase, and over
time to allocate a greater share of Toronto’s tax burden to residential properties. The
plan calls for this to take place over 15 years. We welcome this shift but we believe that
the existing governance structure prevented City Council from taking bolder action in
rectifying this imbalance in a more aggressive time frame.
User fees: The biggest contributor of revenues from user fees is the Toronto Transit
Commission (TTC), which contributes $750 million to Toronto’s annual revenues.
However, it is anticipated that in 2005 the TTC will still require $236 million of
operating funding for its conventional system—$92 million from provincial gas taxes, the
balance directly from the City. This does not include the several hundred million dollars
in capital required from the City, through debt financing, to keep the current system in a
state of good repair.
Transfers from Ontario and Canada: The Province of Ontario and, to a much
lesser extent, the Government of Canada, contribute significantly to Toronto’s
revenues. These transfers constitute approximately 25% of total revenues. Most
Provincial contributions relate to shared-cost social programs shifted to Toronto during
amalgamation. Recent decisions to assign a portion of federal gas tax revenues to
Toronto, and to remove the GST from City purchases, are welcome but modest in the
wider scheme of things. Toronto’s fiscal balance with the rest of Canada is large and
negative. There is an annual gap of $11 billion between what Torontonians pay in federal
and provincial taxes and what they receive back in services from those orders of
government —equivalent to the annual cost of the federal government’s entire
equalization program.
In sum, Toronto remains in a fiscal straight-jacket. The new revenue tools proposed in
Building a Twenty-First Century City, just released by the joint staff Task Force of the
City and Province, include only limited new taxing authority. To improve Toronto’s
competitive position, commercial and industrial property tax revenues must shoulder
less of the burden. So without a major fiscal new deal for Toronto, only 20 % of
Toronto’s revenue base—residential properties—must carry most of growth in
expenditures to meet current needs. This is completely unrealistic. In this climate, new
expenditures are out of the question.
The net result of Toronto’s fiscal plight is a deteriorating infrastructure, several hundred
million dollars in deferred capital expenditures, and the frustrating sense that whatever
extra Toronto receives comes from an annual pilgrimage to Queen’s Park and Ottawa.
To make matters worse, as the Task Force on Income Security recently highlighted, a
sudden drop in the local economy contains a double jeopardy, simultaneously shifting
families onto social assistance and causing a rapid rise in municipal expenses, while
lessening the ability of many residential property owners to bear this increased burden.
Toronto’s Social Cohesion Is Being Challenged
Toronto is rapidly becoming two different cities, divided by wealth and geography. In
recent years, economic elites have prospered and thrived, the middle class has shrunk
and low-income households have become more numerous and more marginalized.
20 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
According to Vital Signs 2005 Report:
The number of low-income households has grown most significantly in the outer
areas of the city (a 68% increase from 1980 to 2000). The inner city, meanwhile, has
seen a 78% increase in high-income households during the same period.
Between 1980 and 2000 the average income of the richest 10% of the region’s
families rose by 23% while that of the poorest 10% of families fell 4%.
Over the same 20 years, low-income households increased from 18% to 22% of the
population and high-income households from 19% to 22%. Middle-income
households fell from 63% to 56%.
In 2003, 185,290 children (35.1% of Toronto’s children) were in low-income
families.
These changes have transformed historically stable and diverse neighbourhoods into
expensive enclaves, driving low-income households to the city’s outer regions and many
middle-income first-time home buyers to other communities in the GTA.
The Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force confirms the growing gap. In 2001, over 23% of
Toronto residents had incomes below the Low-Income Cut-Off, the most widely used
measure of poverty. Toronto’s poverty rate is higher than of the rest of the GTA,
Ontario or Canada. This trend is worsening. And just as wealth has become
geographically concentrated, so has poverty. As reported in The United Way’s Poverty
by Postal Code, while 17.8% of low-income families lived in poorer neighbourhoods in
1981, 43.2% of them lived in these neighbourhoods in 2001. The median income in
Toronto’s poorest 12 neighbourhoods fell by almost 16% in real terms between 1991
and 2001.
The Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force summed up the situation:
“Thousands of families caught in the squeeze between the high cost of living and low incomes
have chosen the only route possible—to move to areas of the city where housing costs are
cheapest, causing a dramatic increase in the concentration of poverty within certain
neighbourhoods. Many of these new areas of highly concentrated poverty are in the former
suburban municipalities of Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke—in areas originally built for
lower densities and for middle-income households. As these neighbourhoods grew with an influx
of poorer residents, community social services have proved inadequate to meet the needs of
these “inner suburbs.”
The Strong
Neighbourhoods Task
Force identified 13
neighbourhoods for
priority investment.
These neighbourhoods
experience poor local
employment options,
low income levels,
dependency on income
support programs, and
other indicators of
deteriorating social
structure, as suggested
by recent gun violence.
Distances to local
Priority Neighbourhood Areas
Source: Social Development & Administration
THE CASE FOR CHANGE | 21
community services and a lack of range and depth in those services are out of alignment
with this change in demographics.
As the most culturally diverse community in Canada, Toronto continues to attract the
largest number of newcomers. While immigration into Toronto renews and invigorates
the city, it brings with it costs of support for new Canadians, such as settlement
services, extensive language education and employment training initiatives. As well,
immigrants tend to need what many low-income Torontonians do—affordable housing,
adequate public transportation, affordable day care and access to employment. How we
cope with this relentless demographic shift in the years ahead will define our city.
The availability of affordable housing for families and individuals has not kept pace with
the city’s needs or with the rise of poverty. As a result a large number of Toronto
residents find it difficult to find suitable accommodation and to pay the rent. In fact
there are over 65,000 households at this moment who have applied to the City for
affordable housing and are waiting for assistance with their housing needs.
Over the past six years, the City of Toronto has spearheaded, in partnership with
others, the creation of 2,700 new rental homes. Residents have now moved into more
than 1,000 units while 600 are currently under construction and 1,100 are in the
planning and development process. Experiments last year in bridging the rental
affordability gap have lead to some new initiatives, but these will meet the needs of only
a fraction of the people on the waiting list.
When the Ontario Social Housing Reform Act became law in December 2000, virtually all
social housing in the city was downloaded to the City of Toronto and funding
responsibility was transferred from Ontario to Toronto and the GTA regions. Today,
the City is responsible for the administration of 87,800 non-profit homes at an annual
operating cost to the municipal taxpayer of $216 million. These non-profit homes are
owned and operated by 230 different non-profit operators. The transfer of these homes
by the provincial government to the City was done without the provision of sufficient
funds to cover current and future capital repair and replacement needs. For example,
the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (of which the City is the sole
shareholder) operates 58,100 homes and currently has a deferred maintenance shortfall
of $224 million.
To address the affordable housing needs and challenges faced in Toronto the City
requires from other orders of government sustained, sufficient and dependable funding
programs and policies.
An Engaged Civil Society
There is an important bright light in the city. While the growing disparities are clearly
disturbing, we have a vibrant and engaged civil society. From the community service
outreach of faith based organizations, to the dynamic ratepayers associations, to the
local after school arts and dance programs, to the splendour of new arts institutional
renaissance, the city is alive. People care passionately about Toronto.
The rapid growth of affluence has unlocked unprecedented levels of philanthropy in our
City. In 2003, 435,570 Toronto residents formally donated a total of $958.6 million to
charities, roughly $1,000 per household. Torontonians who claimed donations on their
tax returns made the highest average donation ($2,200) of the all the large cities of
Canada. And these figures do not include corporate, institutional or foundation grants,
or the millions of dollars in unreceipted donations made through collection plates, coin
boxes and subway canvassers. It is likely that the aggregate level of charitable gifts in
22 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
2005 will exceed the $1.2 billion the City raises through residential property taxes. As
well, approximately 26% of Torontonians serve actively as volunteers. It is this powerful
and totally engaged civil society that funds, staffs, and draws the volunteers that drive
the many thousands of non-governmental organizations energizing, supporting and
delighting so many citizens.
A Planning Process Waiting for its Plan
Torontonians are proud of their city and care deeply about how it looks and works. Yet
we face a number of serious development challenges. How the City deals with them will
dictate quality of life. Driving this imperative is the need for Toronto to accommodate
population growth. Toronto’s Official Plan sets a goal to accommodate an anticipated
minimum of 3 million residents by 2031. To do that, Toronto must simultaneously
strengthen its current employment base, expand the affordable housing stock, improve
the public transit system and renew aging infrastructure. The City must also keep its
books balanced and taxes competitive.
The Province of Ontario anticipates that by 2031 the population of the Greater Golden
Horseshoe— from Simcoe County to Niagara, and Waterloo to Peterborough—will
grow from 7.5 million to 11.2 million people, a 50% increase. This population growth
can be accommodated in one of two ways: We can “build out,” by continuing to add
low-density housing. Or we can “build in” through intensifying existing residential areas,
such as Toronto, at the heart of the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
“Building out” would impose severe financial and environmental costs on Toronto and
Ontario. For one, roads will become even more congested. The City estimates that by
2021, without improvements in public transit, we will need 19 additional lanes of
expressways to move suburban commuters to jobs in Toronto and city residents to jobs
in the rest of the GTA. Businesses will continue to shift outward, furthering the
hollowing-out of the city’s economic heart.
“Building in” is an option for Toronto. Although it feels like a built-out city, with little
land available for new developments, Toronto has vast areas of low-density and
dispersed development available, much along major arteries and subway lines, for more
intense use. We have the opportunity, but do we have the will?
Achieving intensification requires political and community will plus a planning process
that steers toward whatever outcomes are best for the city. The current planning
process makes responsible intensification extremely difficult.
Under provincial law, every municipality must adopt an Official Plan, providing an
overarching framework for regulating land use. As a result of amalgamation, Toronto
inherited the existing Official Plans and zoning by-laws for seven municipalities,
employing different land use designations (112 in all), plus more than 120 Secondary
Plans. As well, there are 1,300 site-specific exceptions, which are the basis for almost
every major development built in Toronto in the last 25 years. Moreover, they often
have the effective of preventing change, focused as they are on prohibiting certain
activities rather than promoting new ones.
In November 2002, City Council adopted a new Official Plan, which took a
fundamentally different approach. The new plan is a strategic document, charting
Toronto’s development over the next 30 years. Instead of regulating and prohibiting, it
is designed to promote developments that meet a range of social, economic, design and
environmental objectives. That Official Plan is subject to review by the Ontario
THE CASE FOR CHANGE | 23
Municipal Board (OMB), a provincially-appointed administrative tribunal. In April 2003,
Toronto’s Official Plan was appealed to the OMB, which is still holding hearings.
In a nutshell, the Planning Act contemplates proscriptive, or prohibitive, planning
decisions, whereas the proposed Official Plan would encourage a prescriptive, enabling
planning approach, allowing flexible, discretionary decision-making. In those parts of
Toronto identified as appropriate for intensification, it would authorize the City to set
minimum density and height requirements to encourage intensified use through the
development of a comprehensive zoning by-law that would replace the 41 zoning by-
laws inherited at amalgamation. That comprehensive zoning by-law is currently working
its way through the bureaucracy. Without political leadership it could be years before
this by-law sees the light of day.
However, in the absence of a comprehensive zoning by-law and an enacted Official Plan,
the status quo remains —an ad hoc, politicized process bringing together individual
ward councillors, ratepayer associations, development lawyers, a planning division with
insufficient power and, ultimately, the OMB. At the heart of the system are the ward
councillors, who act as gatekeepers to the planning process on behalf of their
constituents. When planning applications run into local opposition, councillors too
often take the path of least resistance and vote against developments. Moreover,
councillors defer to each other on a reciprocal basis, a practice which is found nowhere
in Toronto’s zoning by-laws.
This system privileges local interests and often results in unintended negative city-wide
consequences. The chief casualty has been intensification. Councillors are not rewarded
politically—and are often punished—for pursuing a city-wide agenda. And the Mayor,
while elected on a city-wide basis, lacks any special powers or responsibility for planning
matters. Should the Official Plan be approved, we worry that the political pressure to
resist a comprehensive, properly designed zoning by-law will be overwhelming.
Ironically, it is the OMB—a body utterly unaccountable to Toronto—that is often thrust
into the role of custodian of the city-wide interest. In many cases, though, the OMB
works against Toronto’s interests. The net result is both too much and too little local
democracy. Toronto needs to find a happy medium, one that locates final responsibility
for city building within the institutions of municipal government.
The status quo has other shortcomings, too. For example, the City lacks the power to
negotiate urban design, materials or architecture, leaving Toronto with developments
that confound the ability to create a more beautiful city.
The City of Toronto Act: An Opportunity to Rise to the Challenge
To date, Toronto has lacked many of the policy tools needed to tackle these challenges.
The reason can be found in Toronto’s legal structure.
The City of Toronto is a creature of provincial statutes, most notably the City of Toronto
Act, 1997 and the Municipal Act, 2001. Toronto may only exercise powers that have
been delegated to it by the Province through legislation. Historically, provincial laws
have granted Toronto a limited menu of powers, which the courts, until very recently,
interpreted narrowly.
The model for Ontario’s municipal legislation dates to the mid-19th century, when cities
were much smaller and responsible for a relatively narrow range of services.
Fortunately, new powers recently announced in the Final Staff Report of the Joint
Province and City Task Force, create an opening for broad and substantial changes.
24 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
One important example is the proposed ability to use Tax Increment Equivalent Grants
(TIEGs) as a tool to encourage the redevelopment of brownfield sites. This form of
redevelopment furthers a number of important policy objectives: intensification and the
reduction of sprawl, gridlock and smog; provision of employment in at-risk
neighbourhoods; increased demand for public transit and maximum use of existing
infrastructure.
We anticipate that the new Act will be introduced in the Ontario Legislature this
December.
The most fundamental change in the Act will be to broaden dramatically Toronto’s
power to enact by-laws. Presently, Toronto has narrowly defined powers over specific
areas of public policy. The new Act is expected to take a “permissive powers” approach.
In practical terms, this means Toronto will acquire much broader powers in regulating
its own affairs. Its powers will be limited, however, in cases where the provincial
interest is at stake. Moreover, certain areas of public policy—the Ontario Human Rights
Code, labour relations, inter-provincial trade, primary health care and others—will be
outside Municipal control and remain within provincial jurisdiction.
The new City of Toronto Act is expected to grant the City powers commensurate with its
size and sophistication. Toronto will likely have the broadest powers of any city in
Canada. It will finally become an autonomous order of government, able to enter new
economic and social policy domains. How many of the anticipated changes will be
enacted is impossible to say. However, realizing the full potential of these new powers
will require a fundamental change in how Toronto engages in democratic self-
government. The opportunity has finally arrived to make Toronto the city we want.
ADVICE AND RECOMMENDATIONS | 25
The Status Quo Is Not an Option
Toronto’s system of democratic self-government was designed for a different era. It is
inherently unable to cope with the policy challenges of the 21st century, or to wield the
promised new powers to address those challenges under a revised City of Toronto Act.
The heart of the problem is that City Council currently fulfills two different roles. City
Council deliberates like a legislature on a range of policy files. In its legislative capacity,
this City Council has adopted the Official Plan and policies on such issues as public
housing and municipal tax reform. But City Council also acts as an administrative
decision-maker, processing thousands of agenda items each year that involve the
implementation of policies it has adopted. Although most of these items are passed on a
consent basis (e.g. stop signs), they still dominate the City Council agenda.
In other words, City Council operates in two different ways simultaneously –
deliberatively and transactionally. City Council works differently from legislative bodies
at the provincial and federal level, which are not directly involved in direct service
delivery. In part, Toronto’s different approach stems from the fact that its enabling
legislation gives City Council both legislative and executive powers, coupled with a
historically narrow interpretation of its ability to delegate administrative decision-
making.
The problem is one of both legal structure and political culture. How City Council has
chosen to operate reflects its sense of its institutional role. Councillors see themselves,
in the first instance, as advocates for their constituents on ward-based issues.
Councillors are rewarded at election time on what they have done for their wards, not
necessarily what they have done for Toronto as a whole. The central role that
councillors play in planning decisions within their wards proves how powerful these
incentives are.
But this system is poorly equipped to deal with a future that will soon be upon us.
The new City of Toronto Act will require City Council to make difficult decisions on city-
wide priorities, which will often require City Council to allocate limited resources to
some parts of Toronto but not others. For example, City Council will need to devote
resources to city building projects such as improved transit, which will require
investment in specific parts of the city. At the same time, community investment plans
must be focused on specific neighbourhoods or they will achieve nothing. The allocation
of limited resources to these plans must be done on an equitable and fair-minded basis,
with special focus on at-risk neighbourhoods.
Another issue is policy coordination. To use the community investment example again,
such investment may be more effective if, for instance, transit service to affected areas is
increased. Community investment policy will accordingly have to coordinate with transit
policy.
A New Model – Our Advice &
Recommendations
26 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
A final issue is agenda management. City Council should spend its time on what is truly
important. At present, City Council often spends more time debating items that affect
only one or a handful of wards, or issues not nearly as significant as the files it must
soon address. A debate on community investment must take priority.
For that to happen, Toronto needs a government that deliberates and acts strategically
– at a city-wide level, with a long-term perspective, and through a coordinated policy
approach. Toronto’s government must be democratically accountable to all
Torontonians for delivering on this policy agenda.
The new City of Toronto Act will give Toronto, for the first time, the power to choose
how it governs itself. Torontonians will have the power to choose the system that will
deliver the city we want.
The core principle is that City Council should continue to be the supreme
legislative body with responsibility for city-wide priorities.
However, we feel strongly that the Mayor should be given the tools to provide
strategic leadership for City Council on determining those priorities.
A key tool to assist the Mayor is an Executive Committee -- not with the ability to
enact by-laws, but with a clear mandate for policy integration and agenda
management.
Finally, we propose measures to strengthen public participation and civic
engagement on city-wide issues.
Recommendation One: Strengthen City Council’s ability to focus on
strategic, city-wide priorities
Increase City Council’s term of office from three years to four years
Delegate transactional decision-making to staff, committees of City Council and
other administrative bodies, with appropriate checks and balances
Enforce procedural rules related to agenda deadlines and notice requirements
Adjust the legislative meeting calendar to separate transactional business from
strategic planning and policy-making work
Appoint a full-time Speaker and a Deputy Speaker to preside over City Council
meetings and protect the dignity of City Council’s deliberations through the
enforcement of procedural and behavioural rules
To succeed in surmounting the challenges Toronto faces will require visionary
leadership, imagination, and political courage. More than ever, Toronto will need a
strong City Council that serves as the supreme authority for determining the City’s
strategic policy agenda, and for adopting the budgets that implement that agenda. City
Council is and should remain the supreme legislative decision-making body. With its
ward-based composition – which, as we explain below, we recommend retaining – City
Council is broadly representative of the city and must govern collectively and legislate
on behalf of Toronto’s diverse population.
City Council’s current three-year term of office is problematic. City Council spends its
first year adjusting to new members in its midst, while the new councillors find their feet
and acclimatize themselves to the system. In the third year, City Council moves into
election mode, leaving only one year in the middle to focus on the policy agenda. There
ADVICE AND RECOMMENDATIONS | 27
is widespread support for a four-year term for City Council, especially if it can be
synchronized with Ontario provincial elections, which are now on a fixed four-year
cycle.
However, to effectively exercise Toronto’s new powers under the City of Toronto Act,
City Council must become more deliberative and focus less on transactional matters
and more on setting city-wide plans and priorities. Three changes will help City Council
reorient its work plan and be more strategic: delegation of transactional matters to
committees or staff, better agenda management, and the creation of a Speaker position
to chair City Council meetings.
We anticipate that the new City of Toronto Act will grant City Council extensive powers
of delegation. If City Council wishes to act as the legislative body of a new order of
government, it must adopt a comprehensive policy of delegation. Delegation of
transactional matters will result in a better division of workload and will free up time for
City Council to debate and decide on major policy issues. City Council could delegate
to staff, to committees such as Community Councils, and to new administrative bodies
that City Council may choose to create. Which decisions should be delegated to which
bodies is for City Council to determine.
Better agenda management is crucial to City Council’s ability to focus on its strategic
legislative agenda. The Executive Committee must ensure that City Council’s business is
ordered and prioritized in a planned way.
Another mechanism to help City Council focus on strategic issues is the establishment
of a Speaker who would preside over meetings. This change will enhance deliberations
by allowing Mayors or their alternates to dedicate themselves to driving a policy agenda,
without simultaneously having to serve as an impartial chair. The Speaker’s
responsibilities would include protecting the dignity of City Council’s deliberations.
Fortunately, existing procedural rules are sufficient for this purpose; what has been
lacking is consistent enforcement. A Speaker could enforce these rules without creating
any suspicion of partisan political motivation.
The Speaker and Deputy Speaker would be selected by City Council from among its
own members. To ensure they enjoy the confidence of City Council, they would be
appointed and removed by City Council. The Speaker would be precluded from
participating in City Council and committee debates and voting except within very
narrow confines (e.g. on issues within his or her own ward). A Deputy Speaker would
chair meetings on these very rare occasions.
Recommendation Two: Create an Executive Committee with
responsibility for furthering the City’s agenda
Appointed and chaired by the Mayor with membership comprising the chairs of
Standing Committee, Community Councils (to ensure geographic representation),
the Toronto Transit Commission, and the Deputy Mayor
Responsible for:
Integrating city-wide strategic planning and setting priorities
Linking city-wide priorities to financial resources through the budget process
Coordinating City Council’s agenda management and managing the flow of policy
issues to City Council
Ensuring that Standing Committees develop work plans consistent with the City’s
strategic direction
28 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
Salaries of councillors serving on the Executive Committee should be raised to
recognize their increased responsibilities. The amount of this increase should be
determined following a review of practices used in other cities and orders of
government
Receive advice and analytical support from a dedicated office consisting of
professional, non-partisan staff, free of obligations to individual programs
In our model, the Executive Committee would be a planning and coordinating body
providing a mechanism for the Mayor to develop and set strategic priorities, to integrate
the policies to implement them, and to link these priorities to the budget in order to
ensure that service priorities reflect the City’s financial capacity. It would not have the
power to enact by-laws, an authority that remains with City Council.
As we explain below, the Executive Committee must assist City Council with agenda
management, ensuring that City Council’s business is ordered and prioritized in a
planned way.
The inclusion of Standing Committee chairs on the Executive Committee will facilitate
policy integration. The Executive Committee would knit together the work of Standing
Committees which at present operate independently and often in isolation from each
other. The Standing Committee chairs would be responsible for driving City Council
determined strategic policies and priorities through the committee process.
The presence of Community Council chairs will ensure that the Executive Committee
will not exclude any section of the city, a concern that was expressed to us by a number
of councillors and was raised in every community-based consultation.
The TTC chair should be included to ensure that this service, with its large budget,
significant policy mandate and obvious relationship to other major policy files (e.g.
economic development and planning) is represented.
Under our proposal, the Executive Committee would comprise approximately 25% of
City Council. This is an optimal size, and we recommend that membership on the
Executive Committee be capped at a maximum of 30% of City Council.
In recognition of their increased responsibilities councillors serving on the Executive
Committee should receive increased remuneration. The amount of increase should be
determined following a review of practices used in other cities and orders of
government.
In order for the Executive Committee to succeed in fulfilling its coordinating role, it
must be properly supported. In governments where similar bodies exist, advice and
analytical support is provided by a dedicated office consisting of professional, non-
partisan staff, free of obligations to individual programs. The City should look to
examples in other large governments.
ADVICE AND RECOMMENDATIONS | 29
Recommendation Three: Broaden the Mayor’s scope of responsibility
to reflect the public’s expectations of the position and to enable the
Mayor to lead effectively.
With the Executive Committee, at the beginning of each term, set a multi-year, city-
wide vision and strategic directions for City Council’s approval
Hold four annual meetings with members of the public (“Mayor’s days”) in different
parts of the city to receive public feedback and input on the City’s direction
Deliver an annual state-of-the-city address reporting on the achievement of the
strategic directions
Appoint and remove the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Standing Committees,
Community Councils, the Toronto Transit Commission, and the Deputy Mayor
Make recommendations to City Council through the Executive Committee on
major city-wide policy issues
Lead a budget process supporting strategic directions; sponsor the budget in City
Council
Speak for Toronto nationally and internationally
Negotiate with other orders of government, within broad policy parameters
established by City Council
Serve as a signing officer on intergovernmental agreements (but with no unfettered
right to bind the City)
Direct, appoint and dismiss the City Manager
Toronto’s citizens expect their Mayor to be democratically accountable for delivering
on a city-wide policy agenda, yet the current system insulates the Mayor from that very
electoral accountability. The Mayor wields only one vote on City Council. This does not
mean that she or he is equal to other councillors; the Mayor is elected city-wide, and
often wields considerable political power. This power is often exercised behind the
scenes. The way to enhance democratic accountability, and transparency, is to explicitly
provide the Mayor with the tools to lead. We list these tools above.
In enhancing the ability of the Mayor to lead, we reject the adoption of a Strong Mayor
model for Toronto. Some have suggested that Toronto adopt a Strong Mayor model,
like those found in American cities, such as Chicago and New York. In Strong Mayor
systems, Mayors have extraordinary powers in the legislative process. In some cities,
they can veto City Council decisions, in others they can enact by-laws that only a super-
majority of City Council can overturn. In some cities, the Mayor does not even sit as a
member of City Council.
The adoption of such a Strong Mayor model would “presidentialize” Toronto’s system
of democratic government. We recommend that this model be rejected once and for
all. Strong Mayor systems are derived from a vastly different political heritage in which
there is a marked separation of executive and legislative functions. Such a model is not
consistent with the Parliamentary tradition, in which the executive sits in and is drawn
from the legislature. Although our proposed model for democratic government in
Toronto is not exactly Parliamentary in character, it is clearly modeled on it. A critical
feature of Parliamentary democracy is that a government must muster a majority to
carry a vote.
30 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
Addressing the challenges facing Toronto requires action from all three orders of
government – municipal, provincial, and federal. Intergovernmental relations in Canada
involve negotiations between those different levels. The City of Toronto Act will formally
permit Toronto to participate in those discussions. However, for Toronto to participate
fully and effectively, the Mayor must provide political leadership and speak on behalf of
the city. Empowering the Mayor within Toronto will empower Toronto within Canada.
Recommendation Four: Ensure Standing Committees move the city-
wide agenda forward
Establish work plans that demonstrate how they will advance the strategic priorities
Committee chairs would be expected to champion the recommendations of their
Standing Committees at City Council.
Review the process and approach to deputations, ensuring a respectful environment
is created, and that the public has broadened access
Form a new Standing Committee focusing on economic development and
competitiveness
Standing committees are City Council’s deliberative bodies and an integral part of the
legislative process. They deliberate on policy matters for recommendation to City
Council and provide the opportunity for formal public input through deputations. Their
work plans should be directed by the strategic plan and policy agenda set out by the
Mayor and approved by City Council at the outset of term. We are recommending a
new Standing Committee where we identified a gap, however, beyond that we believe
any change to the number and composition of Standing Committees should be
determined by City Council.
Many in the community expressed dissatisfaction with the deputation process, and felt
they were not accorded sufficient respect when they appeared before Standing
Committees. We believe the system and approach needs to be reviewed.
Recommendation Five: Empower Community Councils
Exercise delegated local transactional decision-making authority, governed by
Council-approved policy
Conduct a minimum of four public engagement sessions annually within their areas,
to provide community input into key issues, such as the setting of strategic
directions and budget
Determine a more effective method of ensuring neighbourhood input using the
City’s 140 identified neighbourhoods, to feed into local priority setting and service
planning
Meet in the evening, when more community members are able to attend
One of the most consistent messages we heard during our consultations was the need
for increased delegation of decision-making to Community Councils, provided that
there is an appeal mechanism to City Council. Delegation should be expressly subject to
Council approved policies.
It is felt that delegation will accomplish two objectives: it will free up time on the City
Council agenda to enable City Council to focus on strategic policy issues, and it will
ADVICE AND RECOMMENDATIONS | 31
delegate decision-making to the most effective level of the system, allowing local
decisions to be made locally. We agree that some matters should be delegated to
Community Councils, e.g., stop signs on local roads, installation of speed bumps and
speed humps, sign variances, etc. However, final decision-making on planning
applications should not be delegated to Community Councils; the decision-making
process for planning matters should be considered with the implementation of our
advice outlined in Recommendation Eight.
Delegation must be accompanied by new checks and balances to prevent the abuse of
power. Moreover, aggrieved parties should have grounds for review of delegated
decisions. In some cases, the City could establish administrative tribunals to hear appeals
of staff decisions. In others, the City may wish to allow a minimum number of
councillors (e.g. five) to bring issues to the floor of City Council, which could then
override a delegated decision. Care must be taken to ensure, however, that mechanisms
for City Council oversight do not make delegation illusory.
An equally important role for Community Councils is as a mechanism to re-connect our
government with neighbourhoods and communities in a more systematic way on issues
of both city-wide and local importance. This goal can be accomplished by requiring
Community Councils to conduct local engagement sessions on a regular basis. The
result will be a stronger connection between neighbourhoods, and the development and
implementation of city-wide priorities. The inclusion of Community Council chairs on
the Executive Committee will also serve to institutionalize the link between
neighbourhoods and Toronto’s strategic agenda.
We heard many concerns that Community Council boundaries are artificial and do not
follow natural geographic or community lines and are not necessarily the best forums
for raising neighbourhood concerns. The City has already identified 140 neighbourhoods
that can be used as the basis for more effective priority setting and service planning.
Recommendation Six: Enhance civic engagement and community
involvement
In consultation with the community, the City develop a shared, common civic
engagement strategy that integrates and builds upon activities currently undertaken
In particular, use this engagement strategy in the 13 neighbourhoods identified as
having priority for infrastructure investment under the Toronto Strong
Neighbourhoods Strategy
Civic engagement is part of governance. It is critical that City Council’s governance
reform include actions to improve civic engagement.
Community voices were loud and clear on the need to increase the diversity of City
Council, to involve and engage youth in municipal politics, to educate new Canadians
about their political rights, and to reach out to disenfranchised or marginalized groups.
Suggestions we believe are important for consideration include:
City Council adopt a plan to increase voter turnout through outreach and education
City Council consider ways residents using City services can be informed about City
issues through existing infrastructure (schools, libraries, recreation centres)
The City work with School Boards to ensure that civic engagement is addressed in
the curriculum
City Council meet outside the downtown core on occasion
32 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number and nature of civic
engagement activities – those expressly designed to allow citizens to influence budget,
policy, or services. Engagement in a city of Toronto’s size, diversity and complexity is
challenging. Add to that the City’s commitment to engage disenfranchised populations
and it becomes clear that the City requires great agility in terms of how, when and
where civic engagement activities are organized.
One key problem identified in our research is that the City lacks a common
understanding of civic engagement. To citizens, engagement includes everything from
volunteerism to running for elected office and from public consultation on policy
initiatives to serving on task forces and working groups.
Engagement initiatives require a shared, common strategy. Moreover, the process used
to frame, develop and implement this engagement strategy should be a model of
progressive civic engagement practice itself.
While the City should take care to develop its citizen engagement efforts across the
city, there is an opportunity to pay special attention to the 13 neighbourhoods identified
in the Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy for priority infrastructure investment. Since
these neighbourhoods are targeted for increased investment, it makes sense to involve
their residents in setting priorities and allocating resources.
One of the shadows cast by amalgamation is the distance many suburban Torontonians
feel from City Hall –literally and figuratively. Over and over again, we heard about the
need for activities to take place in these communities, for the Mayor and councillors to
be visible, and to meet on occasion outside the downtown core.
Recommendation Seven: Retain ward-based representation
City Council maintain wards and reject at-large election of councillors to help
ensure that marginalized communities are not further disadvantaged
We heard a wide range of proposals on the effectiveness of the ward-based electoral
system. Those concerned with City Council’s ability to deliberate and act strategically
emphasized the need for electoral reform. As an alternative, several suggested that an
at-large electoral system, either on a city-wide basis or within defined geographic
districts, would serve Toronto better by forcing those elected at-large to put the good
of the city first.
While we understand these proposals, we have decided to reject them.
In an at-large election, citizens from low-income, diverse, and at-risk neighbourhoods
have less chance of being represented on City Council. Wards with a lower median
income have lower voter turnout than wards which are more affluent.
We fear that at-large elections could result in particular parts of the city being more
heavily represented on City Council, thus shaping Council’s legislative agenda. This
would work to the disadvantage of precisely those Torontonians whose voices must be
heard in City Hall. Compounding matters would be the significant costs of mounting an
election campaign on an at-large basis, which would serve as a barrier to equal political
participation by candidates of relatively modest means.
ADVICE AND RECOMMENDATIONS | 33
Recommendation Eight: A better planning process
Mayor to champion the completion and adoption by City Council of the
comprehensive zoning by-law to implement the new Official Plan, and City Council
commit the necessary resources to complete the process
Require a 2/3 majority whenever City Council wishes to make an amendment to the
new comprehensive zoning by-law, which professional planning staff determines is
contrary to the new Official Plan
In anticipation of Ontario Municipal Board reform, establish a Toronto Appeal
Board for Committee of Adjustment decisions
Establish a professional design review panel to review and amend select
development plans from a design perspective, working within Council-approved
guidelines
The planning process is central to city government. At present, Toronto has both too
much and too little local control over planning issues. On the one hand, good city-wide
planning is often trumped by local concerns. On the other hand, a provincially-appointed
administrative tribunal, the OMB, sits in review of every planning decision in Toronto,
ranging from minor variances approved by the Committee of Adjustment right up to the
Official Plan itself.
The status quo is far from ideal. Moreover, Toronto’s planning process must change to
meet the challenges ahead. However, Toronto cannot achieve meaningful institutional
reform alone. It will require further negotiations with the Province over the role of the
OMB. It is safe to assume that the OMB will retain its current role unless the City
establishes processes of its own to serve as a check on involvement by local councillors
in the planning process.
We recommend that Toronto enter into negotiations with the Province at the earliest
possible opportunity to change the role of the OMB in planning and development
decisions. The basis for negotiations should focus on limiting the OMB’s role to two
types of situations: (a) procedural impropriety on the part of the City, and (b)
substantive review when City decisions contradict a provincial plan or are inconsistent
with provincial policy. The OMB would hear the former type of case if it granted leave
to appeal. The latter sort of case, by contrast, it would hear automatically. However,
OMB hearings for compliance with provincial plans and policy would not be “de novo”
(i.e., starting over from scratch), which should expedite proceedings considerably.
In addition the City should establish its own Appeal Board for Committee of
Adjustment decisions. This would be consistent with the grant of broader governmental
powers anticipated under a new City of Toronto Act. There is no reason why a
government so-empowered should not establish its own quasi-judicial bodies that allow
decisions about Toronto matters to be made by Torontonians. We leave the details of
composition, duties and procedures to a further in-depth review but urge City Council
to seize the opportunity to use its newly granted powers.
City Council must also adopt checks and balances within its planning process to protect
the Official Plan from amendments which erode the city-wide vision. Since the creation
of this process would require amendments to the Planning Act, it should therefore form
part of the City’s negotiations with the Province on OMB reform.
The key is the adoption of the comprehensive zoning by-law currently under
preparation by the City Planning Division. The Mayor should champion the completion
34 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
and adoption of this by-law by City Council. This new comprehensive zoning by-law
would contain detailed, site-specific rules for the City. Zoning by-law amendments
would be reviewed by staff to determine their consistency with the Official Plan.
Amendments which further the vision of the Official Plan could be approved by a simple
majority of City Council. But amendments which run contrary to the Official Plan would
require a 2/3 majority of City Council to be adopted. This super-majority requirement
would protect the city-wide interest in planning decisions while allowing for political
oversight. It may require changes to provincial legislation and would be part of
discussions with the Province on the reform of the OMB.
In sum, City Council would set policy by adopting the comprehensive zoning by-law,
would delegate the authority to staff to implement it, and would retain ultimate political
control. For Toronto to function as an order of government, delegation to staff to
implement Council-approved policies is an absolute must. Moreover, without
appropriate safeguards in place within Toronto’s planning process, the Province is
unlikely to proceed with significant OMB reform.
High quality design of the city’s built environment is in the public interest, fundamental
to economic success, competitive advantage and quality of life. Many cities around the
world use design review panels to achieve and uphold standards of design excellence
and to make an important contribution to the development approvals process. We
recommend the establishment of a professional design review panel to review and
amend select development plans from a design perspective, working within Council-
approved guidelines.
Recommendation Nine: Budgeting tied to strategic priorities
The Executive Committee must set out an overall vision for the budget (operating
and capital) and realign resources and/or reduce costs as necessary, based on the
overall vision
The budget process and outcomes must be tied to and implement City Council’s
strategic priorities
Move towards a budget process that places more emphasis on the upfront work of
priority setting and committee review, and where the final step of the budget
process involves City Council voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to adopt the budget as a whole
At present, given its largely fixed nature, Toronto’s annual operating budget is very
closely aligned with the previous year’s experience, with most changes in operating-
expense items containing only adjustments for inflation. It is extraordinarily difficult to
realign resources and begin new initiatives, even of a very modest nature, in an
environment of severe fiscal limitations. Moving forward, in the absence of significant
new revenues, it is clear that the budget process must continue to be directed in a fair
manner, but ensure that city-wide issues receive appropriate weight with a firm hand.
We have recommended roles for the Mayor and the proposed Executive Committee in
sponsoring and integrating the budget. These should provide the tools necessary to
remake the City’s budget process so that it addresses the following key elements:
Establishment of meaningful priorities by City Council based on the
recommendation of the Executive Committee
Clear direction to staff to guide budget preparation
Rigorous review by Standing Committees and the Executive Committee
ADVICE AND RECOMMENDATIONS | 35
The ultimate goal should be to avoid the line-by-line review of the City’s budget on the
floor of City Council and invest more in the upfront work of priority setting and
committee review.
Recommendation Ten: Strengthen the commitment to economic
development and competitiveness
City Council must act immediately to create a new Standing Committee, the
Economic Development and Competitiveness Committee
The Mayor must provide the leadership on this policy matter
Economic development and competitiveness must be a major priority for City Council.
Toronto needs to enhance its ability to proactively attract and retain jobs and
investment. Our city government should foster a competitive spirit and deploy tools to
further Toronto’s economic development. These matters demand a separate, focused
Standing Committee devoted to them.
Recommendation Eleven: Engendering trust, respect and civility at
City Hall
City Council institute sanctions for breaches of confidentiality by deeming breaches
to be offences under the Provincial Offences Act
Justice Bellamy’s report on the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry and External
Contracts Inquiry spoke in great detail to the issues of trust, respect and civility at City
Hall. We heard about these same problems during our review. Ill-mannered behaviour
impedes progress on policy issues and diminishes City Council’s stature. There is an
absence of respect between and among members of City Council and staff. While City
Council has rules in place to guide decorum and parliamentary behaviour, they are
neither followed nor enforced consistently.
Confidentiality is a serious problem. Breaches of confidentiality of items discussed at in-
camera meetings has caused considerable embarrassment both for the City and for
individuals, and impeded the work of city government. Many, including Justice Bellamy,
point to the need for sanctions and one way to address this is to deem breaches to be
offences under the Provincial Offences Act with fines up to $5,000.
We want to emphasize that we agree with Justice Bellamy’s conclusions on these
matters. We strongly encourage City Council and senior staff to understand the
organizational impact of the culture of mistrust and lack of respect, and take steps to
make positive changes.
36 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE | 37
Although our panel was asked to look at Toronto’s system of self-government, as our
report makes clear, it is hard to separate how we govern ourselves from the broader
challenges facing Toronto. During our deliberations, we identified three important issues
critical to Toronto’s future which must be addressed. These are: (a) securing a new
fiscal deal for Toronto, (b) the paramount importance of sustaining the Nation’s Cities
agenda with the federal and provincial governments and (c) regional government.
A New Fiscal Deal for Toronto
We were often told during our consultations–especially by councillors–that without a
new financial deal for Toronto, the City of Toronto Act will not live up to its full potential.
Their concern is that if Toronto turns to the Province to fund budget shortfalls, as it
now does on an annual basis, Toronto will be told to raise its own revenues through its
new revenue-raising tools.
To be sure, the new streams of revenue envisioned from the exercise of powers
granted by the new City of Toronto Act will afford Toronto some flexibility in enhancing
local services. Moreover, it will give Toronto the ability to engage in a wide-ranging
debate over the appropriate mix between property taxes, consumption taxes and user
charges to fund municipal services.
However, the larger issue is that Toronto has been asked to fund income redistributive
services from a property tax base that should be supported through other sources of
revenue. As a matter of public policy, it is simply wrong to fund redistributive social
programs from the property tax base. Rather, they should be funded from income taxes,
a tax base which rightly belongs to the Province and the federal government.
Moreover, the new City of Toronto Act will not increase the levels of provincial and
federal support for the TTC. Some progress has been made during this term of City
Council. The City now receives a share of provincial and federal gas tax funds, and
funding improvements have been made in the areas of child care and social housing. But
there is still much work to do.
There is a need for new financial arrangements for Toronto. The City of Toronto Act and
the reform of Toronto’s system of democratic self-government are the first steps
toward that goal because they give Toronto a seat at the table with the other two
orders of government. The ultimate solution to the city’s fiscal issues will result from
ongoing discussions between the City, provincial and federal governments.
The Cities Agenda
The new City of Toronto Act is an important component of what is now known as the
Cities Agenda. In the broadest possible terms, the Cities Agenda calls for nothing less
than a fundamental reshaping of the institutional and fiscal architecture of Canada to
take into account that we have become a country of city dwellers.
Looking to the Future
38 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
The call for a new deal for Canada’s cities has been endorsed, to varying degrees, by the
provincial and federal governments. However, what bears repeating is that the Cities
Agenda has two different components. The first is a policy to empower municipalities,
both jurisdictionally and fiscally, to take control over a wide range of policy areas –
including land use planning, transportation, and economic development – which are
integral to the enhancement of Canada’s urban centres as communities in which we all
wish to live and work. A new Act and a new fiscal deal fall into this category.
But in our desire to empower Toronto and to enhance its autonomy, we must not
forget the second component of the Cities Agenda – that the federal and provincial
governments, in their areas of responsibility, make the health of Toronto and Canada’s
principal urban centres a matter of the highest national priority. Even the most
expansive version of autonomy for Toronto, for example, would leave macroeconomic
policy and immigration policy in the hands of the federal government. Even after the City
of Toronto Act, the Province will retain responsibility for education and health care. Both
orders of government are actively engaged in promoting the innovation agenda, which is
critical to Toronto’s long-term economic prospects. And although Toronto must play a
central role in addressing the growing inequality within Toronto, the principal policy
tools belong to the federal and provincial governments.
The two halves of the Cities Agenda are linked. The adoption of the new City of Toronto
Act, and reform of Toronto’s system of democratic self-government, will enable the
Mayor and City Council to assume a seat at the table with the other two orders of
government. But then it is for Toronto’s political leadership to show imagination, vision
and political courage, not only to change how Toronto governs itself, but also to drive
public policy at the federal and provincial levels in a new direction.
Regional Government
The GTA is an interdependent city-region with many issues that cross boundaries.
Residents of the GTA often live in one municipality, and drive through a second to
reach their place of employment in a third. As the Province recently recognized in the
Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan, there is a clear and immediate need for
coordinated planning across the entire region to address development and
transportation. At issue are both our economic prosperity and our quality of life.
The need for regional decision-making raises the question of regional government.
Regional government is not a new issue. During the 1990’s, numerous task forces, as
well as several municipal governments, concluded that there was a need for a
coordinated mechanism to deal with the growth pressures facing the GTA.
The Province has progressed haltingly toward this objective. Greater Toronto Services
Board (GTSB) attempted to promote coordinated decision-making amongst
municipalities within the GTA and to exercise general direction and control of GO
Transit. The GTSB was a first step in the right direction, but was eliminated by the
Province as of December 31, 2001.
The current provincial government has taken action on many regional issues. The
Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan and the 10-year Infrastructure Strategy Plan
are two cases in point. However, the Province also promised to create a Greater
Toronto Transportation Authority (GTTA) with the “clout and resources” to address
gridlock. Unfortunately, the GTTA remains a proposal.
The reform of Toronto’s system of self-government should pave the way for the
establishment of a regional governing body.
APPENDIX 1 – PROCESS & SUMMARY OF INPUT | 39
In preparation for presenting its advice to City Council, our panel spent four months
meeting with and talking to hundreds of people in scheduled meetings and interviews,
including councillors, the Mayor, senior staff, representatives of various community
groups and organizations, and the public. The people we met with included
representatives of the following: Toronto Act Now Coalition, Toronto Board of Trade,
the Broadbent Group, Scarborough Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Greater
Toronto, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN),
Toronto Women’s Call to Action, African Canadian Heritage Association, Horn-of-
Africa Parents Association, Malvern Family Resource Centre, Salvation Army, South
Asian Family Support Services, Warden Woods Community Centre, the Working
Group on Immigration and Refugee Issues and others. Written submissions enriched
and deepened the discussion.
One of our goals was to offer as many opportunities as we could, within our short time-
frame, to hear from the general public. We accessed the public information from the
June 22 joint Toronto-Ontario consultation on the City of Toronto Act which was
attended by over 700 people in four locations and where many governance ideas were
discussed. Over sixty people responded to our on-line citizen survey. We hosted a
public session on November 15 at the St. Lawrence Market North which was attended
by approximately 150 people.
Considering that we started with only the most rudimentary knowledge, the learning
curve was steep. However, the help we received from everyone we met with has made
it possible to gain sufficient insights and develop concrete recommendations. The panel
greatly appreciates the thoughtfulness and candour of those we met. Each and every
individual was passionate about our city.
Summary of Input
The input from our consultation was very diverse and we heard much about perceived
problems with the current system. We received advice along a wide continuum: from
re-creating the former 2-tier model, to the view that the system is working fine as it is,
to transforming to something substantially different.
The recommendations and commentaries were generally provided within certain
tensions inherent to the governance system and its decision-making process. These
tensions highlight the complexity of city government.
Within these tensions, several themes were apparent, and views were often
contradictory. There was no clear consensus on most issues, and points of view differed
depending upon people’s conceptualization of the problems and their individual
experiences. The following information, while not all inclusive of every comment we
received, highlights the spectrum of views.
Appendix 1 – Consultation Process
and Summary of Input
40 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
Themes
City Council’s Strategic Policy Capacity:
City Council is too big to be strategic, it manages but it does not govern; local
issues dominate and overload Council meetings and the legislative calendar
City Council is doing its job well, making final decisions and providing an effective
check and balance
The Mayor does not have sufficient leadership tools
The Mayor exercises power through the position and has enough strength
The Mayor has few legislated powers but the public does not know this and expects
accountability
It’s important for the Mayor to participate in debate and fight for her or his view
Party politics is not good for representation, City Council members should be able
to vote their conscience; without party lines it is difficult to forge a consensus on
key policies
The current system encourages compromise and therefore better policy decisions
The current three-year term makes it difficult to develop policy momentum
Accountability:
When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge
Members are accountable only at election time
Election time accountability is not enough
No accountability measures are in place for City Council decision-making
Mayor is seen to be in charge but lacks the tools to carry out the roles the public
expects
An order of autonomous government must have a rigorously accountable
governance structure
No clear accountability link between City Council and services – which of these is in
charge?
City wide vs Local
Strategic vs Efficient
Efficient vs Democratic
Participatory vs Representation through election
Good for city vs Good for ward
Power for all vs Power in hands of few
Transparent vs Behind closed doors
The system works vs The status quo not on
The City is in a financial straight
jacket
vs The City won’t make hard choices
The City is part of a region vs The City competes with the region
The Mayor has the leadership
platform
vs The Mayor is one vote on City
Council
APPENDIX 1 – PROCESS & SUMMARY OF INPUT | 41
City Council’s Connection to the People:
Amalgamation resulted in a disconnection with people
This disconnection is manifested by low voter turnout, especially in outlying wards
There is a physical remoteness of City Council from the people
The deputation process is ineffective, there is no real dialogue, no real respect for
deputants
Formal meetings are transactional, not transformative
Lobbyists and professional deputants crowd out public speaking time at Community
Council meetings
Meetings are during the day which precludes those with day jobs from participation
Proliferation of business through notices of motion (late business added to agendas)
reduces public notification and input
Efficiency and the Legislative Process:
The legislative process is unsustainable, over 9,000 agenda items in 2004
The system is too big for a legislative process designed for small municipalities
There is no distinction in the approval process between routine transactions and
significant policies and programs
Too much time spent on small matters, not enough time on big strategic issues. “No
one could seriously suggest that the parliament of Canada should debate whether a
two-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway should have solid or broken
yellow lines.” (Justice Bellamy)
Debate and/or democracy is passionate and messy but local government values both
efficiency and full participation in decision-making process
City Council should delegate more decision-making authority to Community
Councils and staff with some kind of appeal process to City Council
Too many late entries for the agenda, City Council can’t finish and items keep
getting deferred
Meetings are too long/too numerous vs there should be more frequent meetings
Behaviour:
There is a lack of civility, decorum and respect
The often ill-mannered behaviour impedes progress and diminishes City Council’s
stature
The Chair needs to be consistent in the application of rules and decorum
There is an absence or lack of will to impose discipline tools
Absence of respect between and among staff and City Council members
Breaches of confidentiality are a serious matter that can embarrass, humiliate and
impede the work of city government
Rules and practices are inconsistent with parliamentary principles
42 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
Electoral System:
Change to a four year term -- new councillors spend first year learning the ropes
and final year in a re-election mode
Move to a member at large model
Avoid any move to members at large, too expensive, difficult for women, new
citizens and all but wealthy ward members to mobilize resources
Women and minorities are underrepresented in City Council and on agencies,
boards and commissions – strategies for greater inclusion must be developed
The Budget Process:
City Council should endorse targets and guidelines early in the process and stick to
them
The Mayor should lead and direct the budget process
The Mayor should present the budget to City Council
There should be more public engagement in the budget process
There should be a multiyear operating budget, supported by clear business and
strategic plans and goals for all services
The roles of the Budget Advisory Committee and Standing Committees need to be
better defined in the process
Budgets are seen as something to add to; seldom does discussion ensue about how
to take costs out or redistribute within the budget envelope
The Planning and Development Process:
The ward councillors have a difficult role; they are often in agreement with a
development that their constituents don’t support which unlocks a dance that
usually ends up at the OMB
Planners have a difficult role–balancing city-wide issues, the official plan vision, the
Byzantine complexity of the zoning by-laws, local priorities and the mediation of a
variety of local issues
Good planning is consistently trumped by local politics
If there were clearer rules for planning matters the rules could be enforced by local
planners; this might displace the complex and time consuming process of dealing
excessively with community advocates/ critics/ councillors/ and ultimately the hand
off to the OMB
Some councillors vote against intensification, knowing that either City Council will
either pass the proposal or, if not, the OMB will overturn the decision
Section 37, which trades local community benefits and facilities for height and
density incentives, doesn’t work and should be replaced by a system of development
charges
The OMB should be replaced with a “Toronto Appeal Board”
The OMB works well and should be retained. It would be difficult to keep the
politics out of a local process
OMB should not hear appeals de novo
APPENDIX 2 – RESEARCH PAPER SUMMARY | 43
To help us in our work we looked at governance models and practices and legislative
processes used in other world cities, and reviewed the City’s current civic engagement
practices and future approaches. We commissioned respected academics in these fields
to prepare papers on these topics. We know that models and practices cannot be lifted
from one city and superimposed on another, so we asked the researchers to focus on
effective or innovative practices that could inform governance change in Toronto.
Governance Models and Practices
The governance models and practices scan included New York City, London UK,
Vancouver and Chicago. Vancouver and New York are often cited as cities with
interesting and innovative planning processes, London has undergone relatively recent,
quite significant governance changes, and Chicago is a city comparable to Toronto in
many ways, including its one-tier status.
Very large and complex cities such as New York, Chicago and London have governance
systems which separate executive and legislative functions. The Mayor works with City
Council but is separate from it and there is a clear division of authority. Mayors in these
cities are clearly seen to be in charge of the city government and are held to account by
the electorate.
The Mayors of New York and Chicago have wide-ranging executive responsibilities, up
to and including presidential-like authority to veto ordinances (with a two-thirds
majority of City Council required to overturn the veto), and appointment of key public
service positions. This model tips the balance of power in the Mayor’s direction and is
very different from models in Canadian cities.
London’s recent reforms have established a new model where the Mayor is the chief
executive of London’s strategic authority – the Greater London Assembly (GLA). There
is a distinct separation of powers between the Mayor and the Assembly. The Mayor has
ultimate responsibility for leadership and policy direction, is London’s spokesperson, and
leads the preparation of statutory strategies in four key areas: transport, spatial
development, economic development, and the environment. The Mayor sets budgets for
the GLA, Transport for London, the London Development Agency, the Metropolitan
Police, and London’s fire services. The Assembly has a scrutiny role and works through
a system of committees to scrutinize and investigate the Mayor’s proposals. The
Assembly is responsible for appointing GLA staff including those who work in support of
the Mayor.
Formal party systems are in play in each of the cities reviewed, but they are not
necessarily parliamentary party systems. While the presence of formal party politics may
shape the broad agenda and efficacy of city government, it is not a pre-condition. In any
event, political parties cannot be mandated; they form of their own volition.
Vancouver has employed very innovative citizen engagement strategies around planning
and development and diversity. At the staff level Vancouver relies on integrated service
teams to respond to neighbourhood issues and has integrated the need for dealing with
Appendix 2 –
Research Paper Summary
44 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
a diverse population into its planning function with a position of multi-cultural planner.
Under its charter, Vancouver has sole jurisdiction over planning matters and there is no
oversight body such as the Ontario Municipal Board. Vancouver has delegated planning
permission to appointed officials who are advised by two bodies as they carry out their
planning approval duties. These are the Development Permit Advisory Panel (DPAP) and
its sub-committee, the Urban Design Panel (UDP). DPAP is composed of the Director
of Planning (chair), the City Engineer and the City Manager (or designate), two
community representatives appointed by City Council and two representatives from the
development industry. The UDP is a panel of experts nominated by the British
Columbia Architects’ Society and the British Columbia Institute of Planners. City staff
may seek the advice of these bodies on any development application. Typically however
their role is focused on major or otherwise contentious development proposals. Both
panels have a wide scope for consultation.
London has assigned greater-London-wide planning and development responsibility to
the Mayor. The Mayor must be consulted on planning applications that are considered
of potential strategic importance as defined by national planning policy.
New York City has a very complex planning approval system with many levels of checks.
Applications flow through a local process involving planning staff, community advisory
boards, borough councils, and the City Planning Commission before moving on to full
City Council and Mayoral review.
These planning models point to the complexity of big-city planning and the need for
rigorous review to meet city-wide goals.
Legislative Processes
The legislative processes scan looked at Calgary, the Greater Vancouver Regional
District (GVRD), Montreal and Ottawa. Calgary was chosen because of its reputation
for efficiency. The GVRD is the upper tier of a complex urban agglomeration. Montreal
is characterized by tightly knit decision-making involving a strong executive committee.
Ottawa is the second largest Ontario municipality and is subject to the same basic
legislative regime.
The research showed that procedural and legislative processes and practices in these
jurisdictions are comparable to Toronto’s, but that there are some key potential
differences. The larger size of Toronto City Council expands the potential number of
agenda items and the amount of time consumed in deliberation. Even with system
changes, the time and format of City Council meetings may need to change to improve
City Council’s ability to be both strategic and efficient.
While this research did not uncover a clearly applicable model or practice that fits
perfectly with Toronto’s needs, we feel that, nonetheless, there are elements of practice
that warrant our consideration and we have woven some of these elements into our
advice and recommendations.
Civic Engagement
The civic engagement research paper reviewed engagement activities currently carried
out by the City of Toronto and looked at several examples from elsewhere including:
Montreal’s Office du Consultation Publique, Vancouver Council’s Guiding Principles for
Public Involvement, the Office of Neighbourhood Involvement in Portland Oregon, the
London Civic Forum in London UK, and the participatory budget process used in
Brazilian cities.
APPENDIX 2 – RESEARCH PAPER SUMMARY | 45
The research showed that commitment to and enthusiasm for civic engagement
activities at the City are deep and high, despite capacity issues. There are many
challenges in responding to Toronto’s diversity and complexity and a commitment to
engaging commonly disenfranchised populations. The complexity of the city requires
agility in terms of how, when and where civic engagement activities are organized. A
significant problem is that the City lacks a common definition of civic engagement which
in Toronto includes everything from volunteerism to becoming an elected official.
The paper concluded that no other city in the world is like Toronto; therefore, no
other city provides a neat and easy template to apply here. However, the research
pointed to several important actions that the City can take to improve its approach to
civic engagement and we have incorporated these actions into the recommendations
section of our report.
The following papers are available at
www.toronto.ca/governingtoronto
Selected Urban Governance Models and Practices, Lionel D Feldman Consulting Ltd &
Katherine A. Graham
Civic Engagement--Review and Reflection on Current Practices and Future Approaches,
Pamela Robinson, PhD, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Ryerson University
Transcript of Public Consultation Input, November 15, 2005, St. Lawrence Market
North
46 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
APPENDIX 3 – TERMS OF REFERENCE | 47
Purpose
To provide information, findings and options to City Council so that it can debate
and make decisions about its governance system in order to prepare for and
exercise governmental powers.
To ensure an engagement process with Members of Council, citizens, civic leaders
and other stakeholders so that various points of view and ideas can be heard and
discussed.
To encourage a civil, robust and informed discussion of options among all sectors of
Toronto society interested in a well governed city.
To integrate related issues resulting from the City of Toronto Act review, the final
report of the Bellamy Inquiry and any recommendations pertaining to good
governance, and the ongoing procedures review.
Leadership and Support
The Mayor (as chair) and Policy and Finance Committee will provide political leadership
to the review. A 3-member external advisory panel will participate in the review and
undertake an engagement process with Members of Council, civic leaders, community
members and other key stakeholders. Staff support and professional advice will be
provided by the City Manager and other staff identified by the City Manager as required.
Staff will provide professional expertise and assistance in summarizing findings and
options and will provide information and research, development of detailed work plans,
logistical support, and administrative co-ordination for the review.
Guiding Principles
City Council approved ten governance principles in 1999 and they were reaffirmed
during governance discussions in 2003. These principles will be reviewed and evaluated
as part of the study.
Council’s Governance Principles:
Enable Council to set goals and priorities and adhere to these.
Allow for meaningful opportunities for public input to Council’s decision-making
process.
Ensure that every Member of Council has an important role in the decision-making
process.
Ensure that Council workload is shared as evenly as possible among Members of
Council.
Enable councillors to be held accountable for their decisions.
Be simple and understandable to the public.
Enable the control of municipal expenditures.
Ensure that Standing Committees are where policies are developed for
recommendation to Council and where the implementation of policies is monitored.
Appendix 3 –
Terms of Reference
48 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
Ensure that all Committees of Council add value to the political decision-making
process.
Enable councillors to spend time in their constituencies.
These principles were created for Toronto’s particular governance model and are a
starting point for the review. The principles reflect a model that encourages civic
democracy and the involvement of people in decision-making and that is open and
transparent; a model where policies are considered in public with community input,
where votes are taken in open meetings and the public knows where their elected
representatives stand on issues at all times in the decision-making process.
Study Framework
The following discussion points will provide a preliminary framework for the review and
particularly for the engagement and consultation process:
What actions will set the stage for Council to exercise governmental powers?
What actions will ensure that Council can take a strategic approach on city-wide
issues?
What actions will make the Mayor’s leadership role most effective, given the
responsibilities of this city-wide elected position?
What is the right balance of shared power between the Mayor and Council?
What actions will improve community representation and engagement with the
decision-making process?
What actions will contribute to vibrant and engaged neighbourhoods?
What actions will support councillors to deliver on the priorities of their
neighbourhoods?
What actions will ensure that the interests of residents from diverse communities
with modest income levels are reflected in the decision-making process?
What actions ensure a professional and independent public service?
These discussion points will be further developed for meaningful exploration of
governance options.
APPENDIX 4 –PANEL MEMBER BIOGRAPHIES | 49
Ann Buller
Ann Buller is the President of Centennial College. Her career spans
twenty years in the college system, where her work demonstrates her
belief that colleges must meet the economic and social inclusion
imperatives facing our country. Leadership approaches that enable major
transformational change have become her hallmark, while her
commitment to the values of the Learning Centered College movement
is evidenced in her ability to refocus institutions on learning.
Ms Buller recently served as the Vice President Academic and Chief Learning Officer at
the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), where she established a new vision for
academic and student services– an integrated approach to learning founded on a
portfolio education model. She was the first woman vice president of a college in Nova
Scotia and the first Chief Learning Officer in the country.
Prior to joining NSCC, Ms Buller spent eleven years with Centennial College in a variety
of positions, all of them focusing on students and student success. As Director of
Student Services she partnered with academic colleagues to address retention issues –
earning the College a Noel Levitz Retention Excellence Award. As Vice President
Student Advocacy and Services, Ms Buller established a blueprint for renewed student
services that entrenched the College's commitment to human rights and diversity.
Ms Buller is a Champion and mentor for the Mentoring Partnership, an initiative of The
Maytree Foundation’s Toronto Region Immigration Employment Council (TRIEC). Since
its inception in 2003, TRIEC has been working to improve access to employment for
immigrants by providing instructive mentorships for foreign-trained professionals
together with Toronto’s corporate community.
Significantly, Ms Buller is a community college graduate herself, having studied public
relations at Humber College (1985). She went on to complete a BA in Sociology at York
University in 1995, and a Master of Arts in Education from Central Michigan University
in 1999. She has earned numerous college marketing awards and awards of excellence
for student retention, organizational development and leadership.
Sujit Choudhry
Sujit Choudhry is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law,
University of Toronto, where he is cross-appointed to the Department
of Political Science in the Faculty of Arts and Science. He is also a Senior
Fellow of Massey College. Professor Choudhry holds law degrees from
Oxford, the University of Toronto, and Harvard. Professor Choudhry
was a Rhodes Scholar. He served as law clerk to Chief Justice Antonio
Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Professor Choudhry is one of Canada's leading constitutional scholars. He has published
over 40 articles, book chapters, and reports. Professor Choudhry was a consultant to
the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (the Romanow
Appendix 4 –
Panel Member Biographies
50 | THE CITY WE WANT – THE GOVERNMENT WE NEED
Commission) and the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (the
Naylor Committee), the World Bank Institute at the World Bank, and was part of a
team of foreign constitutional experts working with the Forum of Federations and the
Centre for Policy Alternatives in support of the Sri Lankan peace negotiations. He
served on the Province of Ontario's Academic Advisory Committee on Democratic
Renewal.
Martin Connell
Martin Connell is a well respected business and community leader. He is
a co-owner and co-founder of ACE Bakery Limited. He is also Chair of
the Toronto Community Foundation.
Mr. Connell is also Chair of ProFund Internacional, S.A., former
President of AfriCap MicroVentures Ltd., two investment funds with
interests in local financial institutions providing credit and financial services to low-
income self-employed people in Latin America and Africa.
Mr. Connell holds honorary doctorate degrees from five Canadian universities. His
other honours and awards include: CESO Award for International Development (1997),
Ontario Entrepreneur of the Year Award (1995), the Order of Ontario (1994), The
Pearson Peace Medal from the United Nations Association in Canada (1994) and Officer
of the Order of Canada in 1998.
Mr. Connell co-founded Calmeadow, an organization that supports provision of credit
and financial services to micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries who are unable to
access traditional sources. Since ACE began in 1993, ACE had given a portion of its pre-
tax profits to Calmeadow. Calmeadow has attained self-sufficiency and ACE now
focuses on donating to food and nutrition programs that assist low-income members of
the community, financing culinary scholarships and supporting organic farming initiatives.
| 51
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
He is a co-owner and co-founder of ACE Bakery Limited. He is also Chair of the Toronto Community Foundation
  • Martin Connell
Martin Connell Martin Connell is a well respected business and community leader. He is a co-owner and co-founder of ACE Bakery Limited. He is also Chair of the Toronto Community Foundation.
former President of AfriCap MicroVentures Ltd., two investment funds with interests in local financial institutions providing credit and financial services to lowincome self-employed people in Latin America and Africa
  • S A Mr
Mr. Connell is also Chair of ProFund Internacional, S.A., former President of AfriCap MicroVentures Ltd., two investment funds with interests in local financial institutions providing credit and financial services to lowincome self-employed people in Latin America and Africa.
Connell holds honorary doctorate degrees from five Canadian universities. His other honours and awards include: CESO Award for International Development
  • Mr
Mr. Connell holds honorary doctorate degrees from five Canadian universities. His other honours and awards include: CESO Award for International Development (1997), Ontario Entrepreneur of the Year Award (1995), the Order of Ontario (1994), The Pearson Peace Medal from the United Nations Association in Canada (1994) and Officer of the Order of Canada in 1998.