Toronto’s “Muscular Mayor” plan. What do you think?

The way the City of Toronto is governed is in transition. The Province will be granting the City new powers over development and taxation, and the structure of the city’s government will change with them.

Below is a bulletin from a citizen’s group called Direct City Action – an organization that includes former Mayor John Sewell. Direct City Action is highlighting its concerns about the current move toward concentrating a host of new powers in the office of the Mayor, and is urging residents to make their views heard. The BWVRA has not addressed the issue, nor has it had direct dealings with Direct City Action. The following is for your information.

You can check out the DCA website for more.

Direct City Action is a community organization interested in improved governance of, and financing for, the City of Toronto. We have been following developments at City Hall and Queen’s Park regarding proposed changes to the office of Mayor, and are concerned with the changes and the haste with which they are being pushed to implementation.

We want to alert you to our concerns and to seek your assistance in ensuring that a better approach is adopted.

Toronto City Council has decided in principle that the best way to restructure Toronto is to give the Mayor substantially increased powers.

They have agreed, without adequate notice to the public that:

  • The Mayor would appoint the chairs of all Standing Committees and the TTC;
  • The Mayor would appoint the chairs of all Community Councils;
  • The Mayor would appoint the Deputy Mayor;
  • The Deputy Mayor, the Chairs of the Standing Committees and the TTC, and the Chairs of the Community Councils would form the Executive Committee. (So, the whole Executive Committee would consist of people appointed by the Mayor);
  • The Executive Committee would shape the city budget and agenda;
  • The Mayor would appoint the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) who would be responsible to the Mayor.
  • The CAO would directly or indirectly appoint all other city staff.

This is the Strong Mayor Proposal, and the changes agreed to by City Council are mirrored in Section 151 of the proposed New City of Toronto Act, Bill 53, which gives the Provincial Cabinet the power to require the Mayor to make these appointments.

We believe there is a better way to restructure the city to improve governance.

The better way should not assume that whoever is Mayor is the person with the one true way to solve the city’s many problems. In fact, we know from the past that a Mayor can be the problem rather than the solution.

We also know that concentration of power defeats the principle of open and democratic government. The most recent commentator on this subject is Mr. Justice Gomery whose criticism of the concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office should give us serious pause, before adopting a similar structure in Toronto’s governance.

We believe compellingly, that the public deserves to be thoughtfully and carefully consulted, before far reaching changes are made to the structures by which we are governed.

Fortunately, the issue will be before each of the Community Councils on April 4, 2006.

There will also be four public information sessions as follows:

Etobicoke Collegiate Institute: 86 Montgomery Rd. (n/e of Islington & Bloor), Thursday, March 2, 7 – 9:30 p.m. Transit: Royal York Station – west on Bloor, north on Montgomery

St Lawrence Hall: 155 King St. East (s/w of King & Jarvis), Saturday, March 4, 2 – 4:30 p.m. Transit: King Streetcar

Memorial Hall: 5100 Yonge St. below the North York Public Library (Yonge n/w of Sheppard), Monday, March 6, 7 – 9:30 p.m. Transit: North York Centre Station

Scarborough Civic Centre: 150 Borough Drive (n/w of McCowan & Ellesmere), Wednesday, March 8, 7 – 9:30 p.m. Transit: Scarborough Centre Station

You must register to participate in these sessions. Registration begins on Tuesday, February 21, 2006. Please call Access Toronto at 416-338-0338. TTY Line 416-338-0889. Registration phone lines are open weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Seating at the consultations is limited.

If you wish more information on this matter please visit our web-site . Please contact David White at dvdwht@sympatico.ca if you wish to help us win this issue at City Hall and Queen’s Park.

We welcome you to our meetings, the time and place of which can be found on our web-site.

We would appreciate it if you would forward this notice to anyone you feel is interested in achieving an open and broadly democratic form of governance for our city.

Thank you,

David White
Direct City Action