So it’s official; Doug Ford, disrupting in the style of Donald Trump, will soon present legislation to axe the number of Toronto wards from what would have been 47 to 25. Ford, looking confident and as if he is hitting his stride, made the announcement at a press conference this morning. Calling Toronto Council, ‘The most dysfunctional arena in the country’, he revealed that city wards will be gone; instead, councillors will represent areas that are identical to federal / provincial ridings. After the next election, Wards 11 and 12 will be known as York South-Weston and represented by just one councillor.
Locally, Frances Nunziata and Frank DiGiorgio represent York South-Weston at Council and one of those two will not be returning after October if they both choose to fight for the YSW seat. Many other familiar faces will not be back after October. The bad news is that it might be harder to get in touch with a councillor who will now have twice as many constituents. On the plus side, a smaller number at council meetings will find the process of passing legislation quicker and easier. A smaller number will mean greater name recognition, scrutiny and accountability for individual councillors.
There will be a lot of people very disappointed with the decision. There will be worries about a loss of democracy and representation. There may be a legal challenge. The bottom line is that in Ontario, city councils are ‘creatures of the province’ and the higher level of government holds sway.
I don’t think anyone will miss a larger council’s decisions despite the recent flurry of common sense legislation coming from the rotunda this week (apart from ShotSpotter). Frankly, the record of Toronto Council is lousy. These are the people who have brought us neglect and mismanagement of public housing and transit, a subservience to developers, a proposed one-stop subway, threadbare infrastructure and dangerous streets for pedestrians and cyclists. On that basis alone, at least half deserve to be turfed. Will fewer councillors produce a less democratic council? With many wards failing to achieve a 50% election turnout, probably no less democratic than it is today.
Nominations for council have been extended until Sept 14 but the election date will still be Oct 22.