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EDITORIAL: A lost cause worth fighting for (Aug./Sept. 2018)

September 11th, 2018 · No Comments

We believe that lost causes are the ones worth fighting for. A case in point is the City of Toronto’s battle against the premier’s Better Local Government Act, which cut Toronto City Council from 47 to 25 seats.

It was a move that reinforced the provincial government’s wide-ranging powers over the city, powers that are set out in the Canadian Constitution. It was also a move that Doug Ford never mentioned during the election campaign, and one that seems to have caught his staff and caucus off-guard. His rationale was that it would save taxpayer money and make city council more efficient, and that of the thousands of people he spoke to during the campaign, not one wanted more politicians.

He seems to have inferred from this that they want fewer. We note — not without irony — that the Ontario Legislature just grew from 107 to 124 members as a result of the election. He remains silent on this, and appears to have no plans to reduce the size of the legislature.

At an emergency meeting on August 20, council voted to take the province to court over the act. While the province may have the authority to regulate municipalities, it also has a duty to the city’s residents, who expect and deserve the respect of getting consulted with due notice. This is enshrined in The City of Toronto Act, which requires that the city and province conduct their relationship with “mutual respect, consultation, and cooperation”.

As North America’s fourth largest city, Toronto’s municipal government is larger than many provincial governments. Announcing this act in the middle of the municipal election is hardly respectful of the city, its residents, or to the principles of a well-run democracy. It’s clearly a rash act.

We can’t help but think that Ford’s actions were aimed singularly at Toronto. As a failed mayoral candidate, his thin argument “to get Toronto moving again” reads like a vengeful tantrum.

Are Ontario’s other 443 municipalities well-oiled machines not in need of provincial fixing? City councillors provide essential services in making the city accountable to its taxpayers. Under the Ford legislation each of the 25 Toronto city councillors, in a city of 2.8 million, will need to serve, on average, 112,000 constituents each. In all probability, not everyone will get their calls returned. By contrast, the City of Kitchener with a population of 204,000 and 20 city councillors has one representative for every 10,200 residents. If the issue is excessive expense on political representation, it strikes us that Kitchener could do with some trimming. But that’s not really the issue is it?

In a preliminary written submission before the hearing on August 31, lawyers for the province wrote, “This court should be particularly cautious about intervening in an ongoing electoral process.” This sounds eerily like what the province just did.

Those same lawyers for the province, in a scramble to make up good reasons for the act and its urgency, have made voter parity the central thrust (not something Mr. Ford thought to mention or appears to give a damn about), which means that all votes should have equal weight and all wards be equally balanced in population size.

However, that concept was central to the nearly four-year review conducted by independent consultants hired by the city, who recommended the 47-ward option approved by council in 2016. The city has already been deeply engaged in the principles expected by the Supreme Court about effective representation.

As for the savings, the city estimates that the savings brought to taxpayers by reducing council size and having to hire more staff to help councillors to do their jobs, are a paltry $2.04 per resident.

Two dollars versus an immeasurable cost to local democracy. This is a battle worth fighting, even though it’s a long shot.

 

READ MORE EDITORIALS: 

EDITORIAL: Reclaiming our city (Summer 2018)

EDITORIAL: City staff ignore bike lanes (July 2018)

EDITORIAL: The market has no moral compass (Election Special 2018)

EDITORIAL: Lessons to be learned from Excessive Force (Spring 2018)

EDITORIAL: A social contract is a precious thing (March 2018)

EDITORIAL: Intolerance leading to Quebec’s decline (Dec. 2017)

EDITORIAL (Nov. 2017): Student safety suffers as trustees cave

EDITORIAL: Pandering to religious intolerance (October 2017)

EDITORIAL: Bike lanes, good for business (Fall 2017)

EDITORIAL: Don’t sacrifice safety for political gain (August 2017)

EDITORIAL: Thank you Mr. Asti (July 2017)

EDITORIAL: A watershed moment (June 2017)

EDITORIAL: Revoke U of T’s unchecked “licence to build” (May 2017)

EDITORIAL: Westbank’s positive precedent (April 2017)

EDITORIAL: Foreign buyers tax a necessary cliff jump (March 2017)

Tags: Annex · Editorial · Opinion