Councillor Shelley Carroll

Find out the latest news and upcoming events in your neighborhood. Politics, news, views, and links from Ward 33 Councillor Shelley Carroll.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New Powers New Governance

A Joint Submission from Councillor Carroll
And Executive Assistant, Justin Peters

These are heady times at City Hall, in Toronto and in the Province of Ontario. When he introduced legislation to reform Toronto’s municipal government, Dalton McGuinty kept an election promise to the residents of this City. When a panel of outside experts, appointed by Toronto City Council, introduced their report “The City We Want, the Government We Need” David Miller kept his election promise to the people of this City.

There’s been a lot of negativity spread about these two documents, the proposed City of Toronto Act and “The City We Want” report. Unfortunately, that sells papers and even gets some folk re-elected for the umpteenth time. I’m generally a more positive person. I prefer to acknowledge when there is a bright side and promote working collaboratively on the ‘not so bright’ side. That’s how I view these two documents and I encourage all residents to make up their own mind. What kind of City do you want? We have the opportunity to open City Hall to the people, to become more accountable, to empower the Mayor while strengthening local input earlier in the process.

As for the City of Toronto Act, I welcome the recognition by the Province that Toronto is indeed a unique City in Ontario. I am proud that together with the Province, we turned 280 pieces of legislation into one Act. We’ve changed the dialogue between Ontario and Toronto from one of parenthood to partnership. However, the proposed Act does not solve everything. We have not fully finished our work with the Province to put Toronto City Hall on sound financial footing with a system of good governance.

The New City of Toronto Act proposes some great changes. The Act taken together with our own reforms at City Hall propose to simplify decision making, empower residents in their neighbourhoods and heighten accountability. For instance, the proposal that an Executive Committee be appointed by the Mayor, will only formalize what has been Council’s practice in that Council generally elects the Mayor’s preferences to the Chairs of standing committees. The Chairs then form an informal core executive.

There is much ado about this concept and yet it was a common practice in even the legacy cities. An official executive Committee makes the Mayor more accountable for appointing a balanced group. In my view, the Mayor should have the ability to move his mandate forward while respecting the voice of our respective communities which will continue to be delivered by Ward Councillors. An even stronger centralized model in New York City has proven that outside of the offices of Executive Council and the Mayor, Ward councillors are liberated to form a very strong voice of opposition when needed and to demand constant accountability from the executive. The Toronto proposal doesn’t go as far, but I suspect that the resulting Ward Council body will be just as formidable.

The document “The City We Want, the Government We Need” is based on interviews with hundreds of informed citizens from diverse backgrounds. The panel also reviewed the Listening to Toronto Budget consultations, the Justice Bellamy Report (the MFP inquiry) and joint public consultations the City and Province have conducted on these issues. Many of the proposed reforms are spot on. Some need work or to be deleted. However, there are only so many models to follow when organizing government.

Not having to seek the Premier’s approval for speed humps is great and will certainly expedite our legislative process at City Hall. But it doesn’t do anything to fix the leaky roofs on Social Housing that has been added to your property tax bill. And it doesn’t pay for under-subsidized provincially mandated programs. Those two shortfalls make up 75% of our annual overall Budget shortfall.

Thankfully Paul Martin’s re-direction of Federal Gas Tax dollars towards transit and transportation infrastructure will also help the City start to address its infrastructure deficit. His government’s waiving of the GST for Toronto has also significantly improved our financial position. These kinds of long-term agreements are what Toronto needs to be able to finally build a sustainable amalgamated Mega-City and especially to compete with employment centres around the world in the global marketplace.

Toronto’s proposed governance model will be the subject of more local consultation in the New Year. The Premier’s office is adamant, and rightfully so, that we have this important governance structure complete ready to be in place for the Municipal election next fall. Please contact my office for further information, to voice your opinion or to get a copy of the Act or the City’s Governance Report. This is too important to leave up to the politicians!

Next Up: Upon our return to work January 3rd, look for more on the proposed legislative change to the Ontario Municipal Board. (Hint: The piece will start with the words: Not a minute too soon!)