Restoring democracy in Toronto.

If you are not being sued by the Ford government in Ontario, you might already be suing it or hoping to sue. What is of particular concern at the moment, are the various lawyers getting together to sue the government for reducing the new 47-ward council in Toronto to just 25 wards. It would not be worth comment if it was not such a terrible waste of time and money.

Reducing or increasing the size of council has very little to with what Toronto council really needs. In a city of almost three million people it is the efficacy of local government that matters. Good government requires effective taxing powers to enable the city to fulfill the needs of its citizens. It needs to have access to the funds needed to build and maintain the infrastructure required in the city.

What it also needs is to enable citizens to communicate effectively with their elected representatives. In assuring that ability to communicate, the numbers of constituents each elected representative serves needs to be considered. And before you guess at numbers for an ideal ward size, remember that several years ago, Toronto had a mayor who took pride in his effort to return telephone calls from most of the citizens across the city who called him.

You also need to consider the ability of the politicians to provide adequate direction of the more than 40 municipal divisions with more than 50,000 employees providing the city with services, with an operating budget of over C$12 billion a year. This alone might require more than 26 individuals to assure effective oversight.

But the essential need is for the citizens to understand that they can take problems to city hall. It is an essential component of democracy. Citizens must not only be heard but be assured of a fair hearing. They must see that wrongs can be righted. They must see that democracy works for them.

But there are many ways to deliver the service needed. Community councils have been tried. More staff for councillors can help. More councillors is also a possibility. The only problem with more councillors is the lack of discipline. Without political parties of some sort, every councillor is an island of ideas and ambition—or the lack of either. Council meetings, with 47 councillors to be heard from, presents a frightening picture of deadlock.

People need to be considering how best to get the job done—not massaging the egos of council wannabes!


Copyright 2018 © Peter Lowry

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