Yesterday’s announcement that the Ford government will be unilaterally cutting Toronto’s City Council in half is deeply unsettling. It’s been under two months since the provincial election and already Ford is abusing his powers against Toronto’s democratic structure. It was not part of his campaign platform when he ran to be Premier and I have no doubt that this is only the beginning of his work to reshape Ontario in his own image.
Toronto’s residents deserve a say in how their municipal government is organized. After the multi-year extensive ward boundary consultation process which ended in 2016, Toronto residents expressed their desire to have a City Council that more effectively represented the population growth that intensified under Ontario’s own planning growth policies. The resulting 47-ward structure recommended by the external consultants was endorsed by City Council and upheld at the Ontario Municipal Board and the Ontario Superior Court. As a city, we invested time, money, and public consultation to arrive at the new ward boundaries before us. Now Ford wants to repeat a failed “mega city” experiment from the past.
Toronto, like cities across Ontario is struggling. With an opioid and mental health crisis, a shelter system at capacity, a lack of deeply affordable housing, and increasingly gun violence in our neighbourhoods, Toronto needs adequate social services and investments to address complex problems and the communities at the centre of these challenges need better, local representation, not less. The best of what Ontario is today was not built on decrees in opposition to local government. Modest neighbourhoods, often times poor and isolated will be the earliest casualties in this reduced council gerrymandering. We can not let this happen.
At Mayor Tory’s press conference today, he too objected to Ford’s process and offered to host a “referendum” as a rebuttal. For someone who wants a “strong mayor” system, his response was disappointedly meek. We need leaders to rise up with residents to defend our democracy.
In the 1990s, 76% of residents objected Mike Harris’ megacity and that referendum did not stop amalgamation. His promised savings and effective government never materialized. Instead, transit planning became deadlocked, municipal programs stagnated and the cost of delivering essential city services became more expensive with less government accountability. Toronto has never fully recovered from this forced marriage.
Ford and his ilk may not like how Toronto governs itself today, but it is fundamentally undemocratic to impose this change unilaterally from the Premier’s chair upon our city. Make no mistake, will not helping Toronto govern ourselves better. He is not doing this across the province. This is about Ford politically targeting our city and region by weakening Toronto.
Three immediate actions you can take:
- Add your name to Progress Toronto’s Stop Ford petition: https://www.progresstoronto.ca/stopford
- Show up at Tonight's Rally: Stop Doug Ford: NO CUTS To Council https://www.facebook.com/events/234521980713455
- Contact the Premier’s Office to register dissatisfaction: 416-325-1941; firstname.lastname@example.org
Together we must resist Ford with a better vision for Toronto. This is a clear and destructive attack on Toronto, and the residents and communities will not sit by and do nothing. Both on the streets and in the courts, together we will fight for the integrity of our democracy and the residents of Toronto.