On Friday Doug Ford threw a bomb into Toronto's City Hall. He announced that he was reducing the size of the city council from 44 members to 25 -- during a municipal election. And he has the legal authority to do it. Royson James writes:
He doesn’t need to consult with the city to determine how the country’s largest city will manage the changes.
This is what we mean when we say the city is the creature of the province. Or, the premier can abolish the mayor and dissolve the City of Toronto with the stroke of a pen. No questions asked. No matter what the residents think or say. Just proclaim it!
Ford and his brother Rob tried to do exactly that when they were on the council. But they were voted down. Now Ford has achieved by fiat what he couldn't achieve by vote.
The premier says that the council is dysfunctional. But its problems go back to the last PC premier -- Mike Harris:
Premier Mike Harris was the villain then. And he touched off the most tumultuous, sustained protest for local democracy that our local municipal government has seen in anyone’s memory. Kathleen Wynne, before she was a politician, was one of the principals in planning the protests.
Back then we had six mayors, six fire chiefs, six city councils and more than 100 city councillors in Metro Toronto. Harris argued that cutting the six to one would save wads of cash and create unimaginable efficiencies.
There's that magic word -- efficiencies. That's what Ford said he would find. But he never said how he would find them. Consider what happened when Harris found his "efficiencies:"
The last 20 years has been the most challenging period for Toronto — precisely because of the way the Harris government implemented the amalgamation. Toronto has barely recovered. What it needs now is stability and support — not another chaotic period buttressed by uncertainty.
City council can’t end transit gridlock, fix the $1 billion public housing backlog, and build infrastructure because the large number of councillors are stumbling over themselves, arguing and unable to decide. Bunkum.
The housing backlog was created when the Harris government downloaded the cost of social housing on Toronto, one of the most outrageous political decisions. Ford, barely elected premier, has not relieved the burden. In fact, he has announced further cuts on this file.
Transit? Harris again reduced provincial funding, truncated the Sheppard subway, filled in the Eglinton West subway and set the TTC off on a downward spiral.
The Fords aggravated the situation. Doug’s late brother, Rob, created the delays by insisting, as mayor, that “subways, subways, subways” replace the approved and paid for LRT plan, proposed by Rob’s predecessor David Miller. That kicked off several rounds of debate and studies and redebate and delays.
Doug Ford’s transit pronouncements are adding to the delays and confusion — independent of the size of city council.
For example, Ford has announced he will amend Toronto’s current transit plans — a move that will lengthen, not shorten the approval process. It’s a red herring to suggest that the size of city council has anything to do with the number of times council must vote on the Scarborough subway extension. A new, 25-member council will have to vote on the Scarborough subway extension another three or four times — just like a 100-member council would. It’s the approval process, stupid.
The reason the Scarborough subway decision is taking long is because provincial governments keep changing the rules — for political reasons, and because they can.
When Conservatives are in power these days, they throw bombs and break things.
Welcome to Chaos.
Image: Press Reader