The effects of slashing Toronto city council nearly in half with the passing of Bill 5 by Premier Ford’s majority government could make it difficult for school trustees to make change, and won’t necessarily save the province money, said Ward 15 Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Trustee Jennifer Story in an interview with Beach Metro News.
Story, who took the helm as trustee in 2014, and previously worked with the city as the chief of staff to Ward 19 Councillor Mike Layton, says she currently works with two city councillors in the Toronto—Danforth area: Councillors Janet Davis in Ward 31 and Mary Fragedakis in Ward 29.
With the new headcount and ward reductions coming in October, Story says she’ll be working with one less councillor and believes less time and less focus will be spent on student issues.
“For example, I’m working on creating safe routes to schools and road safety, and I will only have one councillor to work with on these issues,” she said. “This change will affect parents and students.”
She believes the cut in resources will be particularly hard on families living in downtown neighbourhoods where changing demographics and new developments are a constant.
“The pace of growth and the inequality—it is going to affect school boards,” she said.
The reduction of councillors is part of the Better Local Government Act, 2018, which Ford says will save the province $25 million over the next four years and will bring harmony to the province by reducing Toronto’s current number of councillors from 47 to 25.
“It saves the city more than $25 million—money it can use to build transit, housing and infrastructure and make life better for the people of Toronto,” said Steve Clark, the province’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a press release.
But Story doesn’t buy it. She’s concerned that in order to make up for the loss of councillors, “they will need more staff resources,” she said. “And the money to pay them.”
The province’s sudden move to cut councillors with a municipal election looming in October has been controversial with Mayor John Tory as well as the TDSB.
He plans to sue the province, and the TDSB announced on August 29 that it will support the city in a legal challenge of the bill as well.
On August 8, Ward 30 Councillor Paula Fletcher and Story held an emergency meeting at the Metropolitan Community Church to “defend democracy in Toronto.”
“Universally they [the group in attendance] were shocked and appalled,” Story said of the 150 attendees at the meeting. “And they were there to push back in the name of local democracy and local government.”