In My Opinion: Concerns about Toronto’s Strong Mayor System are not going away

Concerns about the Strong Mayor System in Toronto are not going to go away, writes Beach Metro Community News Editor Alan Shackleton in his In My Opinion column.

By ALAN SHACKLETON

EDITOR, BEACH METRO COMMUNITY NEWS

I am sorry I have to start off the New Year complaining about the same thing I did to close out 2022. But if Mayor John Tory and some members of Toronto Council believe the anger and disgust over the Strong Mayor System is going to go away, they need to think again.

So we’re all clear on where this stands, Toronto Council voted to ask the province to withdraw Bill 39 (Better Municipal Governance Act, 2022) at its meeting that started on Dec. 14 and continued over the next three days.

That’s a nice symbolic gesture, but it doesn’t actually do anything as far I can tell. Do we really think Premier Doug Ford is going to listen to Toronto Council? Come on, it’s obvious he hates this city and most of its council members.

What we should have had at last month’s council meeting was a clear statement from Mayor Tory that he would not be using the powers in Bill 39 which give him the right to push through items of “provincial priority” such as affordable housing and transit with only a one-third vote of council.

We did not get anything even close to that from the Dec. 15 council meeting. What we did get was a number of votes on different motions regarding the Strong Mayor System.

I’m going to highlight what I think were the key motions in the debate. And stick with me here because the result of the vote on one of those motions was shocking.

Please know I am looking at this through the lens of what I believe democracy is.

I think it is extremely important for Beach Metro Community News readers to know where their local councillors — Beaches-East York’s Brad Bradford, Scarborough Southwest’s Gary Crawford and Toronto-Danforth’s Paula Fletcher — and Mayor Tory, stand on this.

The first vote taken on Dec. 15 was on a motion to request the “Mayor of Toronto, and all future Mayors, not exercise power that allows for motions to be passed with less that 50 per cent+1 majority of Council members present.”

That motion passed 14-11, with one councillor absent for the vote. (There are a total of 26 votes at Toronto Council made up of the 25 ward councillors and the mayor.) Fletcher was among the 14 councillors supporting that motion. Bradford, Crawford and Tory were among the 11 to vote against it.

So it appears the motion passed, but is it enforceable?

The mayor did not vote for it and he’s the one being given the Strong Mayor powers. I guess we’ll see what happens when we get to a point where Tory decides to use his “one-third majority”.

For the record, the vote to ask the province to repeal Bill 39 passed by a vote of 17 to 8 with one councillor absent.

Voting in support of that motion were Bradford and Fletcher. Voting against it were Crawford and Tory.

However, it was the result of the motion in which council members were asked if they actually believe in the “principle of democracy” that I found most shocking.

We should be glad to know the majority of them do. But we should be outraged it was not all of them.

The motion read: “City Council reaffirm its commitment to the principle of democracy on which our Procedures By-law is based that ‘the majority of members have the right to decide and the minority of members have the right to be heard,’ according to Section 2.2 of the Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 27, Council Procedures.”

It passed by a vote of 20-5 with one councillor absent.

Voting in support of it were Bradford and Fletcher.

Voting against it were Crawford and Tory. For the record, the other three councillors voting against were Scarborough-Rouge Park’s Jennifer McKelvie, Etobicoke North’s Vincent Crisanti, and York South-Weston’s Frances Nunziata.

Wait? You’re thinking you’ve read this wrong about that motion.

Did the mayor of our city vote that he is against the “principle” of democracy?

Yes. Yes he did.

And with that, I believe Mayor Tory has lost the moral authority to lead Toronto. I realize Tory won’t be running again in 2026, but he has made a mess of his political legacy and compromised the futures of those viewed as his allies.

Is there any other way to see it?


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5 comments

I completely agree that we have lost our democracy. I do not trust John Tory – he has proven to be unreliable – having interests in Rogers – in the administration –

Sadly Alan, I have to agree. The 5 votes against the principles of democracy are exactly as you see it. I hope that everyone remembers the names of those who would, for their own interests, blunt or negate democracy in Council.

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