As the new city council prepares for its first meeting on December 5, municipal staff have released their recommendations on governance changes based on the new 25-Ward system.
In their report, the City Manager and Clerk say the changes are necessary as councillors will now be serving wards of significantly larger geographic size with double the number of constituents which will place greater demands on both their legislative and constituency duties.
It estimates that without the changes, councillors would hold 97 seats on 14 committees as well as 388 seats on 170 City and external boards. They would also experience difficulty in attending all required meetings, potentially causing quorum issues and impair the ability of committees and boards to function effectively.
Among the key recommendations is to create an interim structure closely modeled on the existing one but recalibrated for the new 25-ward system, establish a Special Committee on Governance composed of five council members to review city council’s governance structure and reduce the size of the Executive Committee to eight members.
The report also recommends cutting the number of council committees down to nine, reducing the number of council appointments to several boards including Toronto Community Housing and Toronto Zoo – which would lose one member each – while Toronto Public Library and TTC would have two fewer council members, amend the public appointments process and change the community council boundaries.
“I think the staff have done a very good job in recommending ways in which you can take all the same responsibilities with everything from licensing and standards to housing to planning and have fewer elected officials addressing exactly the same responsibilities,” said Mayor John Tory. “So that means we’re going to have fewer committees, we’re going to have more work to be done by people on those committees.”
The report also has several recommendations on city councillors’ office and staffing budgets. Currently the total budgets for councillors is $275,000. Maintaining the status quo would save $7.42-million due the smaller size of council. One option to redistribute the budgets from the previous 44 councillors to the current 25 would amount to a 4.7 per cent savings while another option to double the budget of all councillors would result in a 5.4 per cent increase.
Premier Doug Ford has said that cutting the size of city council would save taxpayers $25-million over the next four years. While he didn’t dispute that number directly, Mayor John Tory said additional resources are going to be needed with the slimmed down council.
“The number of people being served, which is close to 3-million in the city of Toronto, has not changed. They’re still out there and they still need constituency service,” said Tory. “There are now fewer people to serve them and so I think those people will need to have at least the same amount of help that will allow them to provide the same amount of service – if not better – to people who live in the city of Toronto.”
Ahead of October’s municipal election, Premier Doug Ford and his government passed legislation to reduce the size of council from 47 to 25 seats.
Although the city fought to keep the 47-ward council, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted a stay in a ruling that struck down the province’s plan to cut the size of council.