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Smaller Toronto council meets for first time on Tuesday

Last Updated Dec 4, 2018 at 4:58 pm EDT

A much smaller Toronto city council met on Tuesday for the first time since the October municipal election.

CityNews reporter TinaYazdani and 680 NEWS reporter Momin Qureshi were at the council meeting. Follow their coverage below.

Among the items councillors considered was a report from city staff on how to govern with such a big reduction of councillors. The report was released last week.

The report has several recommendations including how to fund councillors’ office budgets, reducing the number of board and committee appointments for councillors, and the formation of a special committee to best decide how to move forward.

The meeting on Tuesday was mostly ceremonial. Councillors are not expected to tackle items on the agenda until the next day when council resumes at 9:30 a.m.

The recommendations outlined in the report are expected to be debated by council on Wednesday and will be voted on next week, on December 13.

After Mayor Tory and the councillors were sworn in, each councillor was given a commemorative copy of their ‘declaration of office’ — the oath they took while being sworn in.

As councillors came up one by one, each stood to the right of the mayor, except for left leaning Councillor Gord Perks, who made it a point to stand on Tory’s left, garnering a laugh from the gallery.

Thereafter Mayor Tory gave the first speech of his 2018-2022 term, thanking councillors for offering themselves for the “noble pursuit” of public service and praising Toronto’s place on the global stage.

Tory said the world has taken notice of Toronto as a “cool and welcoming, respectful, caring place to be.”

“It is more important than ever now, in a world that is beset by more turmoil and more division and more polarization, that we make sure that Toronto remains a beacon of hope for people around the world, that we don’t accept that in any way shape or form,” he said

He also addressed three major Toronto concerns — affordable housing, transit and gun violence.

“If we want young people to stay here and realize their dreams here, we must find ways to make housing more affordable and increase the supply of affordable housing,” said Tory.

He added that the city has made some good strides in terms of expansion and improvement of public transit, saying that early work on the downtown relief line has finally begun after decades of talk.

Referring to the violent year Toronto has had, Tory said Torontonians had attended “far too many vigils” and memorials in the aftermath of various acts of violence across the city.

“I think we would all agree, it has to stop. It has to stop,” he said.

“I renew today my call on the government of Canada in particular – who have taken some positive steps forward – to consider ways in which we can more strictly control the supply and availability of guns in our city because they are the scourge of a safe city.”

Following the mayor’s speech Coun. Frances Nunziata was unanimously elected as speaker and Coun. Shelley Carroll as deputy speaker.

Before and After: The new look of city council

Not only has the size of council changed to 25 seats from the previous 47, but so have the faces that once sat on council.

Ahead of the Toronto election, Premier Doug Ford and his government passed legislation to slash the size of council by nearly half. When that happened, veteran incumbent councillors faced off against each other, with some of them losing.

In four wards, incumbent councillors did not run so this left the door open for new people to come in. The new councillors are: Brad Bradford (Ward 19 – Beaches-East York), Cynthia Lai (Ward 23 – Scarborough North), Jennifer McKelvie (Ward 25 – Scarborough-Rouge Park), and Mike Colle (Ward 8 – Eglinton-Lawrence) — who is moving back to the municipal level after leaving provincial politics.

To accommodate the change in size, city council chambers was forced to shrink — with the back row of council seats now completely empty.

Below is a comparison look at city council chambers before the election and after.

That’s not all that was done while council was away. Repairs were made to council chambers for general maintenance, as well as to meet accessibility requirements.

Hand rails were installed for the staircase leading to the Members’ Lounge and at the staff desks on either side of the speaker dais and presentation table. Some carpet was replaced in high traffic areas in the media viewing gallery, public seat cushions were replaced, stain and varnish touch-ups were done to councillor desks and interior windows were cleaned.

The repairs were done as part of the city’s state of good repair program, not because of the shrinking council size.

However, signage, microphones, chairs and voting systems were removed from vacant seats to accommodate the smaller council.

CityNews will be reporting on the four new councillors over the three-day meeting as they embark on their new role as councillor.