How would Toronto look with only 22 Councillors
Recently there were very informative and open public consultations on the prospect of changing the Toronto council ward boundaries. The process allowed for input from the public on what the new boundaries should be and also asked questions about how many residents should each councillor oversee. Several possibilities arose about the number of councillors that included decreasing to 22 wards, increase to 50 wards or remain the same. Sadly only 192 attended any of the consultations, although 608 did response to surveys.
For more information about the "Drawing the Line" click on the photo below to be forwarded to report.
Scenario of 22 Councillors
The concept of decreasing to 22 councillors has been brought up by several groups looking to find efficiencies or to make municipal governments smaller. Their contention is that having the same number of representatives within the city should match other levels of government. This doesn't take into consideration the personal contact a resident may need for local issues (roads, water, property, transit) compared to topics like immigration or healthcare. There are comparisons to other large cities like New York that has a larger population and not the same ratio of residents to councillors. I will not dive into the comparison of Toronto to other cities, that will be left for another day.
Running with the scenario of 22 Councillors I have taken the approach of re-examining the 2014 municipal election results to see what the effect would be by cutting council in half. The process is simply comparing the votes received during the election between the two councillors currently in the same "riding". I agree that there are factors that will not be included, such as:
- Comparing vote percentage received in race
- Total number of voters in ward races
- Effect of other candidates on total votes received
The purpose of the comparison is to show that eliminating councillors (for whatever reason that is used to justify eliminating access to government) may not be in the best interests of residents.
Below is a chart of all elected councillors in the 2014 Toronto municipal election. For each riding within the city, the two councillors are placed in a snap election based on their overall votes received. The councillor that received the most votes are then elected one of the 22 new councillors.
A quick observation in comparing the elected officials is just how little votes some received to be elected. I would credit that to strong candidates running against them and also the power of incumbency for undecided voters. The First-Past-The-Post system may be improved with Ranked Balloting which I supported during the election. Getting elected with less than 20% doesn't instil a sense of confidence.
Sadly when I examine the list, I see several Councillors who lost the head-to-head battle that I believe make council a bit more policy based. That being said, it is amazing that several of the new 'BRAT PACK" of Mammoliti & Karygiannis and Co. would no longer be on council. Give and take on the two fronts.
What is also noticeable is the loss of three of the four Deputy Mayors appointed by John Tory. Vincent Crisanti, Pam McConnell & Glen De Baeremaker were all defeated in the simulation. Chosen to represent the different regional councils, were they representative of their geographic area?
Looking on the breakdown of gender/race:
Current women on the current council: 14 of 44 (31.8%)
Women on the council of 22: 8 of 22 (36.4%)
Given the fact many women councillors went head-to-head against other elected women decreased the chance to increase the overall representative percentage. The majority of women councillors is similarly focused on the downtown region compared to the under representation on the edges of Toronto.
When comparing visible minorities in the council of 22 against the current council, there is honestly no significant improvement. Visible minorities are still under-represented on council, especially in areas such as Etobicoke North that remains represented by Rob Ford. Michael Thompson does increase the percentage of representation by the black communities, however he still remains the sole representative for all black communities in Toronto.
Toronto's 22 Councillors
For those interested to see if those elected out fundraised and spent on the election, take a moment to go over my analysis of the contributions against expenses posts I examined. The answer is inconclusive with many factors resulting who won campaigns but is an interesting narrative if one were to make it.
What is the effect of losing 22 councillors on boards & committees?
It must be said, if council was only 22, some of the current councillors on boards may not have been appointed to particular boards or committees. The boards/committees themselves might actually consist of more members of the public or would remain smaller. A lot of alterations would be necessary to properly run very important aspects within municipal government. I will not enter into that area because it can become consuming.
Below is a chart of different committees/boards that would be altered due to the defeat of 22 councillors.
- Given that 5 of the Executive Committee were defeated, if only the remaining councillors were kept, would it alter the policy direction for Toronto?
- With the elimination of 22 councillors, the Employment & Labour Relations committee has 5 of the 7 defeated representatives. Irony does have a sense of humour.
- Given the group of councillors that sit on the Licensing & Standards committee, having 83% of the councillors defeated could be a benefit to the city.
- One of the worst areas hit by the loss of good councillors is the Tenant Issues committee. This is an important connection between residents looking towards government to help resolve complaints and improve their lives.
I also wonder what it would change the dynamic of council on decisions made since the election. For those interested, please take a moment to read over Matt Elliot's City Council Scorecard to see how our city may be changed.
Final note: I do not believe eliminating elected representatives from 44 to 22 is a good idea. If the sole purpose is to save a few million dollars on an operating budget of over $10B, a capital budget just as large: A penny wise but a pound foolish?!
The idea of creating councils within areas of Toronto would have to be well thought out. Taking the power away from elected officials by having control by 'a board of residents' may only complicate the process. I can guarantee the committees will have just as many political representatives as council with possibly less oversight. Political agendas may not be as obvious. It opens an interesting conversation but is it one we are ready to have?
Look out for a post on if council were to expand to 50-54 councillors coming soon.