Ford expected to cut Toronto city council almost in half, report says
Published Thursday, July 26, 2018 9:43PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, July 26, 2018 11:50PM EDT
Premier Doug Ford is expected to announce a dramatic cut to Toronto city council at a news conference tomorrow morning, with plans to slash the number of councillors by half, according to a media report.
The Toronto Star reported the planned downsizing of 25 city councillors from 47 on Thursday night, along with the elimination of regional chair elections in Peel and York regions.
Ford’s team said he is expected to make an announcement in Toronto at 9 a.m. but did not specify what he would be talking about.
The former leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, Patrick Brown, previously said he was planning on seeking the position of Peel Regional chair. Steven Del Duca, former Liberal cabinet minister, was vying to become chair of York Region.
The previous regional chairs were appointed but this year they were to be decided through the municipal election this fall.
In a statement issued on Thursday night, official opposition leader Andrea Horwath said Ford is using his power to meddle in municipal and regional elections.
“It appears that Doug Ford cooked up a backroom plot to use his new power to meddle in municipal elections,” Horwath said. “He didn’t campaign on it. He didn’t consult people on it.”
“It’s clear that Ford wants a smaller number of councillors to have more power, fewer checks and balances, and less accountability. This is obviously a move to make it easier for the premier to control Toronto city hall.”
Horwath added that reports of Ford cancelling elections where his “political enemies” are running is “deeply chilling.”
Speaking with CP24 over the phone, political analyst Aleem Kanji said this is something that Ford has talked about before.
“He has talked about cutting council in half so this plan to move from 47 councillors to 25 is something that he’s talked about to match the existing federal and provincial ridings,” he said. “For Toronto I think what it means is that this happening not too far away from the October election and of course tomorrow is the deadline to register for any candidate at 2 p.m.”
“It throws things up in the air and it’s going to pit long-standing incumbents against each other in Toronto as the municipal election looms.”
Toronto city council reacts to possible cuts
Word on the possible cuts comes during the final city council meeting ahead of the municipal election scheduled to take place on Oct. 22.
Speaking to CP24 briefly on Thursday evening regarding the possible cuts, Toronto Mayor John Tory, who is seeking re-election, said he is “deeply concerned” by anything that affects the well-being of the people of Toronto.
“I had a very animated conversation with the premier this evening and I’ll have much more to say in the major statement I will make tomorrow morning,” he said.
Tory is expected to make an announcement at city hall on Friday morning at an unspecified time.
Former Ontario cabinet minister and failed mayoral candidate George Smitherman is currently a candidate for Ward 23, which includes Cabbagetown and Regent Park. Speaking with CP24, he said these possible changes could affect the newly-redrawn riding.
“(The possible changes) are undemocratic because it is a significant and sweeping change that’s come forward completely at the last minute,” he said. “It’s obviously disruptive.”
“At the face of it, it’s extremely rude. It’s been brought forward as a complete slap in the face to Toronto one more time and it’s a very, very rude act by a government and a premier that really are quite out of control.”
Smitherman said he wonders if this announcement will force some candidates to run for mayor instead of council, adding he was “certainly” not talking about himself.
Coun. Josh Matlow, representing Ward 22 St. Paul’s, said the cuts would be “anti-democratic” and “reckless.”
“Premier Ford would be cancelling local elections after they’ve already started, ignoring elected council decisions, candidates have already received donations and are knocking at doors,” he said in a tweet. “Chaos is never good for a healthy democracy.”
Meanwhile, Ward 7 York West Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti said he welcomes the “wonderful news.”
“If this is real I think it is good news for the city of Toronto,” Mammoliti said. “I think it is good news for future council. I think decisions will be made a lot faster.”
“For those who won’t like losing their job we all have to be prepared to fight for the work that we are doing and be prepared for the issues at hand and start lobbying for what we believe in. I’m ready for that.”
Ward 31 Beaches-East York Coun. Janet Davis, who announced last month she would not be seeking re-election, said this move was a “gross misuse of power.”
“City has jurisdiction on number of seats and boundaries and held extensive consultations,” Davis said in a tweet.
Ward 15 Eglinton Lawrence Coun. Josh Colle, who is also not seeking re-election, said city council heard rumbles of this matter as they were wrapping up on Thursday evening.
“We probably thought this must be for the next election because we are already in an election now but it sounds like it may be for this election, which raises a ton of questions,” Colle said. “I have no problem with discussing reducing council size, that’s a fine discussion to have, but changing the rules of the game while you’re still playing is a bit disturbing and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.”
“My concern is, sure let’s have a debate about cutting council in half, so let’s have that debate, let’s have cities and municipalities across the province have that conversation and then if that’s the answer let’s do it.”
Thursday's city council meeting recessed at around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday and is expected to resume on Friday morning at 9:30 a.m.