GUEST COLUMN: Will the reduction of council lead to political parties in T.O.?
Special to Toronto Sun
August 18, 2018
August 18, 2018 5:58 PM EDT
Councillor Justin Di Ciano, centre, and other Toronto councillors show solidarity to Premier Doug Ford's announcement to reduce city council to 25 wards in Toronto, Ont. on Friday July 27, 2018. Dave Abel/Toronto Sun
BY DAN BORDONALI, GUEST COLUMNIST
As the provincial government goes through the process to cut city council down to 25 councillors, the next term of council will create the ideal environment for the mayor and councillors to become even more partisan, with political battlegrounds being drawn based on ideology and specific political agendas.
As a result, Toronto residents should be prepared to see the movement towards the creation of political parties in the city.
Faced with strong competition from council colleagues in the upcoming election that will see a number of contests between two current councillors, incumbent councillors may shift toward developing more comprehensive election platforms that will require the formation of partisan alliances and eventually political party support.
Mayor John Tory at City Council in the wake of Premier Doug Fordís announcement to¬ reduce city council to 25 wards in Toronto, Ont. on Friday July 27, 2018. Dave Abel/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network Dave Abel / Dave Abel/Toronto Sun
The 25 new wards created will have the same geographic boundaries as the provincial and federal ridings, making it easier for a councillor to support party policies of a municipal party that may be aligned with their MP and MPP counterparts.
Much like the city of Vancouver, which has had political parties for decades, political parties at the municipal level will make it easier for Toronto residents to know where their candidate stands on important issues. This knowledge may contribute to a higher voter turnout in future elections in Toronto.
The ultimate beneficiary of a reduced council is the mayor. Currently, the mayor has to attain the support of at least 22 of his council colleagues, in addition to his own vote in order to get policies adopted at council. With the proposed provincial changes of a reduced council, the next mayor of Toronto would only have to corral the support of 12 councillors, making it potentially easier for them to achieve the mandate that they were elected on.
Of course, a number of politicians will be resistant to political parties because it may not give them the flexibility to vote independently on issues that affect their community. However, being a member of a municipal political party in Toronto can still provide flexibility for Councillors to vote on local issues independently, and be used only on issues that affect the entire city.
We have seen a number of initiatives by some individuals and organizations to advocate for specific issues and policies that have been able to attain political support based on ideology. This year, political action groups, like Progress Toronto have been created with ties to left of centre ideology. These groups have been created in the absence of political parties but act as surrogates for Councillors and candidates who consistently identify with a specific philosophy.
Over the years, loose coalitions have been formed by Toronto councillors without a formal party structure. Left-leaning councillors have always been adept at forming an alliance at council, showing discipline when it comes to supporting certain initiatives and policies that affect the city. Whether you agree or disagree with their vote, the left often hold the balance of power at the city through their cooperation with one another.
Page two of a letter Toronto Mayor John Tory wrote to Ontarioís premier in response to an open letter written to him by Doug Ford on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018.
The centre and right councillors have been far less consistent. When I worked at City Hall during the Miller administration, there were attempts made to establish a coalition on the right, but nothing ever materialized. The reduction of council to 25 may just be the catalyst to achieve that outcome.
Regardless of the results of this municipal election this Fall, the reduction of council will create a more partisan environment at City Hall and the foundations for political parties to be formed in Toronto.
Dan Bordonali is executive vice president of Sutherland Corporation, a public affairs firm in the GTA.