Politicians to look at term limits for city councillors

Politicians to look at term limits for city councillors
Antonella Artuso
February 18, 2019
February 18, 2019 6:00 PM EST
Mayor John Tory on Wednesday January 23, 2019. (Veronica Henri, Toronto Sun)
Has the time come to impose term limits for those elected to Toronto council?
A city committee is poised to debate that question on Thursday.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Holyday, chair of the Special Committee on Governance — scheduled to meet Feb. 21 –said he fears putting strict limits on how many terms can be served will deter good, experienced people from seeking out the positions.
“I can’t predict what the committee will do with respect to adding that to the work plan, but my personal feeling on it is I’m not a supporter of term limits,” Holyday said. “I believe that in order to attract the best talent, to want to go and become a councillor, you want to make sure that people see a future in that.”
Deputy Mayor Stephen Holyday (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia)
Don Peat, a spokesman for Mayor John Tory, said he’s supportive of Councillor Brad Bradford’s motion to look at best practices in other jurisdictions.
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“Mayor Tory has always been open to the idea of term limits,” he said.
Bradford, a first-time councillor, has put forward a call for the city to survey and analyse the use of term limits in comparable North American jurisdictions and to consider the impacts of term limits on political engagement and diversity among elected officials.
“Among the many barriers to having a more diverse city council, the largest is the statistical advantage sitting members of council benefit from in elections,” Bradford’s motion says. “With the changes forced on city council in the summer, now is an ideal opportunity to consider strengthening our governance system with term limits.”
The new special committee was formed to help council adapt to the new reduced size imposed by the Doug Ford government, 25 councillors, plus a mayor.
Staff came up with a structure to help redistribute the workload of the previous council — made up of 44 councillors and a mayor — among roughly half the number of politicians in the short-term, and this committee will now invite public input on how to permanently adapt to the change, Holyday said.
“We need to go and figure out if what we approved in December was the right thing,” he said. “There was that chicken and egg discussion where we had to do our best to organize ourselves at the beginning of the term going forward and we’re going to learn as a council whether or not we we got that right.”
So far, Holyday said he has found the duties involved in representing a larger ward manageable.
Staff has had to spend more time bringing him up to speed on local issues in the new part of the ward, and he has had to add staff to deal with the doubled workload, he said.
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“In my personal view as a councillor, I believe I’m managing just fine,” he said. “I’ve gone and hired more staff and they’re doing fine. The nice thing about my ward is the communities are similar in the old and new wards and so there aren’t many things that we haven’t seen before, there’s just more of them.
“Instead of getting 10 calls about snowplowing, we get 20.” Holyday said.
LEVY: Term limits report sent down a black hole
Sue-Ann Levy
March 6, 2019
March 6, 2019 8:33 PM EST
Mayor John Tory and councillors are pictured at Toronto council's inaugural meeting on Dec. 4, 2018. (Jack Boland, Toronto Sun)
Newbie Scarborough councillor Jennifer McKelvie says she supports term limits because in her short time at City Hall, she’s noticed it’s “too stale, too pale and too male.
“Term limits allow us to focus on outcomes and fresh ideas, not egos,” she told me this week.
McKelvie faced the power of incumbency twice: In 2014 she was narrowly defeated by Ron Moeser, who later lost his battle to cancer. In last October’s election, she narrowly beat the NDP-backed Neethan Shan, a professional candidate.
Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, at the 2019 budget launch on Jan. 28, 2019. (Stan Behal, Toronto Sun)
She has made the commitment to serve no more than three terms, if successfully re-elected.
McKelvie and fellow newbie councillor, Brad Bradford, who represents Beaches-East York, tried to convince the city’s new Special Committee on Governance to ask for a report on the implications of term limits.
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Sadly, with a push from professional politicians Gord Perks and Shelley Carroll — and surprising support from Stephen Holyday — the report idea was deferred indefinitely (i.e., sent down a big black hole) at the committee’s first meeting last month.
McKelvie was interested in finding out how term limits would increase diversity on council (more women, visible minorities and members of the LGBT community).
Ditto for Bradford. Although I’ve been rather hard on him as of late (particularly over his eight staff), he provided a compelling presentation to show the power of incumbency.
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He said in 2010, 90% of incumbents won their seats, 85% in 2014 and a whopping 96% last October.
Bradford also showed that of 167 council races since 2003, a mere 13 were won by fresh blood.
He insisted a report should be part of the larger conversation as to how council can better govern, the mandate of the committee.
But that seemed to get Perks’ back up.
In a semi-inarticulate but rather funny speech, he insisted the renewal process does take place in each election and there is a value to “institutional memory.”
He suggested that when he first came to council (in 2006), NDP dinosaurs Kyle Rae and Howard Moscoe (who finally called it quits after 30 years in office) were his mentors (need we say more).
In an e-mail response Wednesday, Perks said he’s against term limits (no kidding) and was prepared to simply vote against the idea of a report.
However, he said he moved deferral because there seemed to be a “desire to revisit the issue later.”
Carroll echoed the idea that the issue would be revisited.
However Holyday told me the term limits report idea was killed.
He said he’s against term limits because of a concern the left is very well-organized and council could shift even further to left if they are in place (hate to tell him but with Mayor John Tory that’s already happening.)
Holyday also said he feels term limits are “misplaced anger” and would not necessarily attract good people to council who have a decent career elsewhere (as he did).
I dare say Holyday is an exception to the rule and most on council are deathly afraid of term limits because they’d never get a decent job outside of City Hall.