Mayor remains committed to referendum on council size; asks premier to consider other governance issues like councillor term limits

11:45 a.m. August 10, 2018. Mayor John Tory answers questions from media outside the Leslie Barns about the size of council.
11:45 a.m. August 10, 2018. Mayor John Tory answers questions from media outside the Leslie Barns about the size of council.

Aug 10, 2018

By Arianne Robinson

In a news conference on Friday morning, Tory said he was “more optimistic” at the end of a meeting he had with legal experts recently, “just in terms of some opportunity that may exist there to get the attention of the government. I just think [a process of public consultation is] the right thing to do.”

Mayor John Tory pushed the idea of referendum on the size of council, reiterating points that he made in a letter to the premier sent Thursday night.

“The referendum idea, I can tell you, goes down very well with the people, and it was just one mechanism that I knew existed that we could put forward for their consideration that would be, in some respects, cleaner and better than a court action which is never preferrable. But now we’ll receive our legal advice with respect to the court action.”

Toronto City Council has scheduled a special meeting on August 20 to review the issue before the October 22 election.

Tory explained that the idea for a referendum is essentially a proposal for alternative actions the Ford government could take if it decides to, as Tory put it, “postpone the implementation of this, pending some public consultation which may give them some better ideas.”

Tory said there are other things that the public could be consulted on, such as term limits, but clarified he has no mandate from city council to push that issue forward.

“I believe the proper way to go about this would be to have a range of governance changes that could be made, and I site term limits as only one example… I don’t have any mandate from anybody to move it forward, to advocate for it [but] I can advocate for it as mayor because it’s my right to do.

“…there should be a broader examination of a number of these kinds of things that should be put in front of the people for an informed discussion and consultation and then I’ve suggested for a vote.”

Tory’s letter does follow the direction of city council at its last regular meeting of this term in July to oppose to the introduction of legislation to reduce the size of City Council. The issue of councillor term limits was not voted or debated at any length by city councillors.

Asked to account for the money already spent on the public consultation that the city administered over the last five years on ward boundaries, Tory said the Ford government does not consider it valid.

“The current government with its legislation they’ve brought forth… [they] don’t acknowledge [the previous consultation] as being legitimate, or pretending it didn’t happen, or whatever.”

Tory also took a moment to give his defense to any potential criticism.

“I have chosen to do my my job in putting forward the opinions of council and my own opinions about this process, and I’ve done it in a way that also respects the fact that I have to maintain a partnership with this government going forward on many other matters. And so, there’ll be lots of people with opinions about how I’ve conducted myself in this, and I would have opinions perhaps on how others conducted themselves, but the bottom line is that I as the mayor have to focus on the fact that a continuing sound relationship, as good as it can be… is necessary to move this city forward.”

That provincial legislation, Bill 5, Better Local Government Act, is currently being debated at Queen’s Park and is expected to pass by the majority Provincial Conservative government.

If passed, the size of council will change from 47 wards to 25.