A new investment board is being established at city hall. Could it lead the way in gender equality and diversity?

Mar. 12, 2017

Mayor John Tory’s Executive Committee moved to establish a new Investment Board by the end of 2017.

The new board could be an opportunity for the city to designate member spots for women and people of colour to ensure it reflects the city’s diversity. In September of 2016, City Councillor Michelle Holland moved for more women on the city’s corporate boards at Executive Committee, which turned into a city council directed goal for 2020.

Signal Toronto requested comment from the mayor’s office on his position on the gender and racial makeup of the future Investment Board. “Mayor Tory believes that this new board would be a great place to start delivering on council’s goal of gender equality in public appointments,” spokesperson Don Peat wrote in an emailed statement. “The Mayor believes there are many qualified women that council could appoint to this board and he looks forward to council doing so.”

If passed by council, the chosen six of the seven member board will be remunerated $10,000 annually, $750 per board meeting, and $500 per business meeting up to a maximum of $25,000. The chair will be remunerated $50,000 annually, $750 per board meeting, and $500 per business meeting up to a maximum of $65,000. City councillors and city staff will not be allowed to be members.

The board would operate under a new provincial regulation coming into play in 2018 that would change Toronto’s investment powers to the prudent investor standard (a set of guidelines trustees follow in Ontario, used by pensions and endowments). A report by the city says Toronto will be the first municipality in the province to be allowed to use this standard, allowing the city to add securities such as equities and non-bank corporate bonds to its current holdings. The report says current city investments consist of fixed-income securities such as debentures, bonds of various maturities, shorter-term treasury bills and chartered bank deposits. These have previously provided reasonable rates of return with minimal risk, but rates of return have dropped in recent years from an average of 6% to less than 3% in many cases.