TORONTO - The problems afflicting big Ontario cities like Toronto and Ottawa are that the Mayors are examples of “a weak mayor system” of municipal government. Who knew?
Premier Doug Ford, himself a former Toronto City Councillor, brother to a former mayor and uncle to another former City Councillor, apparently did, and has the solution. He will have support. Investors, overseas and local, decry the ponderous, plodding pace of the approval process that delays decisions and prevents “product” from coming on the market in a timely cost-effective manner. Builders and developers included.
But there is no burning issue in the upcoming Toronto municipal election. John Tory has orchestrated the “limelight” to such an extent that no one with any widespread name recognition is prepared to challenge him. Better still, for him, “the weak mayor system” allows him and others of his persuasion to defer everything to a “collective decision”. Such decisions are driven by the local interests identified and promoted by local Councillors. Very rarely do they have a pan-Toronto vision in mind.
Presumably, a strong Mayor, acting in the style of an American counterpart, would be in a position to plan and effect “grandiose visions” (maintain our roads, sewers, the quality and reliability of public transit, reliability of police, fire fighters and first responders, etc) and have the power to ram them through Council.
That’s the theory. The practice may be a little less convincing; the goal is that, at the very least, the “blame” can presumably fall squarely on the shoulders of the mayor and not the Council. And not on the province. In the case of Ottawa, the Mayor would not be able to blame the feds for traffic violations, if another set of protesters were to invade the Capital.
Speaking of the federal government, the Premiers spent several days last week off-loading the sad state of the health system on the funding shortage created by the federal government. Let’s see… the other big problems are education related. They would be in the purview of the school boards whose trustees, with the significant exception of some dedicated individuals, either operate in a semi-somnambulant state or think they are impervious to scrutiny.
Whether Ford floated the idea of a “strong mayor” alternative for Toronto because he believes it or because he wanted to sprinkle a dash of pepper on Tory’s tail will be determined later. For now, the “accountability issue” is being laid squarely on Tory. Who is responsible for “the mess that Toronto has become?”
All John Tory has going for him is the absence of any pointed opposition. Maybe, someone will emerge now that Premier Ford’s musings have the effect of suggesting Tory may not be up to the challenge.
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