By now, you have probably heard about Premier Doug Ford’s plan to slash the size of Toronto City Council from 47 to 25. I’ve been active at City Hall for over 25 years, mostly on behalf of TEA, and I can tell you this move is nothing less than an attack on democracy, civic engagement and building a greener city.
Here’s how you can stand up for your city right now:
- Let the Premier of Ontario know you oppose his plan. Contact him directly or sign this Progress Toronto petition that already has 15,000 signatures!
- Some City Councillors support slashing the size of Toronto City Council: Mammoliti, Ford, Holyday, Di Ciano, Crisanti, Nunziata, Palacio, Shiner, Karygiannis, Thompson, and De Baeremaeker. At an emergency Council meeting today, they will debate whether or not to take action against the Premier’s plan. Contact your Councillor so they know where you stand.
- Share the news with your Ontario friends and family living outside Toronto and ask them to call their MPP. The Province shouldn’t meddle in any city’s election or local democracy!
TEA will not sit by and let our local democracy be undermined! There is too much at stake:
- A fair and democratic election is being undermined by changing the rules in the middle of an election campaign. The municipal election started in May. Any rule changes should happen after the election, not during it.
- No one should take away your right to decide what your local government looks like. Democracy means the people who are governed decide how they will be governed. Premier Ford did not consult with Torontonians.
- You will have much less access to your Councillor. Currently, City Councillors already have a difficult time helping their 60,000 plus constituents and running Canada’s 4th largest government. Slashing the number of Councillors in half will make it almost impossible to connect with your Councillor.
- Your voice and the voices of public interest groups will be drowned out by powerful special interests. Right now, residents and groups like TEA have opportunities to express our views to Councillors through public meetings. With half as many Councillors, these opportunities will be dramatically reduced. And that means powerful interests who can afford to hire lobbyists will have a much bigger influence.
- Your call for good environmental policies will be increasingly ignored. With fewer Councillors and a growing city, each Councillor will be much busier focusing on trying to serve 110,000 people in their ward and running the government. That means less time to learn about and champion good environmental policies.
Since Friday morning, TEA has been working with other groups across Toronto to develop a coordinated response to this attack on our democracy. We will be posting regular updates on Facebook and Twitter on what we are doing and how you can help.
Franz Hartmann is the Executive Director for the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA).