This past summer, Ontario Premier Doug Ford made a controversial decision: invoking the notwithstanding clause and reducing the number of Toronto’s city councillors by almost half. While I had always thought of myself as a politically-minded person, this move made me question how well I actually understood our government systems. With attention newly-focused on Toronto’s city councillors, I found myself wondering, “What does the city council do? Who are our councillors and what do they do?” I realized that I didn’t really know much about our local government operations, members, and roles. And I’m guessing that I’m not alone in that regard.
Our new councillor for the Toronto-Danforth ward is Paula Fletcher. When the new ward boundaries were drawn, the Toronto-Danforth area saw two former wards combined, which meant two incumbent city councillors had to run against each other. Before her victory as the new representative for the area, Paula Fletcher said, “I am running to represent Toronto-Danforth because I know we have more work to do as a community to make sure that everyone in our ward has access to housing, good jobs, beautiful parks, community recreation, and safe, reliable ways to get around. I have a strong track record of getting things done by working with constituents and being a proud advocate for progress.”
Councillor Fletcher has served on the Toronto City Council since 2003 when, on his recommendation, she replaced Jack Layton after he resigned in order to run for the leader of the NDP. She was a strong opponent in the new ward system and is known for being a tough and progressive councillor. The Toronto Star endorsed Councillor Fletcher’s bid for the Toronto-Danforth neighbourhood, saying, “now more than ever Toronto needs an outspoken councillor with a social conscience who is willing to stand up for the city and the most vulnerable within it, and that is Fletcher.”
For the Danforth area, Councillor Fletcher says, “I am looking forward to working with my council colleagues to improve transit and road safety, build more affordable housing, protect our waterfront, enhance green spaces and parks, take action on climate change, and so much more.” See her full and detailed platform at paulafletcher.com.
Under Premier Ford’s new ward boundaries, the city has been divided from its previous 44 wards into 25. This past October, councillors were elected to represent each ward and formed the new City Council. Each councillor sits on a committee, and the committees report back to the City Council. The public cannot approach the council directly, but instead must present ideas, concerns, or complaints to the appropriate committees. The committees and the issues they deal with are as follows:
- The Executive Committee: Fiscal planning/policy and budgets, intergovernmental/international relations, council operations, human resources, and labour relations
- Community Development and Recreation: Works to build services for communities and neighbourhoods
- Economic Development: Monitors and makes recommendations to strengthen Toronto’s economy
- Government Management: Monitors and makes recommendations on the administrative operations of the city
- Licensing and Standards: Deals with licensing businesses and property standards
- Parks and Environment: Works to maintain and protect Toronto’s natural environments
- Planning and Growth Management: City planning
- Public Works and Infrastructure: Deals with Toronto’s infrastructure needs and services
- Audit Committee: Deals with outside auditors for the finances of the city
- Board of Health: Determines and sets public health policies
- Civic Appointments Committee: Recommends citizens for appointments to various agencies
- Striking Committee: Makes recommendations for appointments to vacant positions of city boards, agencies, and advisory committees
You can also find information about past and upcoming committee meetings at toronto.ca.
Image from Flickr—no copyright infringement intended.