Mayoral frontrunners favour fewer city council members

Some of Toronto’s mayoral frontrunners are finding common ground when it comes to one issue: downsizing city council.

Rob Ford, Rocco Rossi and Sarah Thomson have all spoken in favour of a private member’s bill put forward by Toronto MPP Mario Sergio this summer, which would cut down the number of councillors from 44 to 23. Sergio said it would reduce civic bureaucracy and save taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

“We’ve already had a vote on this,” Ford said. “And there are 15 councillors who support reducing the size of council.”

Although this bill is being championed by the city’s conservative mayoral candidates, Toronto budget chief Shelly Carol finds errors in Sergio’s math.

“It is important to note that there is always a surplus,” Carol said. “[Sergio’s] figure was made by adding operating costs and staff costs, but councillors never spend their whole budget.”

Aside from salary savings, the city would also be relieved of the cost of other perks, including extended health care, life insurance, dental insurance, long-term disability insurance, pension and severance. Furthermore, councillors are reimbursed 52 cents per kilometre of mileage.

Despite the possible savings, some local councillors are concerned the cuts will affect governance.

“I don’t think it’s a wise proposal,” said Ward 38 Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker. “I don’t understand why people say there are too many councillors. Before amalgamation we had over 100 councillors and we reduced it to 44. I don’t think anyone’s happier today.”

Currently, each of Scarborough’s 10 councillors represents about 60,000 residents. If the number of councillors is cut in half, five Scarborough councillors will represent over 120,000 constituents each.

“I go to people’s houses every single week. To double the number of constituents is a challenge,” De Baermeaker said. “The quality of service won’t get better.”

However, this sentiment is not shared among all Scarborough councillors. Ward 44 Coun. Ron Moeser says that since the number of elected officials in Toronto was cut in half from 106 to 58 in 1998, councillors are now used to overlapping jurisdictions.

“When it came to council I voted in favour of it,” Moeser said. “It’s a cost effective way to run city council. [The larger wards] would put more pressure on the councillors but I think it could be done.”

“I’m willing to have the conversation [about reducing the number of councillors], but it should be in the context of improving governance,” budget chief Carol said. “If the plan is to cut council to save money, it will fail.”

Scarborough Superwards
A reduction of the number of Toronto city councillors will result in larger wards. The political landscape of the future may look something like this:[iframe: src=”,-79.229279&spn=0.198358,0.273972&z=11&output=embed” width=”550″ height=”400″ scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″]