21 Jan, 2013

IMFG releases report that examines the Fault Lines at Toronto City Hall

Toronto, January 21, 2013 – A report by the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) looks at local government in Toronto in the wake of the tumultuous recent events at City Hall. The paper, by the IMFG’s André Côté, examines three of the fault lines that are causing friction:

  • The leadership dynamic in a system in which Council is supreme, and the mayor has fewer formal powers of agenda control and persuasion than his parliamentary counterparts;
  • How accountability is understood and applied, both through formal laws and policies, and the informal ways citizens hold elected officials to account; and
  • The role of the Toronto Public Service amid concerns that political pressure, the public dismissal of senior officials, and other forces are “politicizing” staff.

The paper also calls for some perspective in the civic dialogue about Toronto’s government. Over the past decade, the Toronto model has evolved into a unique hybrid, adopting some of the trappings and accountability mechanisms of parliamentary government, while retaining the openness and Council supremacy of the municipal model. Citizens need to recognize the “differentness” of this system. Local democracy can be messy, but it provides the public with access to the decision-making process in a way that opaque, highly centralized, and leader-dominated federal and provincial governments do not. Still, there is urgent need for public debate about municipal governance, and issues such as the relationship between the mayor and Council, and the capacity of residents to engage with City Hall.

The report is the first in a new series of IMFG Perspectives papers. A shorter, accessible style of publication, this series is intended to help inform and spark public debate about important and current issues in urban public affairs.

The report can be accessed here.

About the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG)

The IMFG is an academic research hub and think tank that focuses on the fiscal and governance challenges facing large cities and city-regions. It is located within the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

For more information, please contact:
André Côté
Manager, Programs and Research
Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance