Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Preliminary Assessment of the New City of Toronto

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Regional Science

Preliminary Assessment of the New City of Toronto

Article excerpt

On January 1, 1998, the new City of Toronto came into being by replacing the former metropolitan level of government and its constituent lower-tier municipalities (Toronto, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York and East York) with a single-tier city.(1) This restructuring was not initiated by local initiative but by the provincial government through the passage of Bill 103, the City of Toronto Act, 1996.(2) Indeed, opposition to the proposed amalgamation came from many different quarters: local municipalities (both inside and outside of Metro Toronto), the opposition parties, citizen organisations, and from within the Conservative party itself (see Stevenson and Gilbert 1999; Sancton 1998). The major citizen opposition was led by a former mayor of Toronto, John Sewell, who was behind the formation of the Citizens for Local Democracy in late 1996. Sewell's opposition to amalgamation centred on the loss of local identity and reduced access to local government. In the broader context of the GTA, it was felt that amalgamation would result in increased polarisation within the region.

On March 3, 1997, referenda on amalgamation were held in each of the lower-tier municipalities in Metro Toronto; about 36 % of eligible voters voted. Opposition to the proposed amalgamated City of Toronto (referred to as the "megacity") ranged from 70 to 81% of voters depending on the municipality.

Furthermore, none of the studies of governance in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) commissioned by the Province (discussed below) emphasized problems within Metropolitan Toronto or the need to create a megacity. Rather, these studies identified problems with the coordination of transportation, planning, water provision and waste management among the regions within the GTA and focussed on the need for a GTA governing body to address these service coordination issues.

This paper provides a preliminary assessment of the creation of the new City of Toronto, focussing on the financial aspects. It is preliminary because one year of post-amalgamation data is not sufficient to estimate the full impact of a restructuring. The paper briefly reviews the history leading up to the creation of the new City, summarises its finances and provides an initial analysis of the impact. In the paper, the reasons for restructuring are evaluated and it is concluded that it is unlikely that this type of restructuring will result in cost savings nor will it solve many of the non-financial problems currently faced by the new City of Toronto. Nevertheless, there may be some benefits from amalgamation.

The Need for Regional Governance in the GTA

Amalgamation had not been on the agenda prior to the introduction of Bill 103. The Office of the Greater Toronto Area (OGTA), which was established by the Province in 1988, focussed on a strategic vision for the GTA and the coordination of regional issues (Stevenson and Gilbert 1999). A forum of GTA mayors (of local municipalities) and chairs (of regional governments) concentrated its efforts on economic development and marketing in the GTA.

Further issues around regional coordination were raised by the GTA Task Force (chaired by Anne Golden). The Task Force was created by the Premier of Ontario on April 1, 1995, in response to growing concerns about the future of the economic performance of the urban region. The major conclusions of the GTA Task Force (1996) were that(3):

* the entire GTA needs to be treated as a single economic unit with a unified economic strategy;

* a new GTA governmental body is needed to deal with GTA-wide environmental and planning issues and to share major infrastructure and social costs;

* more compact urban development that contains sprawl will make transit more viable and reduce infrastructure costs (the Task Force estimated savings at an average of $700 million to $1 billion per year for the next 25 years);

* local government within the GTA needs to be simplified by eliminating Toronto's upper tier (Metro) and the four surrounding regional governments, and by reducing the number of local municipalities. …

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